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Irony in a Screenplay

Using Dramatic Irony to Enrich A Screenplay .....8/27/05The Film

Screenwriters can use dramatic irony to depict events that result in the opposite of what we expect. The use of irony can transform an ordinary plot into an extraordinary and exciting story.

The film, Crash, is an excellent example of the power of dramatic irony. Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco, the writers of this film, showed that the lives of racially diverse characters in Crash are tied together by a car-jacking. The car-jacking creates a cause-and-effect chain of events that makes the characters conflict with each other and crash. The results of this crash are completely unexpected. They are ironic.

In one scene in Crash, a hateful, racist cop named Jack Ryan abuses a light-skinned black woman during a traffic stop by fondling her. When Ryan's partner shows disgust for this behavior, Ryan tells his partner that no one knows who they really are. This is the theme of Crash óthe characters really don't know who they are and what they are capable of. But as they clash with each other, they learn things about themselves that are the opposite of what they believed.


As the story progresses, the bad copóRyanórisks his life to save the black woman he abused. When she's trapped in a burning car after a crash, he pulls her out of the car. Ironically, her racist view of white cops also changes when the cop she hates so much saves her life.

Ryan's partner, the good cop who was contemptuous of Ryan's bigotry, mistakenly assumes a young black man has a gun and he shoots him simply because he's black.

Though Crash uses numerous characters and interwoven storylines to
create ironic plot twists, irony can also be created for screenplays with a simple plot structure.

When plotting a screenplay, ask yourself, "What if the opposite happened?" By doing so, you can create a credible script that uses irony to dramatize the story.

Ask yourself several questions to add dramatic irony to your screenplay:

1.) Who is your protagonist (hero)? Describe the protagonist's physical and
      psychological characteristics and main character flaw.

2.) What is your protagonist's goal in the story? What is the protagonist trying to
      achieve? Describe the antagonist (villain) who tries to prevent the protagonist from
      achieving his goal. How does the antagonist create conflict for the protagonist?

3.) When does the story take place? Does it take place now, in the past, in the future?

4.) Where does the story take place? Describe the geographic location.

5.) Why do the actions of the protagonist determine how the main conflict of the story is

6.) How does the protagonist resolve the conflict in a way that is the opposite of what
      he expected? How do the antagonist's actions result in outcomes that are the
      opposite of what he expected or planned?



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