The Rewriting Process – Character

Here is the next entry from Hal Croasmun’s Proseries classes on rewriting.

Have you created main characters that A-list actors want to play. Ensure your lead character is unique in some way. Here are they key components of character construction:


Do they have  compelling core traits? Traits are often defined as predispositions such as shy, funny, quirky. A different way of defining a trait is when a character exhibits the most emotion.

List four main traits for each character (3 related and one opposing trait) to create a balanced and interesting character. This has been referred to as a character diamond. If all the traits are opposing, the character is insane. How could your character be funny, angry, laid back and neurotic simultaneously?

Consider the following profile for an accountant: analytical, friendly, methodical and trustworthy. Although I’d hire someone like that in a heartbeat, I couldn’t write a character like that. Try changing one of those traits to see its effect on genre. If you swap friendly with vengeful, a drama would become a mystery, horror or thriller. If analytical was replaced with numerically dyslexic, it could become a comedy.


What is spoke versus what is being said? What is the meaning beneath the surface of the words. Give them a SECRET that is instrumental to the story. For instance, how would your main character change if he was losing his sight and was a champion swordsman? Pretty significantly. What if they were hiding that they never finished high school? Yawn.


Another reference to the Ancient Greeks and their fatal flaws or Achilles heel. Flaws add interest to characters because it humanizes them and makes them more relatable to audiences. Flaws relate to self-limiting belief systems resulting in self-sabotaging choices preventing your main character from achieving their goal.


This relates to a reasoning framework of your characters which influence their choices. It refers to their inner and outer goals. What do they want compared to what do they need? They could be similar or opposite. They need to be related. Consider Jack Nicholson’s misanthropic character in “As Good As It Gets”. His behavior indicates a deep-seated desire for love and acceptance.


Create a logline for your main characters’ arcs because it identifies different perspectives of the dramatic conflict.


Improve one character relationship/interaction at a time between the protagonist, antagonist, love interest and supporting characters.

  • Are there sufficient similarities between them to build rapport?
  • Are there sufficient differences between them to cause conflict?
  • Are there competing agendas between them to cause complications, increase conflict and subtext?

Create character journeys audience care about. What are the protagonist’s and antagonist’s individual journeys? Each character has a different journey within the same story. Do the supporting characters catalyze the change in the main characters?

Introduce lead characters powerfully. These introductions attract A-list actors to your script. How do your main character end up? Is there a transformation to express their true essence? If they don’t achieve their goals, are they better or worse people?



One Comment Add yours

  1. jesuisaudrey says:

    Wait I’m so glad I stumbled on this site! I wasn’t looking for screenwriting tips, but I’m really interested in this genre. In fact it’s my college major that I’m starting in the fall! Thanks for the hints and I look forward to reading more.

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