The best films are successful due to a well-versed script, a gripping story, and the journey they take the audience on. They’re also incredibly successful due to character development.
Yes, we know, you probably think the character is included in the script, but there is more to it than that.
Developing a strong character pulls the audience into the story as they have a character they can relate to and root for – someone they can identify with.
This article will look into what character development is, why it’s essential, and the key fundamentals in developing a great character.
What is character development?
Character development is the process of developing an engaging, multi-dimensional character that oozes personality.
It’s to create depth to the character, and there’s plenty of ways to accomplish this.
Your character will change over the time of the story, either for the better or the worse, but always capturing the audience’s imagination.
Download our character development worksheet here.
Why is character development significant?
Character development is important because the character grows with the story. Without a clearly defined and crafted character, the story loses value. Some of the highs and the deep, deep lows in the story may not hold the same weight as a poorly developed character.
The audience will want to know why the story turned into a tragic event. Why this hurt the character in such a way, they’re unable to recover from it.
They want to know why the protagonists, poorly made decisions are just an extension of the trauma that they’ve suffered.
The character and story are so closely knit that the depth of your character is important.
A great story paired with a three dimensional, relatable character that gives off an unbelievable demeanor will take you as far as you can imagine as a screenwriter.
We feel incredibly strongly here at iFilmThings about character development. This is why we’ve put together a few tips below to help you build on your character development and nail it.
Read More: How to create a compelling character arc
The essential tips to writing great characters
Here are our key tips on how you can write an engaging, multi-dimensional character your audience will love.
Create a memorable character
Yep, it’s as simple as it sounds this advice, but there is a lot more substance to this. As your story plays out, you’ll have a few characters that will appear more than once. They need to be memorable in some way, so the audience clocks them.
A way to create a memorable character could be anything from their accent to a bit of facial hair. It could even be a job title or the way they walk.
Ensure the character’s quirk is relevant to who they play, as this will stick in the audience’s minds for the right reasons.
You may also like: 15 Incredible Tips For Writing MEMORABLE Characters
Establish your character’s goals
Your character’s goal is essentially why your story exits, and the character’s want is what propels your story and the character’s journey.
To achieve this, ask yourself a couple of questions to understand your character’s motivations and what they would do to achieve their goal. This will help you to understand the character’s goals in combination with the story arc and realise the character’s lengths to go to achieve this.
An example of these questions are:
- What are your character’s specific motivations?
- What are the stakes they are willing to put on the line to achieve their goal?
- What would happen to them if they couldn’t achieve their goal?
Give your character the right characteristics.
Your character’s characteristics have to be spot on. For example, if they’re a surgeon, your character must have the skills to operate on someone. This will allow them to function in their environment.
You can bend the rules here; for instance, if they’re a hitman and need to secure their next kill by impersonating a surgeon. Their main set of characteristics would be that of a hitman, with the secondary attributes of copying other professions.
Surprise the audience, create a twist.
Create a surprise using your character. It can be absolutely anything, but it will capture the audiences attention and help grow the story arc.
Maybe your character is a top-performing basketball player who suffers an injury; the audience is submerged in the characters’ pain and suffering of the loss of their glittering career.
Create conflict for your character
Conflict immediately ups the stakes and creates instant excitement. Giving your character internal and external conflict creates obstacles for the character to overcome to reach their full potential.
The internal conflict will make them question their journey and ponder their goals. The external conflict will get in their way mentally or physically. It mirrors the inner conflict your character has.
What are their strengths
Define your character’s strengths. What are they good at? What does your protagonist excel at?
These strengths help to build your character’s persona. It also allows you to realise what you should steer away from when looking to put some obstacles in their way.
Are they good at baseball? Well, make them play rugby to win over the girl of their dreams – wow, that sounds a little like that Freind’s episode. But, you catch the drift. Use the strengths to help your character out, define them using the strengths, and use them to create tension.
Create flaws for your character
As well as having strengths, it’s important to give your characters flaws. It humanises the character and brings them to a level the audience can relate to, whether they have superpowers or not.
The flaws can also help with the conflict your character assumes. Giving the character a flaw that directly causes conflict is a brilliant way to develop the story. It allows you to build a realistic, intriguing character for your audience to be fascinated by.
Define their voice
Define your character’s voice. This will help the audience identify with them; they may have a quirky accent of a few mannerisms that stand out.
By defining their voice and giving them a unique personality, it helps grow the character and build on the basics. It helps to create a memorable character, as we discussed earlier on.
Download our character development worksheet here.
Create your characters past
Everyone has a past, and why shouldn’t your character either? By having a colourful past, you can use this to make decisions for your character and determine their behaviour in certain situations.
Here are a couple of questions to get your thoughts whirring:
- Have they been hurt by someone or something previously?
- Do they have any memories that they suppress?
- What are some of their happiest memories?
- What are some of your character’s saddest moments?
- Have they lost something of value?
- Have they lost someone close to them?
These questions will get you thinking and allow you to build up a past for your characters to mould them into who we see on the screen.
We hope this article on character development was helpful to you. Let us know what you thought in the comments, and scroll below for a free copy of our character development worksheet.
- Character Development Worksheet
- How to create a compelling character arc
- 22 of the Best Screenwriting Books, You Must Read!
- Our top 9 screenwriting tips to help you become a better screenwriter
- 7 screenwriting tips for beginners
- The best screenwriting software to use in 2020
- The Dan Harmon Story Circle – How it can make you a better storyteller