One of the most effective screenwriting techniques is delving into the fears of a character. By fears, I’m not exactly referring to phobias and the like. Rather, the fears I speak of are hypothetical fears. Think about it, we all have hypothetical fears and how we feel about these fears directly navigates how we currently act. While in the scope of a screenplay the biggest secret of a character may not be revealed to other characters, the knowledge of this secret and the hypothetical fear of if this secret was revealed directly affects how the character interacts in various situations.
Determining how a character would react if their biggest secret is revealed navigates character interactions to ensure it is never uncovered.
Creating a Hypothetical Reveal
Essentially, this technique guides writers into a hypothetical world to establish how the character would react if his biggest secret was revealed. While the contents of this document may never be utilized in the actual script, it is the most effective way to understand this side of a character. Ultimately, if a writer doesn’t create this response then how can he know how the character will respond?
While there are many different ways screenwriters accomplish this goal, I’ve found the most effective is to write a scene in non-screenplay format (I found writing it as a short story provides the highest level of creative liberty). You may write this experience in first, second or third person. Set up the formatting so you feel the most creative.
Applying This Knowledge
After you’ve detailed how the character would react if his secret was revealed, you must then apply this knowledge to the script. Since the worst case scenario has been written and perceived as actual in your brain, navigate character interactions based upon this knowledge.
Theoretically, since you now understand the severity of what could happen, your character lives with this as his reality. Construct dialogue and actions so the character actively prevents this secret from being revealed. While this may never be an issue because his secret does not truly affect his interactions, most of the time a secret held onto by the character directly influences his relationships.