How To Write A Movie Script 101: Create Cinematic Characters

Apart from the standard structural elements of your screenplay, screenwriters know that characters are one of the most important things to consider in your story. Well developed characters help create the plot, theme and structure of your screenplay.

Here are some screenwriting tips to really elevate your characters:

Make your film & TV characters larger than life

Screenwriters are masters at creating characters than explore all facets of human behavior. On screen characters need to be impactful and really connect with film audiences in order for a film to be successful.

Characters for cinema must be likeable, or at the very least, intriguing to sustain audience interest. They must be larger than life, or at the very least, at its fringes. Run of the mill bland characters without any noteworthy characteristics, become boring very fast.

Characters must have a clear object of desire and the power to overcome the obstacles put in their path. Their purpose for undertaking their journey must be clear. What do they want? What do they need? How will they get it? What’s stopping them?

Ensure that the main character is passionate about their goal, to the exclusion of all others.

Give them one key, seemingly insurmountable, problem to tackle. Never under estimate the power of simplicity. Giving them too many goals dissipates their energy and loses the audience. Multiple goals may end up turning your story into a mawkish melodrama. Multiple goals are different to story complications which are obstacles relating to a single goal.

The key aspect of engaging characters is to give them an emotional core, a heart. Give them a wound  audience can relate to. This creates empathy.  Give them a flaw. Audience love that because they reflect themselves. It means they can feel more secure about themselves, since other people have faults too.

Perfect characters are boring because they lack humanity. We all make poor choices which adversely affect the outcome of our lives.

Give characters secrets, mysteries and skeletons in the closet. Then drip feed them into your story. Use subtext to enhance the secrets as you reveal them.

Utilize great dialogue to attract talent. Remove large swathes of backstory and expository dialogue.  Be sparing with monologues. Think of your story as conveying a universal truth and your actor as its messenger.

Since cinema is a medium of moving pictures, make your characters visual and kinetic. Avoid internalized character exposition through extensive voiceover.

Deepen your characters through action and grow them laterally to add dimension. Despite the similarities between literary and cinematic character development, the differences are stark. Literary characters have time to explore the minutia of their lives.

Add subtext. Look for paradoxical behavior, elements that might normally be considered out of character, but not too many which will confuse the audience.

Make them memorable. Ask yourself, would an A list actor want to play this role? This doesn’t just apply to main characters, but to supporting characters too.

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