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Why Your Script Characters Feel "Flat" and How to Fix It

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by Script Reader Pro in How to Write Characters
November 4, 2014 2 comments
script characters

Why Your Script Characters Feel “Flat” and How to Fix It

Have you ever been told that your script characters feel “flat”? It’s a common note to receive. But we’re going to show you how to stop getting it and how to write characters the smart way.  

After reading this post, you’ll know how to flesh out your major and minor script characters,  making them feel like real three-dimensional people. What happens in your story is not as important as the screenplay characters it happens to.

Plot Should Bend to the Will of the Characters, Not the Other Way Around

Writers can get so caught up in the story that they try and make their script characters bend to the will of the plot. Instead, the plot should bend to the will of the characters.

Yes, you need to have a plot that makes sense and has a throughline that gets us from A to Z in a compelling way. But for us to emotionally buy into the screenplay characters’ choices, the plot should move and change because of who they are.

The best way to do this is to make sure you give your script characters the respect they deserve. And this goes for your protagonist and antagonist, stakes character and minor characters.

script characters

How Well Do You REALLY Know Your Script Characters?

Here’s a good way to start giving all your screenplay characters more respect:

Whenever they have a story choice or character decision to make—whether it’s good or bad—always make sure it always feels like the right thing for them.

The best script characters are the ones that we remember as being a real person. We think of them as though we have met them or actually known them.

If you really know your script characters, you should feel like this about them. And know how they’d react at any given moment in any given situation. Then, you’ll have more respect for them because you understand them.

Script Character Example: Cal Hockley

One character that illustrates this well is Caledon Hockley from the 1997 film, Titanic. Here is a guy who’s seen as a bad guy—the antagonist of the film. But for him, he’s simply a man trying to live up to a certain level of expectation.

He lives in a time when class and money was a make it or break it deal and that’s part of the reason why he is the way he is.

He’s looked up to and has a great deal of pressure on his shoulders. He has a beautiful girlfriend he wants to marry—a woman who’s not of the same stature as himself. He just really loves her. So, he is stepping outside of his comfort zone to make her his wife.

And then some poor, wiseguy kid comes along and steals the woman he’s trying so hard to make fall in love with him. So he plans to frame him as a thief, so he can get his woman back.

Kind of a shady move, right? Yes, but only by solely looking at him from the angle of a protagonist.

If you look at it from his angle and respect the character he is, what he wants and what he’s losing, it would be hard not to respect the choices he makes.

Everything he does—even if the writer and audience see his every move as awful—is right to him. These are choices that he as the character—because of who he is, the child of his environment that he has become—feels are the right things to do.

See Things From Each of Your Script Characters’ POVs  

Classifying a script character like Cal as a sociopath who has no feeling for anyone but himself, or as a spoiled rich ass who must have everything he wants, is not enough.

There has to be more, and it starts with respecting your script characters enough to get to know them inside out. No matter how much they may or may not turn your stomach.

Getting to truly know your script characters and respecting them from their points of view, is a great way to create solid, three-dimensional characters the audience can buy into. No matter which side of the coin their choices fall.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed these character writing tips on how to write great script characters that pop off the page. How do you approach writing characters in your screenplay? Let us know in the comments below.

script characters

Liked This Post? Read More on Script Characters and How to Write a Script…

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2 Comments
  1. Jim says:

    Really great article. Short, sweet, and to the point.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Jim!

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