Friday, 31 July 2009

Make your Characters Real in your Screenplay

Reading the first draft of a films script may reveal characters that seem to act at the screenwriter’s whim, lacking life, spine or individuality. What can the writer do to create realistic, interesting and unique characters to bring the story to life?

How to Create Fictional Characters for Screenplays

The conception of vivid and convincing characters is a godsend for the screenwriter, for their inner forces drive the plot. Without compelling characters, the viewer is unlikely to care about what happens to them and the story will fall flat. Character creation for film is explored fully in my website on writing screenplays. However, the following tips and suggestions may help bring screenplay characters to life.
  • Developing a profile questionnaire
  • Creating motives and drives
  • Making characters speak
  • Forcing the viewer to empathise with the characters in some way, whether the character is a hero or villain
  • Avoiding stereotypical characters
  • Above all, each character must serve a purpose within the plot, driving it forward and creating tension
Creating Characters Through Questionnaire

To help jolt the thought processes into creative mode, the screenwriter may develop a character questionnaire, which will force the writer to think of details not conceived before, such as style of dress, education and marital status. These things are likely to make the writer think about each character in more detail and therefore draw them out.

How to Make Characters Believable within the Screenplay

It is one thing to create a biography to a fictional character, but it is entirely another to breathe life and soul into the players. But this can be achieved by projecting a characteristic of the writer into the character. This characteristic can be heavily disguised or the circumstances altered, but this will help the writer empathise with the character, whether he or she is a hero or a villain, and this will show in the writing. This is key to creating characters that audiences care about.

Making Characters Speak

If the screenwriter finds it hard to make a particular character speak, it is often because their motives are not well-sketched out. This will make a character hollow and unconvincing. If the writer understands the ins and outs of a character, the words should come naturally. A problem in this area is a sign that the writer needs to go back to the drawing board in character conception.

Creating Incidental Characters

With the main characters created, the screenwriter may think about the incidental characters, which must be kept to a minimum or the focus will be taken from the story. It is easy to fall prey to creating stereotypical characters which merely serve a convenience for the plot. This must be avoided. Observing people in everyday life, such as in a shopping queue or train may spur new ideas for creating interesting minor characters without having to go into depth.

How to Make Fictional Characters Work in Film

Each character must serve a purpose within the screenplay, or the story will not move forward. A character must never stand idly by not doing anything. Cutting is often the answer to a problem within a screenplay. If each character has a well-drawn biography, is deeply understood by the writer and has motives and desires that will impact upon the plot, the writer is halfway toward writing a compelling screenplay propelled by compelling characters.

Articles on Screenwriting

Create the best theme for your screenplay
Putting words into characters' mouths
Create a strange character
Subplot to the screenplay
The ideal logline for your script
Writing a short screenplay
Specialized books on screenwriting

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