Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't push that Button!

What does your family, friends or other people you come into contact with regularly know about you? We all learn details about our loved ones. The little foibles that lead to cracks in the armor. Something about someone that can be used as ammunition when needed. Sometimes they are small but we all hit each other's proverbial buttons from time to time. I can admit to have a few blow ups at different people like the wife, a family member or the boss when you get one thrown back at you. It happens to the best of us.

This past weekend my wife and I had my brother in law and father in law over to put in a new water heater and a new sink for us. They're both plumbers by trade so this is second nature for them but being from the same family--if you only knew my in laws--the digs started early and often. The Junior In Law often jumping on Senior In Law with references to the job and the inadaquencies he thought Senior In Law had doing it. Mind you, this was in jest to some degree since my brother in law's humor can be biting but he is a teddy bear at heart.

But not all button pushing is a simple jest. I've had plenty of squabbles with my older siblings that were not pretty. So, in thinking, if I'm gonna have these squabbles why wouldn't my protagonist (or the antagonist too?) My characters have buttons that can be pushed and send them into a blind rage perhaps or some other type of reaction.

What would your protagonist's button or buttons be?

Untimately, it should be the central issue with the protagonist or at least related to the central issue. How does this button get pushed? How does the protagonist deal with that button getting pushed? All questions that need to be addressed.

The first response might be to use this push the protagonist forward positively toward their goal. It has be used to reach the goal---the operative word there was positively. One of my screenplays I have been working on does that to some degree. The protagonist and the "bad guy" play off each other and pushes the other's buttons.

Hopefully, you can allow the character to respond badly because this moment can show some of how the character acts initially (or doesn't act) in adversity. My protagonist does some dumb stuff--just acting out--which in turn puts him in peril in several aspects of his life.. But it also brings him closer to his goal. If the antagonist didn't start pushing him around how would he realize that he needs to do?

Another aspect of this to address is what kind of buttons are there. I see it broken simply into 2 kinds of"buttons" that we all have at some point been involved in:

Active--Someone purposely trying to go after some one's fallacies, weaknesses, etc to facilitate some response (usually a bad one.)

Inactive--Someone unaware they are doing something (flirting, ignoring, acting clueless) that feed into some one's fallacies or weaknesses which faciliate a response (again probably not going to be good.)

Keep in mind this is one interpretation. Maybe there's a study out there about this very subject. Great. I didn't find anything. This, to me, is what I have experienced or seen through other people only.

So the button getting pushed is just the starting point. In turn, how a character may respond to this action can be what occurred prior to the beginning of the story hence how a character responds maybe different before the story starts but will hopefully transend to something else by the end of the screenplay. So, how it gets addressed through the story is how the character resolves this button getting unpushed, turned off etc.

Also, by exploring how you act when you have reached the point of no return when that jab or ugly retort spills out of your lips can give rise to how a character may respond in the same way. However, take it and ramp it up. If the protagonist is getting knocked for being a poor bread winner maybe he decides to rob a bank or the lemonade stand down the street instead of some nasty fight with the wife or the boss. Not to say an argument doesnt serve the best purpose of the screenplay but becoming a bank robber or the scion of the neighborhood may be more compelling and offer some great opportunities down the road with the story.

My teenage protagonist I mentioned earlier crashes a car into a house to profess his love for a girl. Twisted, definitely.

Believe me... not something I would probably do. But there is a story behind that which caused him to do that.

Awww....the memories of teen love. Hehe

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