How To Find The Emotional Spine In A Screenplay – Pat Verducci

Film Courage: How do you help writers find the emotional spine of their story? 

Pat Verducci, Writing Coach, Teacher and Mentor: That’s a great question. The emotional spine is the most important thing. Oftentimes it’s one of the last things that becomes really clear because sometimes you have to write through a bunch of stuff to actually realize what the emotional spine is of your story. One way that I work with writers on finding the emotional spine of their story is by using the hero’s journey and the reason I actually like that story model is I think it’s the deepest kind of psychological model and it really is about fear and facing whatever darkness we have in ourselves in pursuing what we want. Sometimes writers have a really great story but I’m like What do they want? What’s the emotional growth? What’s their flaw? What’s their problem? We actually do kind of talk through this idea of the hero’s journey and often what’s missing is a fear. Some people write main characters that are perfect, they’re just good people and they always do the right thing and after a while it’s kind of like Wow, the secondary characters are really fun and interesting and your main character is just kind of dull. How do you take some of that juice that you’ve given your secondary characters and really create a main character who’s complicated and flawed and it’s so good to have a character that has a flaw because then they make mistakes which creates more conflict and then they do things out of fear which allows us to understand them more deeply which creates structure for us. What I do is we sort of talk through Okay what is your character afraid? What is their emotional need? Let’s say it’s love and connection and let’s just say they’re afraid of being…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).



Writing Coach, Teacher, Mentor and Screenwriter Pat Verducci teaches two Advanced Screenwriting courses at UCLA TFT. She has written scripts for Touchstone Pictures, Witt-Thomas Productions, and Walt Disney Animation Studios. She has also worked as a story consultant for Disney/Pixar. She wrote and directed the feature film True Crime, starring Alicia Silverstone, and her writing credits also include documentary shorts for HBO and Showtime. She co-produced Somewhere Between, a feature documentary about four teenaged girls transracially adopted from China, and served as a story consultant on the Tinkerbell franchise for Disney. She is currently the script editor on several feature film projects for Film Victoria and Screen Australia, and is writing Citizen Bella, a documentary on the life of modern dancer Bella Lewitzky. Verducci serves as a mentor at Cinestory and the Meryl Streep funded IRIS/New York Women in Film and Television’s Writer’s Lab for Women. She’s a member of the Writers Guild of America.







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