Lessons Learned from Michael Hauge
In his lecture recorded at the Screenwriting Expo, Michael Hauge points out the writer’s need to make certain the reader gains empathy with the main character right away. Although there are numerous ways to gain reader empathy, Hauge contends that a writer should use at least three methods to hook the reader into relating to the main character. For example;
1. We tend to care about characters who suffer from an undeserved treatment.
If the character is a victim of injustice, prejudice, humiliation, embarrassment, falsely accused, or abandoned, we tend to care about their predicament.
2. We tend to care about characters who have human virtues.
The character who helps others in misfortune, helps children or animal, risks his or her life for others, shows ethical or moral responsibility, displays humanity in private moments, have our favor from the get-go. We like virtuous people.
3. We like characters with desirable qualities and skills.
Power, charisma, leadership, courage, passion, skill or expertise, wit, sense of humor,
athleticism, and persistence are something each of us want in our own lives.
I’m sure you get the idea. First, we must like the character in order to live vicariously through them and to get our minds inside the story. To like the character we need to see desirable traits. These traits need to be shown as early in the story as possible—preferably in the first scene.
Using last month’s example, The Pacifier, the story opens with the hero in jeopardy as he is faced with saving his comrades on the ship. The ship is far out in sea and away from any possible help. The hero single-handedly (with the use of grenades, guns and other conveniently available weapons), destroys helicopters, snipers, and an entire team of bad guys.
He’s outnumbered, outmatched, and at the end, he’s able to smile, maintain humbleness (note; he doesn’t have a wound on his magazine-cover body). We admire him for his fighting skills, his patriotism, and his willingness to accept any hardship or mission his superiors place on him.
In his new mission to protect the children, he faces his fish-out-of water situation like a good trooper. How can we not like a perfect human being like that?