Develop Your Characters

Character Development

If you’re having trouble writing, it’s likely you just don’t know the proper steps to take or might be lacking direction. While there is no magic formula to writing a good screenplay, I think there is a helpful order to doing things. Of course, some may just want to throw order out the window as it can be hindering to their thought process.  I found a great 10-part series on “Go Into The Story,” and I’m going to be sharing them week by week. This week, we’ll be talking about character development, and how that may benefit you. You really should read their posts before diving into my commentary on them. I want to be clear, I’m a big fan of these blog posts, and only hope to promote this blog in a friendly way. I’m merely commenting on them, and adding some thoughts of my own. I’m hoping to share them with you to help you with your writing.

This article is great, and I only have a few comments and tips to add: Go Into The Story – How I Write A Script, Part 4: Character Development

Scott touches upon my first point, and it’s funny, because before I freshened up on his article I was going to say the exact same thing. Order is important for certain things, but in creating a good outline you’ll do a few things all at the same time. You’ll be brainstorming, researching, plotting, and working on your character development all at the same time. Ideas will generate. You’ll read about one thing while doing research that may lead to a great idea for an action your character might make. Or you may be brainstorming and think your going to do a jailbreak scene (plot), but know nothing about breaking out of a jail. This will generate more research. The point is you should do what you feel until you feel enough has been done. You’ll know when it’s time to stop this part and move on to the next step, the outline. In the meantime, enjoy this! It’s one of the most fun parts of writing.

When writing my characters, I like to create an area of my outline dedicated to them. I like all my characters on the same file so I can scroll through them. I actually use Google Docs to categorize everything so it’s very easy to skip from one character to another and back. The reason I do this is that characters feed off of each other, and when you want to write about how they interact with each other it’s nice to be able to skip to the other character easily.

One thing to keep in mind is that characters have minds of their own. You create them, but they live and breathe just as much as you do. Beyond inception listen to them. It’s best not to force them to do anything. Your viewers will know when they are going out of character, and so will you. Because of this your story may change simply because of the actions that spawn after the character’s inception. I probably sound like a crazy guy. Get all these people out of my head! Ooga booga! Seriously, the cool thing about a great character is that they change over time, just like we do. Think about how Walter White changes in “Breaking Bad” or how “Spider-Man” has changed from movie to movie and in the comics. What is it that makes Spider-Man who he is? Does it have to be a he? Is he more fun as a high school student or would he’d be cooler as a middle-aged man? You get where I’m going.

When you create an in-depth character every detail counts. Their whole life. Past, present, and even their future could affect the story you’re telling. Be thorough, and write down every detail you can think of. You never know when the fact that they’ve been dying to eat shawarma is going to come in and play an important part in the story.

Okay class, there’s one more part to this whole smorgasbord, before the outline, and it’s called plotting. We’ll cover that next week.

*Image from Reedsy’s Character Development Exercises