When my Iraq pilot ends, I want the audience to be different.
They’ll be different because they shifted. Because the characters shift. The audience identifies with the characters, forms a bond with them that pulls them up and down through the piece, changes them as the character changes.
Stories help us feel what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. They give us the gift of empathy, the gift of identifying from a different direction. A woman walks away identifying as a man.
You help your characters shift by making the powers that oppose them overwhelming. The more acute the opposition, the more we’ll feel the urgency of the situation, and the more vital and primal the bond we’ll form. That person struggles. I struggle. I understand how that person feels. A man walks away identifying as a woman.
In my pilot, male soldiers discover they have to work with women during active combat, and they feel dragged down, challenged, threatened, unsafe. The female soldiers feel unprepared, untrained, unwelcome, unsupported.
Most of them experience a shift. If the piece works, the audience identifies with them at the start and shifts along with them.
By the end, the characters circle near the feeling –
We are all women. And we are all men.
If the story works, my audience will feel that too.