Creating Screenplay Characters

– Take about half an hour to interview your 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 (a well-known proponent of this style of writing is Jim Uhls, who wrote a little movie that you might have heard your friends talk about once or twice – Fight Club.) Basically, 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 your character development in screenwriting.

– Some writers simply start outlining their characters by having them talk to one another and seeing where that writing sample leads them. As most writers (even professional ones) 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 one is understanding character development in screenwriting. I wouldn’t recommend using this method unless you are one of those chosen, lucky few who are very 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 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. Aline Brosh Mckenna, the screenwriter behind the smash adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, said that she often compiled magazine clippings that matched the visual style that she wanted her characters to have in the film. Since that movie made a ton of money, which means that, by proxy, she also made a ton of money. Don’t be surprised if she continues to use that method going forever – whatever works, right?

– Write the people 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 (and you) 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. I know, I know – it’s an oxymoron. Give me a break, will ya?