When teaching screenwriting classes, I tell my students to look everywhere for inspiration. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but the 4th of July is awash in heroic characters. Although the events leading to the Declaration of Independence occurred over 200 years ago, the heroic qualities of our nation’s founders can still be translated to screenwriting success today.
This year, look beyond the fireworks and parades and try to think about what really made these characters into national heroes. Then try to think about how you can apply those characteristics to the people in your screenplay. The main character attributes that help audiences connect with movie heroes include courage, unfair injury, skill, funny, nice, in danger, loved, hard-working and obsessed. How many of these qualities did our starring forefathers have?
- Thomas Jefferson: After he wrote the Declaration of Independence, Britain’s army was soon on its way to New York Harbor. Certainly Jefferson and his colleagues were showing a great deal of courage in the face of impending conflict. But he was both hard-working and obsessed with getting the wording of this crucial document just right, using heavy editing to great effect.
- Samuel Adams: He was known as the “Firebrand of the Revolution” for his role as an agitator between the colonists and the British. He believed that the colonists suffered an unfair injury under British rule and was willing to face danger to right the injustice.
- John Hancock: Known for his large signature on the Declaration, Hancock became one of the most wanted men in the colonies by King George III. If that isn’t a courageous hero, I don’t know who is.
- Benjamin Franklin: Often remembered for being funny and his many wise sayings, Franklin was also known as the “Sage of the Convention.” Ben embodied many of the elements of a courageous hero. He was funny, nice, in danger, loved, hardworking and skillful.
- John Adams: Along with Jefferson, Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman, Adams helped draft the Declaration. After its adoption he wrote his wife Abigail that the day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” He had an uncanny ability to predict the future, and also he had guts!
My book, The Story Solution: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take, provides further insights on how to analyze characters and turn them into heroes. Download a sample chapter or visit Amazon.com to see some of the chapters and pages.
Save The Date: Learn more about writing a screenplay by attending Story Expo 2014, September 5-7 in Los Angeles. I’ll be speaking, along with a host of other great lecturers, on the art and craft of storytelling.
From all of us at The Story Solution, have a great 4th and be safe! With special thanks to Taylor Reaume for his great help with our web and content publishing strategy (what a whiz!).
Eric Edson and Staff
About The Story Solution: The Story Solution was written by accomplished screenwriter Eric Edson. It reveals the 23 actions used to create dynamic, three dimensional heroes and link all parts of a captivating screenplay. He also covers screenwriting tips, screenwriting resources, and screenwriting books. Visit the website and Facebook page for more screenwriting tips and resources.