Two Key Concepts for a Riveting Screenplay

Writing a screenplay that draws and immerses your audience is not easy. In fact, it requires skill and a good knowledge of psychology. Sure, it’s one thing to create a great story then film the sequence in a beautiful and engaging way, but did you know there are two crucial psychological concepts you can implement to make sure your screenplay captivates audiences?

As a filmmaker, it’s your job to know this and utilize its effects on your film.

Hedonistic Treadmill

This is also known as Hedonistic Adaptation. It is the general tendencies of humans to quickly revert back to the same level of happiness despite experiencing major negative or positive events. This theory also explains why when humans make more money, their expectations and desires also move up. It was further modified and compared to the pursuit of happiness as someone on a treadmill, meaning, the person has to continue on walking just to remain in the same place.

How does this work in screenplays?

Basically, if you have a good screenplay or movie, you create this hedonistic treadmill in your audience’s lives while they are watching. It draws them in, makes them play out the character and their lives throughout the duration. With this in mind, you’ll have a good idea how to plan your plot and your crucial twists to gain the maximum effect. Movies and screenplays are often made up of “up” and “down” moments. Knowing this, an equal amount of each, followed by a revelation or “shock” to the story will create tension and impact to your film that draws audiences. After these revelations, you can then offer an exposition. This makes your audience less likely to be bored if a narrative exposition is crucial to the story. This “down” moment of exposition should last as long until another event. This then becomes the new “normal” for your audience and from there you can ramp up the story.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to create a screenplay that keeps on bringing the unexpected. Essentially, you are ramping up and raising the intensity of the film as opposed to lowering the tension. This is quite true especially towards the end part or when the audience is lulled into a denouement.

Ultradian Rhythm

Another neurological concept is the idea of Ultradian Ryhthm. While this is an altogether complex process, it basically means that by nature, your brain requires a break after a certain number of minutes. Hence, people get a momentary lull in concentration. The ideal periods include after 90, 120, and 240 minutes. You can design your film to account for these natural lulls and create riveting, important scenes during the time and by also creating a natural up and down treadmill so you can make your film work for your audience.