Imagine reading a screenplay, or worse, watching a movie where the characters played to only one of their desires and wants. Just like real life humans, individuals in your script are motivated by layers of public and secret desires. Whether superficial and fast passing (desire for frozen yogurt on a hot day,) or deep rooted and longstanding (tracking down the man who killed your father,) every character contains more than surface-level motivational desires.
Revealing hidden desires your character harbors provides a deeper view into their minds and history. The three primary desire levels of all characters are surface, secret and subconscious compartments.
It’s safe to say that almost every writer who’s ever written a screenplay has successfully outlined desires floating on the surface of the character. These desires are the primary objectives made clear by dialogue and actions. They are the immediate wants/desires or the loudest desires. Without clearly identifying surface-level desires it would be impossible to create a film about anything. While this is the most necessary and obvious step, many view it as the only necessary step.
As you construct surface desires and write them in your character outline, allow your mind to wander into why these desires exist. Are they the manifestation of a deeper desire or are they a fleeting desire?
Even if your character primarily focuses on accomplishing his secret desires, surface-level action and dialogue is vital to ensure his secret desires are met without bringing these wants to public attention.
Humans harbor secrets. Since children, we tend to withhold the complete truth from our parents, babysitters, siblings, teachers and sometimes ourselves. The compartment of secrets within each of our brains is immense. While trying to detail every secret hidden in every dark corner of your characters’ brain, it’s easier to focus on relevant secrets.
What are the top three secrets a character keeps that cause, or will cause, some physical action? How does the character feel about these secrets? Why are they still secrets?
Keep in mind, many secrets aren’t necessarily bad. Some are simple omissions of the complete truth. Personal truths that are either embarrassing or impossible to fully explain are typically the most common secrets a person holds onto. However, how does this safeguarding affect other parts of the character’s personality? Does this secret require the character to lie in any way?
It is impossible to fully know what is happening and what is being stored in your subconscious. I’ve heard some say that everything we experience, every laugh and every argument is stored in our brains. We never truly forget anything, our brain just chooses to reveal certain memories it deems appropriate. Just as our subconscious desires drive our more surface-level desires and actions to a certain outcome, the same is true for a character.
The beauty in writing is you get to explore, imagine and create a subconscious. You have the power to cultivate the inner workings of a person. Therefore, use this opportunity to research each character beyond the expected. Delve deep into their history to uncover the roots of their current personality, desires, objectives and relationships.