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Screenwriting - Creating Characters

By Author: Ralph Adams
Total Articles: 39

Creating characters is a fun, rewarding part of how to write a screenplay. You might have a character already in mind, you might not. Here's how to create memorable characters:
Characters in a screenplay are no different to people in real life. They have flaws. They have insecurities. They have a past that drives every action they make. If you have a major in Psychology this bit will tickle your fancy. The trick to creating three dimensional characters is to develop them fully. So you know everything about them.
Let's start with their name. Yes, even this requires thought. Try to pick a name which enhances their characteristics. If they are meant to fit in with the crowd, give them a really common name.
Spend time developing your characters, if you don't they will come across as two dimensional stereotypes. That's one way to kill interest in your screenplay. Most of what you develop wont be used in the final screenplay but its needed in the pre-writing stage because they build your character. They give them the motivation. It makes them who they are. The more you develop, the more you know about your characters. The more fulfilling you finished screenplay will be.
Two things that are incredibly helpful in screenwriting is to developing your characters are biography and back story.
Take some time to write a complete biography of your character. Write down everything you know about your character. Everything you want them to be.
Keep pushing yourself to make them unique. How do they walk? Tall, confident or hunched with their head down? How do they eat their cereal? How do they like to relax?
These may seem silly questions to ask but the answer to questions like these reveal so much about your characters. Instead of telling the audience what they are like show an image of them doing something, the way they would do it. A picture tells a thousand words.
Its helpful to run your character through an average day. Gandhi once said, "My life is my message". Whatever you do with your life if the message your projecting. Apply that to your characters.
Back story is essential to screenwriting. This is the reason why they are the way they are. You don't need to write everything that's happened in their life up until the screenplay starts. You only need to know relevant information which can be used throughout the story. For example do they have trust issues because six months ago their partner was unfaithful? That kind of thing is relevant. Write what happened as if you were there and your character will start to grow.
This is mainly for you main character (protagonist) but try to do the same for all your characters. From the bad guy (antagonist) to the love interest. From the minor character who appears in a few scenes to an extra who has a pivotal part. Okay I don't expect you to know as much for the minor characters but have a understanding of who they are and where they have come from. Make sure they don't slip into stereotypes.
Creating a character isn't a quick process. It can be if you want a two dimensional character or stereotype. Give it some time and it will pay dividends in the end. Give them a history. Make the audience relate to them. If the audience doesn't relate, they are not going to root for the protagonist. If they don't, they don't care for what happens. They don't care for your story.

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