The Story and Plot Weekly Email is published every Tuesday morning. Don't miss another one.
I was frustrated with the fourth season of Stranger Things. It felt like the season spent most of its time getting out of Russian corners it painted itself into the season before. But I kept watching. And watching. And while I wondered why I kept watching, I really shouldn’t have. I knew the answer.
I kept watching because I had grown attached to these characters over the previous seasons and cared about their relationships.
There are a few things that audiences always care about. Relationships are one of them, perhaps the most important of them all.
I have applied this principle to my own writing by asking this simple question:
“What is the most important relationship in the story, and does the script honor it?”
There is a reason most movies end, not on the near-impossible triumph itself, but on the celebration of that triumph with loved ones.
The Karate Kid
Top Gun: Maverick
The Black Phone
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Even the film Gravity, which ends with Sandra Bullock alone but alive, is a tale of physical and spiritual survival after the death of the character’s daughter. Her child is not present, yet she is at the center of the character’s experience.
Honestly, I could pick any good film randomly, and if it’s not a tragedy, the film’s end will almost certainly be a moment shared with loved ones.
I would argue that if every relationship in the film isn’t better at the end, then there hasn’t been enough change.
Why is that? Why do we respond to sharing the triumph with loved ones even more than the triumph itself? Perhaps it is, as the great Lyndsey Doran says. To some, the relationships are what give the triumph meaning. To others, they already know the relationship is the actual triumph.
So ask yourself, “What is the most important relationship in the story, and does the script honor it?”
If it doesn’t, make sure it does.
Want to receive these emails every week?
When you're ready, these are ways I can help you:
WORK WITH ME 1:1
1-on-1 Coaching | Screenplay Consultation
TAKE A COURSE
Mastering Structure | Idea To Outline