I've thought about writing my own screenplay, from time to
time, and I recently realised how writing a screenplay can
be similar to writing advertising copy. The writing guide
I used was very appropriately entitled "Writing Screenplays
That Sell", 1988 by Michael Hauge.
In it Michael Hauge says that the goal of the screenwriter
is to elicit emotion in the person who reads the screenplay.
Surely this is also the goal of anybody who's writing ads or
any other marketing copy?
To create a successful screenplay a writer needs a sympathetic
character to overcome a series of increasingly difficult and
seeming insurmountable obstacles. In the case of marketing the
character, or hero, is your product or service. The obstacles
would be a customer's resistance to buy, which you overcome
by using identification and motivation.
Identification is important, so that customers can identify
with you (as somebody who's already done what they want to
do)or with your product, so that they can appreciate how they'll
benefit from it. Think of a bad film, in which you couldn't
identify with the main characters. As a product it probably
didn't inspire you very much at all.
In comedies we sometimes hear actor characters say, "What's
my motivation for this scene?" It's something you could also
imagine a customer saying when they read an ad: "What's my
motivation to buy this?" Like the screenwriter, marketers
also have to elicit a suitable emotional response from their
Creating emotional responses is a well-established part of
The screenwriting process. Michael Hauge lists these points:
* Create sympathy or liking for your character.
* Introduce the character as soon as possible.
* Show the character in touch with their own power.
* Every scene, event and character must contribute something.
* Early on show the audience where the story will lead them.
* Accelerate the pace of the story.
* Create peaks and valleys to the action and humour.
* Create anticipation and curiosity in the reader.
* Make the story credible.
* Give the story both humour and seriousness.
* Give the story an effective opening and ending.
There are many other useful ideas Michael Hauge's book which
I can recommend. Some of them may stretch the comparison between
screenplays and marketing a little, but they're also worthwhile
considering for anybody who wants to evoke an emotional response.
And with screenplays you already know how effective they can be.
Just think of the classics. Remember how all the right elements
fell into place in Casablanca, for example. But you don't need
to analyse a two hour film to get your ideas.
Next time: How you can use sitcoms to style your marketing copy.
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