Stress, anxiety, depression and worry are all very human conditions. Throughout your life (and possibly throughout each day), you engage in at least one of these sometimes debilitating emotions. As a functioning person, you learn to deal with these feelings and transform their influence into something positive. The same must be true for your characters. Part of screenplay character analysis is reviewing basic human elements and incorporating them into dialogue and action sequences.
Establishing daily anxieties a character endures sets up a character who is perceived as real while adding weight to their their social and intimate interactions. But how exactly do you select these anxieties? Moreover, how can a screenwriter apply these emotional elements without seeming forced or false?
The Root of Anxiety
While picking an anxiety that’s appropriate for your character isn’t exactly rocket science, selecting an anxiety based upon previous experiences or internal thoughts is a little trickier.
I refer this process of screenplay character analysis as uncovering the root of anxiety. Every anxious feeling or awful thought that haunts you is based in some type of root system. Personally speaking, I’ve had to deal with social anxiety my whole life. The reason behind it, I’ve discovered, is my fear of rejection and an overall low self-esteem.
These two very human emotions project themselves in social anxiety. Now, let’s pretend that I am a character in your screenplay. While I have a fear of large groups of people, it may be displayed by truly avoiding public spaces. Instead of simply having my character stay home all the time, perhaps I have a job where I must interact with the general public on a regular basis. While the money is good and the career is interesting, my character must fight his daily social anxieties. This creates a space of interesting dialogue and action sequences.
Instead of simply letting your character experience traditional anxiety symptoms, such as fumbling over words or acting nervous, imagine how a particular anxiety can be projected. When establishing an anxiety ask yourself the following:
How does the personality and true objectives of my character affect the outward expression of his anxiety?
Does the anxiety showcase more internally or externally?
Is this a secret anxiety? If so, why?
These three questions, while very basic and surface-level, guide screenwriters to the core of character anxiety. It’s only when you reach the true, or root, cause of an anxiety (and having a solid understanding of character personality elements) that you may begin implementing this into your script.