How do you tell a great story? According to Craig Mazin, you have to be a sadist.
‘As a writer, you are not the New Testament God who turns water into wine,’ Mazin chuckles on his long-running podcast Scriptnotes. ‘You are the Old Testament God who tortures Job because, I don’t know, it seems like fun.’ Mazin wrote HBO’s horrifying, incandescent miniseries Chernobyl, and so knows of what he speaks. In the episode of this podcast titled ‘How to Write a Movie’, he describes how screenwriters build plot out of suffering.
He outlines a scenario, making the stakes higher each time. Suppose our main character is a single father desperate to protect his child. Not good enough. Okay, now suppose he is a single father who witnessed his entire family being murdered, leaving him only one child.