COVERSCRIPT TIPS – Central Dramatic Question

Every major story line has one major central dramatic question.

If not…it should.

Because, regardless of how violent, clever, inspiring, tough, imaginative, cute, evil, sexy (or what have you) the story elements, or heroic the characters, or interesting and remarkable the situations, or fantastic the special effects, it’s all but impossible to keep the undivided attention of the audience for very long without first setting up and posing to them a clear-cut dramatic (or comedic) question to serve as the story’s through-line.

Preferably posed through action on the screen with minimal dialog.

And posed early on…in the first act…which in the ideal screenwriting world ends by page 25.

It need not be an earth-shattering, all important, the balance of the world in jeopardy type question.

It can be as simple and comedic as:  Will Harold and Kumar ever make it to the White Castle for their burgers and fries or will they be arrested as terrorists? (HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO THE WHITE CASTLE)

Or as fantastical as:  Will Dorothy get back home to Kansas or will she succumb to the evils of the Wicked Witch of the West? (THE WIZARD OF OZ)

Or as significant as:  Will Sarah survive the Terminator or will the human race be obliterated in a world run by warmongering machines? (THE TERMINATOR)

As long as it’s a question that creates an urgent, or dire, or absolute “need to know the answer” in the minds of the audience, then its a good central dramatic question upon which your major story’s through-line rests.

For it is this desire to get the answer to that posed question that keeps the audience glued to the screen for the duration of the movie.

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