How to Write Characters – Introduce the Antagonist Early

In order to make things interesting for the audience (and to demonstrate that you know how to write characters), you need to introduce your antagonist early – in a sports game, they don’t wait 30 minutes to bring out the other team, right? They’re both right there at the start, competing for that which they want most – to win!

With that being said, that doesn’t mean they have to meet each other right away or have some big showdown early on (save that stuff for the end). Instead, your protagonist merely needs to be aware of your antagonist (this shows that you know how to write characters). In High Noon, when Will Kane hears that Frank Miller is coming to town, the look on his face tells us everything we need to know in a few moments. He knows this guy, and knows that he’s bad news – the town, and especially himself, are in danger. But there are no boring informative speeches there – just a few brief biographical points and a whole lot of great acting that get the point across just fine. Set the stage early, and save your big showdown for the end of the screenplay.

We Are Family (Or At Least Pretty Close To It)

One way to add a significant amount of tension (in addition to demonstrating how clever you are at writing characters), and save yourself a whole lot of headache in the form of large amounts of expositional dialogue or monologs, is to add a familial or spousal relationship between your hero and your villain. Suddenly, the emotions are immediately heightened and the characters are already preprogrammed to know each other’s weaknesses. After all, who’s going to know how to press your buttons better than a family member or current (or former) spouse? No one, that’s who, and for the same exact reason that the stories which have siblings fight is everyone’s favorite on Jerry Springer, a story that involves a conflict between people who know one another intimately will always get the admiration of an audience. After all, it’s something that everyone can relate to, whether they’d like to admit it or not.