Screenplay characters are the most important part of screenwriting. When creating screenplay characters, let’s think about scripts as a producer would. This is a good habit to get into because producers are the people who get your script produced. Understanding the hand that feeds you is never a bad idea, ever.
To get a script green-lighted (meaning it’s going to be produced), there are a lot of steps that need to happen during that process. It’s by no means always a straight line from A to B – in fact, it more frequently looks like drunken squiggly versions of the broken lines you see on the road if you were to try to draw it out. Here is what always needs to happen:
1. An actor of some prominence has agreed to be a main character in the movie.
2. A director of some prominence has agreed to sign on to direct the project.
Do you know what’s at the root of A-list talent signing on to develop a script — underneath all the money and politics? It is that somebody had put their heart and soul into creating screenplay characters. When they were creating their screenplay characters, they cared about the main character enough to think it was worth their time, money, and energy to give that person life. There’s a lot of work involved in getting to that point, but it all starts with creating a screenplay protagonist prominent creative people can get behind because if they don’t get behind it, then how will an audience ever get to see your work on a big screen?
– Some writers simply start outlining their characters by having them talk to one another and seeing where that writing sample leads them. Most writers will openly admit that they struggle with dialogue and that it is the hardest part of writing a screenplay for them. Remember, the most important part is to understand character development in screenwriting. I wouldn’t recommend using this method unless you are one of those chosen lucky few who are comfortable with writing dialogue scenes — if it feels like pulling teeth to you, stay far away from this one.
– Occasionally, writers have been known to use paintings, photographs, or other visual art mediums to inspire how their characters look. If you are creating screenplay characters whose job or personality require them to look a specific way, then it is always a good idea to research that visual style beforehand. Remember, a skilled writer is an informed writer.
– Take about half an hour to interview your screenplay character – this is both a strange and incredibly fun exercise, and it can be incredibly effective, but only if you choose to fully commit to it. Essentially, the way this exercise works is you sit down, turn on an audio recording device, and ask your character a series of questions that you’ve already written out. The hard part is, you have to answer them yourself – you’d be surprised at what you might come up with, and bonus points if you manage to work a character voice in there as well. Then you just play back the tape and integrate your “interview subject’s” answers into the screenplay, which will definitely help with creating character development in screenwriting.
– Create the screenplay characters you know well. This is always a fun one to do, and one that I’ve used a number of times since I began my writing career back in… well, since I began my writing career. Be careful how you go about this, though — some people are really open to the idea and some will not be able to run away from it fast enough. If you feel like the person you are writing about falls into the latter category, then there’s an incredibly simple solution to the problem… just don’t tell them about it or show them the writing!
Use these exercises on a regular basis to help further your character development in screenwriting, and you’ll be surprised at how fully formed your characters will start to suddenly look and feel – remember, that’s how you get A-list talent involved. I would recommend doing this primarily for your protagonist, antagonist, and primary supporting characters.