The secret to making more people fall in love with your show.

It’s dramatic writing 101 that the hero of your story (whether that’s a play, a musical, or a movie) has to want something.  Badly.  It gives him (or her) an action.  A hero that doesn’t want anything just becomes a couch potato.   And there are enough of those in the world, right?

And it’s musical writing 101 that the hero of the show comes out and explicitly states what they want in the first few scenes of said show.  “All I want is a room somewhere,” “I want so much more than this provincial life,” “I gotta find my purpose,” “Gotta find my corner of the sky,” “I wanna be where the people are,” and so on, including my favorite, “I wanna be a Producer!”

But I’ve noticed something very simple lately about that want that seems to have a direct correlation to the mass appeal of the story, again in whatever medium that story is being told.

It’s the secret to making your audience for your show bigger.

The more the “want” is something your audience also wants to do?  The bigger the crowd.

It’s simple.  But important.

It’s why a musical about someone who wants to be an impressionist painter may not have as much appeal as a musical about someone who wants to be a rock star.

The want has to be something a large audience can relate to, or want to achieve themselves (even if they don’t know it).  When this happens, they root for your hero to succeed that much more . . . because deep down, they are rooting for their own success at that very same thing.

The first thing all writers of musicals need to do is discover what their hero wants.  The second thing they need to do is find out if the audience ever dreams about the same thing.


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  • Bob Degus says:

    I want to always remember this blog entry. Brilliant.

  • Victoria Forseth says:

    You totally hit the nail on the head, Ken! I was just thinking about this exact thing the other day, when I was contemplating what would compel me to invest in a show. One of the best examples I have experienced personally was seeing WICKED for the first time, shortly before Idina Menzel left the show. When she sang Defying Gravity, the tears were streaming down my face and I thought I was going to fall out of my seat – for the exact reason you mentioned. Then I felt my successful, well-to-do, businessman husband, who was sitting next to me, reaching over and yanking the tissues out of my hand because he was sobbing too! Do we live in Oz? No. Are our faces green? No. But that song/scene TOTALLY touched and connected with us, big time!

  • And, Ken, and as you point out, “I want” is not just for musicals.
    Straight drama is driven by “I want” and gives the play a core of
    positivity, the drive of passionate desire. Of course, you have conflicting
    “wants” which can provide as much conflict as any play needs, conflicting
    wants from other characters and also conflicting wants within the hero or
    heroine themselves.
    I think the writer needs to channel the basic “stuff” that he/she personally wants and
    use whatever part of that is universal. True love, anyone? It seems to have crowd
    appeal, for some strange reason.

  • FrankieJ says:

    Hey Ken–
    Great point about the “want” factor.

    I think the second point is up for debate, though. If a character wants something that most audiences cannot relate to, if the presentation is done in manner that allows for understanding of what it the protagonist wants AND the audience member has empathy, then that interest should be there regardless.

    So much of it is about passion and compassion.

    Just my two cents.

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