How To Introduce The Protagonist – Shannan E. Johnson

Writer/Instructor and Script Consultant Shannan E. Johnson (The Professional Pen): One of my favorite examples is using Scandal. We open up Scandal hearing from two other people talk about Olivia Pope [Kerry Washington], one of them is the trusted source.

Film Courage: How does a writer introduce a protagonist in a way that makes the viewer or reader want to follow that character? 

Shannan: Good question. I actually did an entire workshop on How Do I? and I call them How The F? All of my workshops are in the What The F workshop series. This particular workshop was How The F Do I Introduce My Protagonist? and there are a million ways to do it but what we’re looking for is what information are you going to give me about them in their normal life that makes me like them or relate to them? I don’t have to do both. It’s 2021 so I don’t have to like the character. They can be totally unlikable but something about them has to be able to relate to in order to care enough and invest in them on this journey. So I use the word social proof and basically what that means is prove to me (going back to the evidence), prove to me who they are on the page whether that means we’re receiving information from someone else or we’re watching them do the thing because just like regular human beings you can only take…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

 

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About Shannan:

After grad school I became a junior creative executive at NBCUniversal at the Syfy Channel. I was there for the rebrand. Remember Sci Fi? Yeah, not really. Anywho, it was my job to help writers and producers take their ideas from pitch to production. I co-exec’d on Alphas, Being Human, Haven, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and more Syfy dramedies. This is how I honed my skill in all stages of the screenwriting process…(read more here).


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