Many screenplay readers complain that most of the characters they read are pedestrian, boring and dull. They know all about the character in the first few lines of dialog, know how they will act and whether they will achieve their goal. Remember that boring person you met at that party? Within the first sentence they utter, you know everything about them. What if they practiced black magic, had telepathic powers or had a photographic memory? Now that’s interesting.
Agents, producers, managers and other executives don’t simply define characters as good or bad. They define them as which actor would relish the role. When actors of a certain caliber are attached, finance and distribution follows. In fact, this is how most independent films are made.
Such lead characters must stand out and be larger than life. They cannot be eclipsed by supporting roles. They require a uniqueness. Give them a unique morality, values and beliefs. Are they badass gangsters who follow the “eye for an eye” mantra, or do they possess the erudite exquisiteness of Hannibal Lecter? Give them a distinct profile comprising traits, motivations, insecurities, complexities, motivations, dilemmas, conflicts, fears, irrationalities and paradoxes.
Multi-layering your character adds interest. Give them subtext and double entendres. Consider Mr. Lecter’s final line of dialogue “I’m having a friend for lunch”. This is known as a grand exit; something for the audience to take home.
Since characters define the action by their choices, the subsequently define plot structure. See how the main turning points and story beats coincide with the character arcs.