A goal that many screenwriters do not fully accomplish is the true discovery of a character. Throughout my experience as a screenwriter, I’ve noticed many books and teachers focus on surface-level character development. While this is an essential step in the creation process, cultivating realistic and dynamic screenplay characters demands intense investigations. An effective way of accomplishing this goal is outlining as much about a particular character as you possibly can. One element of doing so is determining and then outlining special physical abilities.
Special physical abilities, no matter how great or small, play a direct role in character development in the realm of social interactions. While many find this a silly method, it is essential to truly understand and relate with this new person you’ve created.
What is Considered Special?
What one person may consider special, another may regard as common. Therefore, create a special physical ability according to the unique personality of the character.
When I first began speaking about this screenwriting character development technique, I had several novice screenwriters ask what the purpose of outlining what is seemingly mundane information. The answer is simple: to get to know the character more.
There is no such thing as excessive character development information. While it’s possible to spend too much time detailing items that aren’t involved in the script, outlining as many aspects of a character is essential for true realism to be portrayed.
By outlining the special abilities of a character you’re not only solidifying elements that are realistic, but you’re establishing the true placement of this character within his world. Remember, you’re creating an entire person who’s living in a “real” world with “real” social interactions.
Establishing special physical abilities also provides an additional element to incorporate into your screenplay. While not always applicable, integrating an element such as this provides can lay a foundation of reality to a story (especially important for fantasy stories).
For example, in “A League of Their Own” Gena Davis’ character utilizes her ability of doing the splits to catch a baseball. This physical ability was then used as a means to establish her more in the public’s eye, which inturn makes her sister jealous. This special physical ability was a catalyst for creating a separation between the two baseball players.