All great films start the same way: with great stories on paper. A solid screenplay and narrative go a long way in creating a great film, but the base of that epic tale and what people in the audience will feel most identified with is the characters. Below we’ll take a look at 6 keys that every storyteller should know to write awesome characters.
How to Write Great Characters
Work on names
Many of us underestimate “what’s in a name”, but the truth is that film history is filled with examples of characters with iconic names that mean something for the character. Don’t be so quick to name your characters whatever, take your time to at least make it a name that would stick with you. A recognizable character is a good character, even if it is by name.
You might not think of yourself as the first example of someone worth portraying in the silver screen, or even as someone with great qualities and interesting internal conflicts, but you, of course, would be wrong. Look long and hard at yourself in the mirror, it’s a certainty that you’ll find something worth writing about.
Do the opposite
On the other hand, working things from the complete opposite angle can also work wonders, particularly when writing antagonistic characters. The qualities you find most annoying in yourself or others might just be the ones that drive your main character crazy, and that dynamic is something you want to trigger action and development of both story and characters.
Characters, in the end, are most genuine when they are people just like you and me. Social beings that interact with each other and clash over little things or big differences in opinion. Contrasting personalities is key to making mundane situations interesting and engaging. No matter how simple an argument might seem on paper, it can work as a canvas on film to show us otherwise unseen qualities of the people in the story.
Put characters in conflict
Of course, the one thing that drives the story forward is conflict, and conflict cannot be such if there is no one to face and overcome it. Good, human characters will both shine their brightest and fail in the most spectacular way once they are faced with conflict. How they act and find their way out of these situations tells us more about these people than any evident personality markers like the way they dress or what food they like.
Make heroes change
Your main character is the hero of your story. He or she might not rescue damsels in distress or slay dragons on top of fiery mountains, but the ability and willingness to change is what makes the difference between a hero and any other character. Recognizing personal flaws and having a change of attitude is what makes someone heroic. For every person that owns up to their mistakes there are a thousand people who don’t, so don’t make your characters another one of the bunch.