Posts Tagged ‘William Broyles Jr. Tom Hanks’

“The pivotal character knows what he wants…Without him the story flounders…in fact, there is no story.”

                                       Lajos Egri

One of the hang-ups that some people have with the classic writing book The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri is that its focus in on theater. And while some of the references are more well known plays, others are more obscure in today’s terms.

So I’ve decided to give the fifty three year old book a little contemporary injection by connecting his thought to a more recent film. Egri starts his book discussing premise (which we cover in parts 1 & 2) and follows it talking about character.

What some people call the protagonist, hero or main character, Egri also calls the pivotal character.

“A pivotal character must not merely desire something. He must want it so badly that he will destroy or be destroyed in the effort to attain his goal…A good character must have something very vital at stake.”
                               Lajos Egri
                               The Art of Dramatic Writing
                               page 108

The character Chuck Nolan comes to mind. He is the pilot played by Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Screenwriter William Broyles Jr. has given Hanks plenty at stake. First there is just the survival issue of living on a deserted island, and then there is the issue of his fiancé back home. Toward the end of the movie he is even willing to risk his life to attain his goal of returning home.

Hanks’ character also fits well another aspect that Egri writes about;

“A pivotal character is a driving force, not because he decided to be one. He becomes what he is for the simple reason that some inner or outer necessity forces him to act; there is something at stake for him, honor, health, money, protection, vengeance, or a mighty passion.”

Later in the chapter Egri carries this point over to those who have a desire to write, act, sing or paint by saying that with 99% of those people it is a caprice or a whim. Egri writes, “Ninety-nine per cent usually give up before they have a chance to achieve anything. They have no perseverance, no stamina, no physical or mental strength, the inner urge to create is not strong enough.”

So write strong, willful pivotal characters. And be one yourself.


Related screenwriting post: What’s at Stake? (Tip #9) 


Scott W. Smith

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