How To Develop Your Story¬†Characters
Every movie is driven by its character. The plot never does anything by itself.
I’m going to teach you how to develop your characters while keeping your character reliable and interesting.
Developing characters is all about making your characters complex, ambiguous with good and bad qualities. Your character can be stupid if you want it to be, but it has to have an inner logic that it is loyal to it. Her actions in the movie should go by her personality and not out of nowhere.
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Creating a character that the audience¬†will want to meet
Think about what makes you relate to a character. Is it when she reminds you a little bit of you or someone you like? Or maybe she reminds you of who you want to be.¬ Indiana Jones¬ is a great character because¬†he is a¬†tough dude that many of us, men, wish to be. He is also full of adventure spirit we wish to have.
Look at all the characters you like in films and in novels. What is it about them that reminds you of you? What is it that make you like them?
In the movie Inside out, the writers had to deal with the happiness of the Joy character. The problem was she was happy all the time and no one can relate to that. The writers did a good job with the character by creating two elements: first is when Riely started to get sad. Joy try to fight the sad feelings and this is when Joy appears to us as¬†vulnerable. The second thing that the writers did is that they made it clear that Joy is happy all the time because she cares about Riely and want her to be happy and not from selfish reasons. This is also something we can relate to.¬
You should also think if the characters you write are ones that the audience would like to hang out with? Are they interesting enough? Are they funny or smart? What is it about them that makes you want to meet them?
Developing The Characters Goals & Motivations
- The characters are moving the plot with their choices. The protagonist ¬†(The main character) is the leading voice in the story and there for his goal will be the most important one, but all the characters should have goals too.
Why is that so important?
The audience wants to see a character that makes things happen. We like the character just for the fact that she is trying to change her world (which means she doesn’t¬†have to succeed). As long as the drive and goals of your characters are clear to the audience, you are in a good place. Find out what each character wants to get from the story.
- You also need to know why the characters want to get these goals. What is their motivation?¬†Remember! All of the decisions she’ll make in the story will come from that motivations and goals.
- Sometimes the motivations might come out of fears. Find out what is your character fear or darkest side and where is it coming from.
You should¬†watch out for passive characters. Don’t get me wrong. There are many successful films with passive characters like Big Lebowski, but you have to be a skillful writer to pull it off. If you are using a passive character, something is got to happen to pull her out from her passiveness.
- The character will usually go through a road of obstacles until she’ll get to where she wanted to be at the beginning of the film.
Look for the emotion
You need to really investigate your character’s leading emotion. What is the one emotion that keeps following her throughout the script. Is it her¬†obstacle in the film that needs to be changed in the end or is it what’s motivate her? Or maybe even both? The character’s emotion is something that should be changed throughout the film. For example, the emotion that leads Batman is anger or repressed anger. This feeling makes him walk a thin line between helping people and hurting them.¬
Developing a 3- Dimensional Characters
Your characters need to be believable and you will get that by making 3-dimensional characters and you will create that by knowing their back story.
- Another important thing to remember is that your character had a life before the story begun (unless she is born into the world in the story). Many beginner writers forget that and they get a very shallow character. You should start by writing her biography. A complete resume of her life from birth until the story started. You have to know your characters like you know your best friend.
- These are the things you need to know about your characters:
Physical: how do they look? What is their weight, height and age? Do they have any distinguishing features? Is he strong? Is he tall? How does she talk?That may not be important to the story, but you need to know it for yourself.¬
Sociological:¬†Where did she grow up and where does she live now? What kind of family did he come from?¬†What were his earlier jobs before he got to where he is now? Were there any important events in his childhood that changed him?
Psychological: How does your character talk? What kind of person is he? What are his greatest fears? What¬†are his greatest desires? Is he a perfectionist? Is he a slob? The important thing here is to understand her point of view on life.¬
- Writing the background of the character is important to understand the mood and style of the story you are going to tell.
- The more you’ll make your character look and feel real, the audience will love her more. The more specific you’ll be in her biography – the better.
Don’t write general things like James is a dog with a fear of abandonment and every time his owners are going out he is going mad.
Write: When James started to get used to his new house and owners, the wife didn’t feel good and both she and her husband went to the hospital and didn’t come back for two days. Ever since he is suffering from a fear of abandonment. Think about 5 characters you like from films, TV or literature and think what it is about them that you can identify with. That will help you understand the idea better.
- Put yourself in her shoes and stop to think about her actions and relationships. Look at all the actions she is doing and make her start thinking about them. Make her ask questions like, Why am I doing this? Am I sure this is the right thing to do? Why do I hate this person so much?
- Don’t be afraid to take details from other people you know. Start carrying a notebook and start writing interesting details about people you meet.
- Use¬†Psychological websites. There are many sites with psychological tests that you can run your character through. Try that. it’s fun and you can learn great things about your characters
Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you‚Äôre writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.
K.M. Weiland, quote from¬ Maybe Your Bad Guy Is RIGHT!
The Protagonist – Our Main Character
- The audience should get to know the main character as much as possible and as fast as possible. The main character in the story is the person that from his point of view the audience will see the story. He doesn’t have to be the one who tells the story. In the Disney movie Aladin, we know Aladin is the main character, but the one who tells the story is the old Arab at the beginning of the film (which some claim it’s the Genie).
- The protagonist also has to change during that road. If we said earlier that the goal of the main character is the fuel that drives the movie forward – the change is the resolving of the story. It is the premise which is the reason the story is presented to us. After all, the real job of your main character is to deliver your premise.¬†A good example is Han Solo from the Star Wars series. Han Solo starts as a cynical¬†character that only cares about himself (therefore the name Solo). Throughout the three films, Hans become a friend¬†of Luke, the leader of the rebellion and in a romantic relationship with princess Leia.
- There is usually one protagonist, but sometimes there might be two or more that will complete each other (as if they are one). When you have a few characters as one protagonist, I Recommend that in the beginning of the writing process, you’ll write more characters than you plan to have. For example, if your story has 5 characters as the protagonist right at the beginning as if you have 8 and see which one of them work best.
- Don’t make your Character perfect – Perfect people are not interesting and they are hard to relate to. You always need to give your main character one flaw and usually the flaw will be related to his passion. It should be the same about your antagonist. Your antagonist can’t do bad things just because he is pure evil. There should be some complex feelings that drive him to do what he does. A good example for that is the protagonist od the movie Deadpool.¬ Deadpool is more of an anti-hero than a hero- he is insecure, he hate himself and he deals with a big tragedy in his life.¬
- Remember! Nothing is final. Your character will continue to grow while you are working on the script. Your characters may even surprise you during the writing
- All these rules should be applied to te Antagonist as well.
The Format of Writing a¬†Character in a Script
- The first time you mention a character in the script, you should write it with capitalizing letters. After the name will come a very short description of the character. That’s why the first time, we write her name is with capital letters- so if the reader will forget who that character is, he can find her description very easy. The next time you will mention her name will be ◊ü◊ě the standard first letter with capital. So, the first time a character is mentioned should look like this:
‚ÄúJAMES, a small brown dog with 3 legs is crawling after his master”
- Remember! You can’t write emotion and thoughts when you describe a character or her actions. For example, you can’t write, “James is sitting on his bone so no one will be able to take it‚ÄĚ. You can only describe what the character is thinking through actions or dialog (through actions is better). You also can’t sneak in information about the character- “James, Lior’s dog, is a small brown dog”.
- Make sure the spelling of the character’s name is consistent throughout the script.
Remember! Your goal is to make the readers care about your characters, so they will more emotionally invest in the story.