As a writer delves into the depths of her story, she’ll likely find small loopholes in story structure, which is typically caused by a lack of true development within specific characters. While character development is a complex and multi-layered element of screenwriting, an essential branch of development is determining the openness a character has in revealing his past as well as whether or not he’s in a place where he discusses his past.
Outlining what each character reveals about their past within the realm of interpersonal conversations and actions determines personality and how the audience perceives said character.
Up until this point, my series on screenwriting published on the Yahoo! Contributor Network has focused on revealing intimate details about a character so you may accurately portray this person. However, within this article I’m speaking of what your character reveals during dialogue and action sequences in the script.
These moments, which I like to describe as “in-story revelations” lift the veil of mystery between the character and the audience. Revealing parts of their past allow viewers the opportunity to further understand the character, which may be necessary to support current actions. In another instance, a history revelation could completely alter how viewers perceive and empathize with the character.
Regarding the latter, these types of revelations aren’t always appropriate – only use when changing how the character is absorbed by viewers is necessary for the overall story. A situation such as this is very self-explanatory and a writer knows when their story requires such a revelation.
On the other hand, revealing anything about the character’s past could distract from the story and potentially alter how viewers relate to this character. Remember, writers must navigate how viewers/readers connect and empathize with story players. Therefore, if the story is best understood by holding onto preconceived notions regarding character personality, morals and traits then it is best to limit or avoid historical revelations.
Altering Revelations As Script Progresses
This specific scenario requires a writer to eliminate historical revelation a character reveals about themselves. While not written in stone, a typical situation that calls upon this action occurs when the story takes unpredictable moments during the writing process. In-progress scripts have a tendency to alter and shift. These shifts are natural and welcomed as it’s a direct manifestation of your characters and story deepening and becoming real.
Throughout the writing and editing process, continually question history-revealing statements made by characters as well as non-verbal statements made clear through action sequences. Determine if the revelation is essential to move the story in a pleasant pace or if such reveals are actually detrimental to the story.
Always remember: the less you give away in dialogue and actions the more intrigued viewers become. Don’t dumb down your story by spoon feeding details that could otherwise be given in a more subtle manner.