Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen new screenwriters commit is the amount of creativity placed within their characters; or lack thereof. Who a character is and the elements used to piece together his personality are perhaps the most difficult aspect of screenwriting. While a story may be interesting and well-developed, if its characters follow stereotypical or “easy” traits then the entire story is weakened.
Foregoing easy character choices is not easy as it may seem. Cultivating an individual personality requires eliminating preconceived notions of how a person should act.
Breaking Apart Stereotypes
The idea of stereotypes in screenwriting is nothing new. Creating a new character free from judgments and preconceived ideas a writer can implement is difficult, but not impossible. While it takes time to truly cultivate this writing technique, when accomplished your characters and stories will be intriguing.
At some point in the writing process, it’s important to start asking “why.” However, instead of answering with the most common or practical solution, take a moment to delve into a different head space. I’ve found the best way to do so is through breaking down stereotypes by implementing the opposite.
Selecting opposite choices for a character reveals a different side to them that may be important for final development. Instead of a character being angry in class because his parents are going through a divorce, maybe he’s angry because his parents are together but he wishes he had different parents. Maybe this desire is so thick it causes him to become angry. If you were to take time to truly cultivate this idea, your character could maintain all the major personality traits you wish him to have while deepening them and simultaneously growing the story line.
A predictable character is an easy character. While impossible to create a person who is entirely unpredictable, screenwriters have an opportunity to choose the road less traveled. The aforementioned example is a decent representation of not going with the predictable character mindset. A teenager who’s upset because his parents are divorcing is relatable for many viewers, yet its a plot element that’s continually called upon. Since his reasons for anger are because he hates his parents relationship and wishes they would divorce so he could have two new parents when they re-marry is much different not predictable at all.
Predictability will dilute the message a story wishes to deliver. It’s not easy writing without the influence of commonality; however, when mastered your screenwriting will take on an entirely new level of creativeness and interest.