I once had a colleague confide that while my methods of character development are effective, they also borderline genuine psychoanalysis. The main problem he perceived that arose from my methods was the amount of time I’d spend researching information that would never make it into the story. What one writer sees as wasting time, this writer values as true gems in the creation process.
Creating a realistic character, and ultimately a realistic and interesting story plot/flow, writers must delve into the past of a character to determine what events in his life were monumental. Moreover, once the surface of these historic events revealed the writer must then analyze each memory to determine how this experience affected the character.
Utilize Personality to Provide Clues
Creating this type of character detail is strange as you are in full control over how the character was affected by his history. While you could spend hours, if not days, marinating on character choices based upon past experiences, the most streamlined method in accomplishing this goal is using the baseline personality you’ve created as a starting point.
Consider how an event you chose to create affected the character in the bounds of his own personality. While connecting the historical dots regarding current personality traits is effective at solidifying pre-existing choices, allow the newly uncovered history of a character alter choices the writer already set in motion.
I can’t begin to detail how many scripts and scenes within said screenplays required complete deletion or major renovating because as I dove into the history of this character and how it affected her, her personality had to change. These personality alterations automatically recalled certain scenes and even certain characters.
Writers have a tendency to believe their words are without flaw and there isn’t a more effective story line or plot twist to improve the story; or worse, delving into this kind of thinking requires an almost complete script re-write.
As a screenwriter, your goal can’t be to simply finish writing a script. Rather, writers must continually seek out the most effective way of telling their story. If this requires multiple re-writes as the depth and true nature of characters aren’t revealed until later in the writing process then let it be.
For every major plot twist or character development, ask yourself how the characters’ personal history affected this decision, and if the history is newly created does this history require a story alteration?