Learning how to create characters is integral to screenwriting. One of the biggest and most common mistakes that new screenwriters make is to sacrifice characters. This means that they do not know how to create characters in the first place and may favor an overly complex plot structures or loud explosion-based set type pieces. They feel that if a movie is “artistic” enough or simply has a bunch of really good action set pieces in a row then that will somehow be enough to keep audiences satisfied and will land them a three-picture deal with Sony.
Here’s the thing – it’s not, not even by a long shot. The reason we go to the movies in the first place, and why we’re able to re-watch certain films time and time again and not be bored with them, is because we’ve fallen in love with the characters. That is, in your author’s humble opinion, the single most important thing to understand here – knowing how to create characters means that you’ve gotten the hardest part of the process down flat.
In Order for Us to Care, Your Protagonist Has to Care as Well
If you’ve ever taken a high school drama or creative writing class (where you should be learning a lot about how to create characters) or decided to be very, very brave and earn a degrees in creative writing, you’ve probably heard a teacher say that “the root of all drama is conflict.” While this information can be helpful, it won’t help you better understand how to create characters.
I want you to know how to create compelling characters that we, as the audience, actually care about when we’re watching something with your name on it. I want you, as the screenwriter, to be able to take us on a journey, and at the end of that journey, feel like we’ve truly gotten to know the person we just spent watching for the past hour and a half or two hours.
How can you as a screenwriter learn to create compelling characters? It all comes back to your characters. In order for this whole thing to work, we have to be emotionally invested in them, and not as movie characters, but as people. This might sound like a pretty tall order at first, but the mountain becomes far more scalable when you begin breaking down the problem in a series of smaller steps. And on that note, let’s take a more in-depth look at some ways in which you can better understand how to create compelling characters, and thereby more compelling stories, within your screenplays.