In order to enhance your screenplay and provide viewers with an opportunity to peer into the actual life of this fictitious character, you must learn how to define your character’s needs. Throughout my experience writing and editing screenplays, I’ve noticed a trend among writers. They know what the overall objective for each character is and they’re well-versed in story plot; however, when it comes to cultivating realistic characters there are many flaws. One flaw I’ll cover within my articles is defining, or even outlining, character needs.
Think of your character as a three-dimensional person with a thriving personality and evolving desires. To tap into these connections, you as a writer must first set boundaries based on needs.
What Are Needs?
I need to go to the bathroom. I need to pick up laundry detergent. I need to ask that boy out on a date. These are all surface-level needs. While each of these needs causing a physical reaction within your character, they’re not the needs you must focus on defining.
In the scope of this article, and in terms of deep character development, it is essential to outline burrowed needs of your character. What does she truly, actually need? How do these needs affect the progress and action of your character?
Defining the Need
Now that I’ve very briefly touched on the type of need you must search for within your character comes the fun part of actually defining this need. Let’s say, for example’s sake, the primary story line of your script is your main character to attend college. Basic story notes: character lives in a rural area, no member of his family has attended college, job outlook in his current town is very small and underpaid.
Of course, these are very general story notes; however, these simple plot points are all you need to truly delve into the needs of your character. If I were to define his needs based on the given information I would say that his primary need is to attend college. He needs to attend college to escape his small town. He needs to escape his small town because he desires a different way of living. He needs to live a different life than his brothers and cousins because his dreams involve more than small town life.
These needs are also very general; however, if you were to write a character based only upon the general story information and these now-defined needs then your character would be rich with authentic emotions and desires.
Never be afraid to cultivate these definitions as your story progresses. Ask yourself why this need is so present. (Why does he want to get out and follow his dreams? What are his dreams? Does he have the support of his family and friends?)
Defining the needs of your character is a pivotal step in creating not only believable dialogue and action sequences, but also in the very initial stages of character development. Defining needs points to character history and current state of minds.