What Does Your Character Give a Damn About?

Like I just got through saying, your character does not necessarily have to be likeable when you’re writing a screenplay, but he does have to be relatable (beginning writers get these things confused often – one means that you’d actually want to spend time with a character, the other simply means that you can understand their motivations.) And how do we go about making a character relatable? It’s incredibly simple – we make him (or her) want something, and want it badly, to the point that they would go through heaven and hell to achieve this goal. By doing this, we’re better able to put ourselves in this person’s shoes – everyone wants something at every stage in their lives. When you’re an infant, you want your parents to care for you and feed you, and when you’re an adult, well, you want a good job, a nice home, and so on and so forth. Wanting things is part of the human experience, and it’s where great characters begin when you’re writing a screenplay.

We’ll go back to Breaking Bad as an example – Walter wants to leave his family some money when he dies so that they won’t be destitute, but he is currently working two jobs and is barely getting by, not to mention that he has a daughter on the way. The man doesn’t just stumble into selling meth – he does so because he has a goal he wants to obtain, and nothing, not even the law, is going to stop him from doing so.

If you’re having trouble with this part, make a list of a handful of personal goals that you would like to accomplish, and then think about how you would go about accomplishing them if you didn’t have anything (and I mean anything) standing in your way of doing so. You might be surprised at what you find about screenwriting – and yourself – in the process.