Understand Your Characters
Creating a screenplay of originality and cinematic power starts with your character. For me, everything in a screenplay is based on one overriding premise which I call emotional pull. How you spell-bind an audience into an irresistible involvement with your characters and keep it entranced by that magic till the end of the film – and beyond – is to arouse, provoke, intrigue, disturb, excite, and exhilarate them.
Emotional pull is what powers the story. It’s what forces your characters to do what they do, when they do it and why. And when and why they try to resist it. It determines how you tell the story, the narrative impetus, the dramatic journey, how it moves and breathes, how it rises and falls in tension, how it climaxes, and how it ends. It pulls two ways. It exerts its power on the people of the story, and in turn, it pulls the audience into the story. The subject of Character in screenwriting is, then, huge.
Only space here for a few pointers:
Choose a movie that’s moved you. Choose a movie that hasn’t. Get the two scripts here.
- Scroll to a few pages at random with each script.
- What’s happening?
- What are you feeling as you read?
- What response from the audience do you think the writer has intended here?
- Try to identify what differences there are between the two scripts.
- How would you rate each script for drawing you into an emotional connection with the character(s)?
- Can you identify why the second movie doesn’t move you? How were you responding to the character(s)?