Yves Lavandier’s book Writing Drama currently rates as the absolute favorite of our book reviewer Jack Brislee.
To give you the opportunity to delve into Lavandier’s amazing knowledge and insight, we will be publishing a weekly excerpt from the book.
Justifying external obstacles
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” sighs Rick (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca. It is indeed highly inconvenient for Rick, but if Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) were not to turn up in his gin joint, there would simply be no story.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,
she walks into mine
In The Great Escape, just as they are about to make good their escape, the protagonists notice that their tunnel has fallen 20 feet short of their objective. “How could that happen?” asks MacDonald (Gordon Jackson). He is right to ask the question since, given all detailed planning that has gone into the operation, it is indeed incredible that they could have made such a gross error of calculation. However it provides another obstacle for the would-be escapees to overcome. So Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) replies: “What the hell difference does it make? It’s happened!” and they get on with getting round it. We may wonder why the spectator is so prepared to accept these coincidences or strokes of misfortune. But there is no mystery.
anything that hinders the protagonist’s progress
is considered acceptable
As a rule, anything that hinders the protagonist’s progress is considered acceptable since the spectator is always pleased to see the conflict pile up. However this does not mean that the writer has a free hand to invent obstacles randomly and gratuitously.
Most obstacles require a minimum of justification.
Most obstacles require a minimum of justification. It is better that their appearance should appear probable rather than merely possible, though their preparation need not be overdone.
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Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.