4 Reasons Your Characters Aren't Working & How To Fix It

4 Reasons Your Characters Aren't Working & How To Fix It

4 Reasons Your Characters Aren't Working & How To Fix It

Zelene Dolton
Zelene Dolton
13 days ago

I love, love, love how you write descriptions!

The words jump off the page!

When you first read these notes, you're excited, you finally wrote the winning script that'll change your life forever. Hell, it might even make you a millionaire! But then suddenly reality hits you like a ton of bricks. Even though people are saying you are talented, your scripts are still rejected, you never make the finals, you get high scores on your coverage reports, but it leads nowhere, and your query letters get responses, too, but after they read your screenplay there is radio silence.

What do you do now?

Why does this happen to so many people, despite others claiming they are gifted storytellers?

It could potentially be because people aren't connecting to their characters.

I'm going to show you four signs that your characters aren't working and four simple ways to fix it.

  1. Your characters experience hardship but never suffer

In movies, video games, and TV shows we’ve constantly seen characters who go through horrible things, but no matter what nothing fazes them. They’re always happy, and upbeat, no matter how many tragedies they face they’re always smiling. It’s almost as if they’re superhuman and immune to any kind of pain or suffering. As much as we all would love to be invincible and incapable of feeling negative emotions, we don’t find these characters interesting because pain is part of being human. Having main characters who move through conflicts with ease only alienates them from the audience. In short, let your character be human and experience a range of emotions. Let them feel the impact of the events that unfold in the story. I’m not saying your character has to be a babbling mess, just have balance and allow them to be human.

4 Reasons Your Characters Arent Working  How To Fix It

  1. Your character is either a flawless angel or the demon of all demons

Some writers write characters who are perfect, so perfect that they don’t even seem human, while others write characters so sinister, they might as well be the devil himself. If you want to write characters with more dimension and complexity, balance out their good and bad traits. Not only will this make them more interesting, but also be relatable and human.

  1. too much plot and not enough character

Here is a common problem that pops up a lot, especially in beginner screenplays. Things happen to the characters, but they don't actively do anything to fix the problem. It seems like the plot (the story events) is what is pulling the story forward and the characters are just passively following along. The plot is actually about the character. Events need to happen because of other characters' actions and reactions. Not because the plot says to do this or do that. Making the characters be the ones who create the change and drama in the story makes the story organic.

4 Reasons Your Characters Arent Working  How To Fix It

  1. You don’t know enough about them

For the most part, everyone knows characters need goals, a backstory, a personality, and a compelling reason to go after their dreams but don’t go deeper than that. They miss out on opportunities to craft truly original characters. This is why it’s necessary to gather as much information about your character as possible. Even if it’s trivial and won’t make it in the screenplay, it’s still worth knowing.

In order to improve reader engagement and influence decision-makers to support your work, you need to take your time crafting your characters. Study them, interview them, role-play scenarios with them, and see how they act when they're in heaven or in the darkest hell. By doing this, I guarantee you'll write characters so real it won't even feel like you're writing anymore.

Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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About the Author

Zelene Dolton

Zelene Dolton

Author, Story Analyst, Screenwriter

Hello everyone! Just a aspiring screenwriter trying to find her way though the industry.

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