Life advice from a screenwriter?

I write screenplays.  I read advice columns.

Advice columns are tutorials for adults in how to have conflict.  Most advice column advice can be summed up as “Have you told this person what you just told me?”  This is because most of us will chew our own leg off to get out of any situation where we have to deliver negative information to another human, even when doing so might considerably improve our relationships and quality of life.

There are of course a minority of people who have zero trouble expressing negative emotions or initiating conflict.  Those people tend to call themselves “straight shooters.”  You and I know them as “assholes.”  We don’t want to be assholes, so we avoid bringing up the topic and suffer in silence like God and the Midwest intended until we explode or need to write to an advice columnist for validation. And then what?  Are you going to show the advice column to the person who is pissing you off?   (See above, re: assholes).  Or just hope that they stumble across it and recognize themselves and it gets magically fixed and you never had to say “Hey, Coworker, when you listen to that radio station it makes it hard for me to concentrate, would you mind wearing headphones?”

Good movies are full of conflict.  Movie characters want things and go after those things, and when they come across someone who wants different things they have conflict and in the course of that conflict they find hidden strengths and desires in themselves and become more truly what they are.  And movie characters don’t have time to second-guess these wants and beat around the bush in expressing them.  For example:

I can’t say that hiring a bounty hunter to go on a revenge mission is either healthy or constructive, but in some ways it beats sitting through another holiday dinner where your relatives makes crazy racist comments or ask rude personal questions the entire time and you sit there biting your tongue and raising your blood pressure and then you write to an advice columnist to find out what you should have said.

Write to me at  Captain Awkward can tell you what you should have said.

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