As I journey on the road to the big screen, knowledge and persistence will be my driving force. A writer can never stop reading, researching, learning, submitting (even when your rejection to acceptance ratio is 25 to 1 or 250 to 1), and most of all writing.
It gets more complicated when you throw in things like psychic distance and plot points or mini plots, but I'll discuss these another time.
In the hands of a truly gifted writer, both character and plot can shine, but this is rare. Think of movies like Moonstruck or When Harry Met Sally. Movies in which you felt deeply connected to the characters and dedicated to seeing them achieve their goals. In Moonstruck, I was Loretta going to the opera with Ronny. I was in the seat next to him as he lifted my hand to his lips and tenderly kissed it. At the end I was in the kitchen as Ronny proposed with the ring Loretta had just returned to his brother Johnny - all in one seamless transition. It's a beautiful thing when a screenplay results in a movie that can evoke such an emotional connection while at the same time drive toward a well-developed plot.
I'm a beginner at this. I doubt my first screenplay will be a Moonstruck. But if I had to choose which way to drive my screenplay, I'm finding that I prefer strong characters. I don't need a bold, grand, heavy plot finale as long as I can connect with vibrant characters that grow or change in some way - preferably in a way I can relate to - in a way that tells me something about myself - in a way that makes me think - in a way that strokes a weakened emotion inside me. And I'm not an easily moved person, so I know if it moves me, it will likely move most anyone. That's what I want to write. That's what I want to see on the big screen - more Frankies and Johnnys.
And if, in the process, we create a killer plot - bonus!
Writers: Here's a fun exercise. If you think you'd like to try screenwriting, pick a scene from a favorite movie, and try to recreate it on paper. Pay close attention to setting and camera work, and of course action and dialogue. Don't worry about format - just try to get it written out. If you want to see examples of format, click here or Google "screenplay format".