Suspense & Drama

My father, deep in thought.

Just finished my 4th 12-hour day in a row at work, and tonight will be my last (until next week). I am happy to say I’ve found time when I’m off duty to edit and improve the script – though there is work to be done. If I have a readable version done by tomorrow I can get some eyes on it and take steps toward production.

The show primarily falls into the suspense category. It is about a man chasing down a mysterious group in order to find his wife. It revolves around the questions:

1.) What happened to her?

2.) What is the cult about?

3.) Is the main character losing his grip on reality?

Because it falls within the genre of suspense, the main emotions I want to evoke from the viewer are: Uncertainty, urgency, psychological danger, and thirst for more information. Each episode varies to some extent in which subgenre it may fall under, whether it is action, thriller, or mystery.

I talk often on here about my desire to infuse more emotional chaos in the scenes that I write. Much like a partner with bipolar disorder, the more emotional variety that occurs within a scene the more your viewer/reader will find themselves invested in the events – ESPECIALLY if they a) relate to the main character and b) that character is the one experiencing the roller coaster of feelings.

Some of the trouble I’m currently having with the script are due to my inability to unify these two objectives. I have a scene written that starts as a therapy session and transforms into something more dangerous and bizarre. Initially the man leading the session, Dr. Howard, was warm, welcoming, and prideful. The meeting felt like a relaxed meet-and-greet where my main character (Ryan) sits and listens to each speaker as he tries to narrow down his primary suspect.

As I reread the story I realized the stakes were way too low, the urgency non-existent, and the threat of imminent danger about as worrisome as a breakfast taco from the local gas station.

So I began approaching the therapy session from a new perspective. I added a timer mechanism by including a spinning wheel that selects the next speaker. I incorporated unanimous suspicion that Ryan was not the person he was pretending to be. I provided threats that he would not leave if he were lying about his identity. And I included a mysterious punishment involving the placement of closed boxes in front of him for every wrong response. The same small boxes cause another group member a hysterical freak out.

I am happy with these changes. They are here to stay because I can already feel scene’s importance and tension being elevated.

But here’s my predicament – how do I include chaos of emotion while still using these plot toys to raise the stakes? The more I elevate the stakes, the greater the suspense (which is the point). However, the greater the suspense, the less room there is for my character to experience joy, sadness, love, excitement, and empathy within the confines of the scene.

I currently think my solution to this problem will be to have Ryan swiftly moving in and out of unease. I can do this by developing Dr. Howard into an untrusted, and unpredictable group leader. Instead of having him threaten Ryan directly, his threat may be interpreted as passive aggresive suggestions or perhaps the (overly used and permanently cliche) false sarcasm. I could also split Dr. Howard into 2 separate characters so that there is a kind side and a wrathful one.

I desperately want this scene to feel vibrant with emotion while still satisfying the anticipated experience of a suspense/mystery story. At least it must start off that way in order for the transition to a more intense environment to have a fulfilling pay off.

These are just my current thoughts and speculation. Tomorrow I will have a full day to write with privacy. After I get some rest this morning I will write and edit today as well.

Hope everything is going well and you enjoy pursuing your passion this fine weekend.

2 thoughts on “Suspense & Drama

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