There is nothing worse than trite, unbelievable characters in a film that the audience cannot identify with. People are drawn to films that have story lines and characters that feel real to them. The last thing they want to do is pay money to watch a movie with poorly developed characters spouting out scripted sounding dialogue. The dialogue should flow and sound like something a real person would say because this allows the audience to live vicariously through your characters for the duration of the film. If you find yourself having a hard time developing the characters for your own screenplay, here are some tips and tricks to guide you through the process and help you produce memorable and timeless characters.
Write Down Everything
Buy a notebook and devote it to nothing but brainstorming ideas for your screenplay. Anytime you have any idea, from a character name to a snippet of dialogue, write it down. No matter how small or large the detail, write it in your notebook. Don’t worry about the chronology of your ideas or organizing them, because this notebook is something only you will only read and is in essence your go-to guide when writing your screenplay.
Give them Biographies
When I sat down to write my first screenplay, I was determined to know my characters so well that I could tell you what time of day they were born and what foods they liked to eat for breakfast. Those these details were mundane and were obviously not details that would actually be included in my screenplay, I wanted to know my characters as well as I knew my best friend since childhood, if not better. Writing a three page biography of each of my characters allowed me to give each of my character’s a distinctive voice and allowed me to better plan out their dialogue and actions for the script. In some cases, it also provided filler content in my story, as I knew exactly where and when my characters grew up, what their favorite hobbies were and yes, even what kind of foods they liked which I could later work into the dialogue where appropriate. When coming up with events and dialogue, I knew exactly how each character would react and could give them lines that actually sounded like something a real person would say.
People watching is an essential part of character writing. From people you know to strangers at a cafe to famous characters from classic films, study the way that people behave alone and when interacting with other people. You will quickly find yourself picking out qualities you like from these people and adding them to the screenplay. When researching characters in films, consider what qualities made that character so strong and endearing to viewers. Also notice what qualities characters possessed that made them forgettable. The more you base your characters off of real people, the more realistic they will be. You characters need to be strong not just on film when portrayed by an actor, but also on paper.
Think Like Them
This is probably the hardest part of formulating your characters. You need to be able to think as your characters, as this will strengthen them and make them stand out. After you know your character as well as you know yourself, step out of your mind set and truly put yourself in the shoes of the person you have created.