Learn all about Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster.

Luke (Protagonist), Leia (Attractor), Han (Trickster)

In a screenplay, characters exist for a reason. Unlike a novel, a writer doesn’t have unlimited time to introduce characters willy nilly, rather the limitations of a script’s length compels us to handle characters with one eye always on how they connect to the plot. Moreover almost all movies feature a Protagonist who goes through some sort of metamorphosis. As a result, it’s almost certain all of the primary and even secondary characters in a story tie into and support the Protagonist’s transformation.

All of this translates into a 3rd essential screenwriting principle I teach in the Core curriculum:

Character = Function

This may sound reductionist. It is precisely the opposite. Much like an actor asks, “What’s my motivation,” digging down into the core of their character’s persona, so, too, do we as screenwriters delve into characters to determine what their core essence is and how that plays out in terms of their respective narrative functions. Once we make those discoveries, we can shape our characters in unlimited ways, all the while playing to how they function in relation to the narrative.

Wicked Witch (Nemesis), Toto (Trickster), Dorothy (Protagonist, Glinda (Mentor)

That is the starting point of Core III: Character, a 1-week online class I will be teaching starting on Monday, October 9. In this course, you will learn about:

  • Five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster
  • Protagonist Metamorphosis Arc
  • Nemesis as opposition and ‘shadow’
  • Attractor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s emotional development
  • Mentor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s intellectual development
  • Trickster as the character who tests the Protagonist’s will
  • Different Protagonist paradigms
  • Working with archetypes and switching Protagonists

And much more.

Clarice (Protagonist), Lecter (Mentor)

The course consists of four components:

  • Lectures: There are six lectures written by me, each posting Monday through Saturday.
  • Writing Exercises: These optional exercises offer you the opportunity to workshop one of your own loglines and receive feedback from class members.
  • Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material, a great opportunity to interface directly with me and other writers in the course.
  • Forums: The online course site has message boards where you may post questions / comments, almost always a place where remarkable conversations and analysis takes place.

We will analyze a lot of movies including The Wizard of Oz, The Apartment, The Silence of the Lambs, Slumdog Millionaire, Citizen Kane, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Life Is Beautiful, and many more.

Megan (Mentor), Helen (Nemesis), Annie (Protagonist), Lillian (Trickster)

For those of you who have not taken an online class, the interface is extremely easy. Plus online classes can be an amazing experience. Most of the activities you can do on your own time — download and read lectures, review and respond to forum discussions, upload loglines and track comments. In addition, I’ve been teaching online for over a decade and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a community emerges in such an environment.

Core III: Character is one of eight classes in the Core curriculum. Here is the schedule for all of them this summer and fall, the only time I will be offering these courses in 2017:

CORE I: PLOT — A one-week class which begins with the principle Plot = Structure and explores the inner workings of the Screenplay Universe: Plotline and Themeline. Start date: September 11 [Already offered — Site active].

CORE II: CONCEPT — A one-week class which begins with the principle Concept = Hook and examines multiple strategies to generate, develop and assess story ideas. Start date: September 25 [Already offered — Site active].

CORE III: CHARACTER — A one-week class which begins with the principle Character = Function and delves into archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, and Trickster. Start date: October 9.

CORE IV: STYLE — A one-week class which begins with the principle Style = Voice and surfaces keys to developing a distinctive writer’s personality on the page. Start date: October 23.

CORE V: DIALOGUE — A one-week class which begins with the principle Dialogue = Purpose and probes a variety of ways to write effective, entertaining dialogue. Start date: November 6.

CORE VI: SCENE — A one-week class which begins with the principle Scene = Point and provides six essential questions to ask when crafting and writing any scene. Start date: November 13.

CORE VII: THEME — A one-week class which begins with the principle Theme = Meaning and gives writers a concrete take on theme which can elevate the depth of any story. Start date: November 27.

CORE VIII: TIME — A one-week class which begins with the principle Time = Present and studies Present, Present-Past, Present-Future and time management in writing. Start date: December 11.

These eight Core classes represent decades of my work on the front lines of the entertainment business as a writer and producer, and engaging the craft as a teacher as well, over time pulling together a coherent, comprehensive, and cohesive approach to screenwriting theory.

This is not about secret systems or magic formulas, rather the Core content presents a story-crafting process that starts with characters, works with characters, and ends with characters. That process of engaging you with your story universe through your characters and getting you in touch with these living, breathing individuals informs every step of your creative process, leading you to story structure, themes, conflict, subplots, and all the rest. As I say, Character Based Screenwriting.

NOTE: I provide feedback and am actively involved in our online chats. That includes a 90 minute teleconference for each Core class.

Check out the Core Package to ground yourself in a proven, professional approach to screenwriting theory and practice.

“Joining Scott’s class is one of the best decisions anyone could make when deciding to embark on the journey of writing a screenplay. His passion for teaching and screenwriting could not be more inspirational. I couldn’t wish for a better teacher and mentor!” — Theodora von Auersperg

“Your unique lectures helped me think about character in new ways, and will inevitably change the way I approach new ideas and outlines. And I’m blown away and impressed at the level of personal feedback/communication from you. I don’t know how you do it — androids couldn’t manage their time more efficiently than you.” — Bob Corsi

I have spent years studying Carl Jung, who was a huge influence on Joseph Campbell, and as the Hero’s Journey may act as a paradigm for narrative generally, I am convinced there is a similar universality in movies relative to these five character archetypes. Moreover these archetypes are a key to character-based screenwriting, providing writers a non-formulaic way to engage the story-crafting process.

For information on Core III: Character, which begins October 9, go here.

For The Core Package, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!