Instructor: That idea of tapping into something that’s in the psyche and then, people, it’ll resonate with people. So I love this. If you can do all these things in your story, you’re on your way, you know, and it’s all on one single piece of paper. So it always starts with the backstory. Well, we can do it. Let’s take our epileptic character. What’s the backstory? It’s his family, they’re poor people. Tell me about the family.
Participant: No, they’re well-educated middle-class. Father’s a physician. So he knows what’s going on. Kid has seizures, uncontrolled, and year by year, it’s getting worse.
Instructor: Year by yea, getting worse. We meet our hero. It’s building this kid. What is his… If he has one wants, he just wants to be… You know, obviously, he wants to be healthy, but give me an emotional thing. Is he not popular? And a lot of it is just to being liked by the other kids. He’s always been kind of a weirdo and an outsider?
Participant: He’s outsider. And he is always having seizures. So he’s this scary, freaky kid.
Instructor: Good. And so the stakes are, if he can’t control the seizures, he could die, life and death. Right? Okay. The disruption is the surgery. Suddenly, we’re gonna take a risk. And instead of he… You know, it does heal him, but suddenly he starts seeing that he can do things he wasn’t…most people can’t do. Right? So when you talk about his superpowers, how… I mean, he’s not flying through the air like Superman, but is it telepathic? What are the little things that start happening?
Participant: He kinda sees things before they happen.
Instructor: Oh, okay. It’s a little bit of the profit future site. That’s fantastic. The antagonism is… Obviously, the disease itself is an antagonist. But we wanna embody that movement against him in others. So is there a bully who’s always been picking on him? What do we get going on to making his life difficult?
Participant: I was kinda going with the parents, the conflict between the parents, the dad is a surgeon and he’s like, “Let’s just do the surgery.” And the mom is like, “No, we can’t do some crazy surgery. What if he dies with it?” So they’re having their own conflict about, “Do we try to control this? Is he better off dead? How is he gonna grow up as, you know, having the seizures? We can’t control them. The meds aren’t working, nothing’s working.”
Narrator: The proceeding clip was from Screenwriting for Physicians by SEAK, Inc. SEAK specializes in helping physicians find and locate non-clinical careers and also in helping physicians learn how to supplement their income with lucrative home-based work. Ways to supplement your income include medical expert witnessing, disability and utilization reviews, independent medical examinations, writing, including screenwriting, inventing, consulting, and life care planning.
Excerpted from SEAK’s stream on-demand course, Screenwriting for Physicians