“People have a great need to have their emotions expressed and affirmed by stories.”
Writing Great Screenplays for Film and TV, written by Dona Cooper, was first published back in 1994. But it wasn’t until I flipped through it last night that I really connected with her chapter on emotions.
They say when you re-read a book years after the first read through that the book hasn’t changed but you have. That is definitely the case for me in part because last year I wrote the longest thread ever on this blog around one topic: Emotions. Beginning with Filmmaking Quote #25 (David Fincher) where he said, ”Directors make things that you are supposed to get an emotional hit off of. You’re supposed to feel something,” and ending with 40 Days of Emotions, which concluded by a great quote by Karl Iglesias, “Emotion is your screenplay’s lifeblood.”
So this time around, I was better primed when I came upon these words:
“Audiences like stories because stories give them emotional experiences they often can’t have in real life. Just like riding a real roller coaster gives people an opportunity to enjoy experiences that are more exciting than their everyday lives, a captivating story roller coaster provokes the same sense of exhilaration that makes audiences feel truly alive.
Yet most stories are entirely fictional and even those based on fact are still somewhat artificial, so why should a fictionalized story event have such emotional impact on audiences? How can emotions provoked by such an artificial medium be so compelling?
The reason is that people think in stories. Dreams, worries, gossip, religion, myth, and science are all stories that humans have created to give some sense of order and meaning to their lives that they can’t always find in everyday experiences…. In order to be emotionally involving, the pieces of the story eventually have to become personally meaningful, and the more direct the connection, the more power the story has.”
Dona Cooper (Former AFI instructor now at UNC School of the Arts)
AFI’s Writing Great Screenplays for Film and TV