Photo by Nadi Whatisdelirium.
Important Ways You Can Develop Your Characters
Written by David Schwartz
In order to write a great film, there needs to be character development. The protagonist at the end of the film is going to be different than they were from the beginning of the film. Without character development, the film can be a bit bland and pointless. Here’s a few ways you can develop your character.
The first thing you want to do is get to know your character before you start writing. Who are they? What are their positive traits? What are their negative traits? What are they afraid of? What’s their fatal flaw? In the setup, all of these questions should be shown before the inciting incident happens. If we don’t get a sense of who the protagonist is, we won’t have any reason to root for them throughout the film.
Once you’ve set up who the protagonist is as a person, then you have to make their journey difficult. In order to make them develop, you need to throw challenges at them throughout the film. In reality, no one goes from point A to point B easily. Like any journey, there’s going to be some twists and turns your character has to face.
Usually around the midpoint of the film, we start to see a huge change in the protagonist. Once they start to change at that point, the antagonist usually raises the stakes, and the journey gets tougher from there. Maybe the protagonist discovers something about themselves that provides them to develop a little bit more in their journey.
Once we reach the end of the second act, the protagonist of the film has to realize what they need to do in order to change. From this point on, we get to see that character transform, learn their lesson, and complete their journey.
Let’s take a look at Rocky and how he transforms. Throughout the film, Rocky is told he’s a bum or a loser, and that’s something he has to overcome. In his first fight, he loses the round, and he spends most of the film training for the next fight. Fast forward to near the end of the film. Rocky doesn’t win the fight, but he’s considered a hero.
The most common question I get asked a lot is, “What makes a good film?” and I always say character development. Without character development, the audience won’t have a reason to root for the protagonist as they go about their journey throughout the film. In reality, no one can go from point A to point B without any challenges in their way. Before you start writing your script, think about who your character is as a person. Who are they? What do they want to achieve? What’s holding them back from getting what they want? What are they afraid of? Those are the main questions that must be answered somewhere before the inciting incident occurs in your script.
David Schwartz is a freelance script reader/consultant. Prior to being a script consultant, he has written a variety of scripts of various genres, mainly short films, but he has also written two features. In fact, his first feature was a quarter finalist in the 2019 Bluecat Screenplay contest.