Who Are These People?
Make Your Characters Three Dimensional
Give Your Characters Purpose!
Change is Good
Obits & Field Trips
Goal and Opposition
What makes your character chase his or her goal? What drives your character? In “The Screenwriter’s Bible,” David Trottier says, “The more personal it is, the more the audience will identify and sympathize with the character.” In “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” what sends Josey on his bloody trail of revenge? The slaughter of his family serves as all the motivation his character needs.
The Will to Act
How does your character react to crisis? What does he or she do in the face of opposition? In “Slapshot,” as the steel industry in Johnstown is fading, and the team’s demise is imminent, what does Reggie do to hang onto his career and his identity? He changes the style of play of the team to attract more headlines and bigger crowds, and he starts rumors about the team moving to Florida to force the hand of management and the ownership.
Point of View and Attitudes
Room to Grow
You have given your character a set of parameters. His or her personality, a sense of self, these things are the starting points for your character. The big event happens in Act I, to draw the character out, to start him or her on their quest. Your character should exhibit growth, have a realization about themselves, something which connects the audience to your character. At the beginning of “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” Josey is a loner with a scar on his face and a dark past. But as he continues on his journey, he comes into contact with a group of misfits who adopt him as their leader, whether he likes it or not. While his outwardly gruff demeanor does not change much, the audience gets to see the character grow and change throughout the movie.
These are the traits that make your character memorable. Do not boil your characters down to caricatures, but give them quirks and tics to flesh them out. In “Die Hard,” written by Jeb Stuart and Stephen E. de Souza, John McClane talks to himself throughout the entire movie. In the beginning as a fish out of water New York cop in Los Angeles, it’s because he’s bemused by the world he finds himself in. Later, as terrorists have taken over the Nakatomi Plaza, he does it to keep himself sane as he also tries to keep himself alive.
This comes down to the writer being willing to spend time developing characters, making them believable, and doing whatever necessary to create whole characters. Go the library, interview people in professions upon whom you’ll be basing a character, figure out what really makes your character tick. This may take your character away from your original version, but it may be better for the screenplay. This will also help find your character’s voice.
A Strong Supporting Cast