Screenwriting : Character Descriptions by Robert People

Robert People

Character Descriptions

When you're writing your screenplays, do you develop your characters completely before you begin the script, a little and then begin the script, or do you begin writing the script and let the character development happen within the script? The way I've done it in the screenplays I've worked on is somewhere in the middle. I lean more toward developing as much as I can during my outlining stage, and I just leave a little opening to see how my characters interact with each other, which could help to develop them also. I look at the flow of my writing to see which direction each character could go in, if that makes sense. So what about y'all?

Kerry Douglas Dye

Same as you. I go in thinking I know, but they always develop as I write. As it should be, I'd imagine. I'm a big fan of outlining and planning, but the actual process of rendering my outline always causes it to evolve, story and characters.

Tanya Fermin

I thought I knew alot about my lead character but when I was writing one of his scenes today-his character told me a story plot point that came totally out of left field!! It definitely added a level to him that didn't know was I understand why he is driven the way he is

Gav Elias

I am in the middle of my first screenplay and curious about this. I have gone in straight. I had an idea about my characters like physical appearance, main traits and characteristics etc, but I personally don't think you can calculate too ruthlessly how they behave etc until you pitch them in your script with other people and then I kind of figure out the reactions, behaviours etc from there

Kerry Douglas Dye

One of the key indications that you have a problem is when you find yourself forcing a character to do something that you just know he wouldn't do. You're going, "listen, my story REQUIRES you to steal the diamond out of her purse in this scene." And he's saying, "but I really think I love her too much to take that chance." Listen to what he's saying. At the point, either story or character or both need to change to make it work.

Kyle Thornton

I let the characters development in my mind for a while, then start writing the script when I feel I know them and their motivations well. I don't get too detail oriented with backstory. I just have a feel for my characters, then they take over.

Andrew Riley

Either your characters write your story with you, or you write the story for them. I like to set things up a certain way, and then let the characters take over. If you don't give it up to them, you're just plotting their lives rather than letting them live it through the story. Trust them, and they will trust you to write the right story. If you haven't been chatting (in your head or out loud) with your characters, give it a shot. See what they want.

Kerry Douglas Dye

When I was a new writer I used to write little biographies for my main characters, because I thought I was supposed to. I've long since dropped that habit. Instead I go by feel, only composing backstory where it's directly applicable.

Antonio Ingram

I'm a visual guy so I see everything before it even goes down on paper. I see the story in conjunction with the characters. Thank you for sharing Robert.

Gav Elias

I am similar to Antonio. When I am writing I actually see the framing for the shots, and, being a bit of a music nerd and sound designer, I hear the soundtrack etc too. I even see the details of not just what people are wearing, what they look like or where they are, but the refinements like the lighting angles, shadows etc. I guess that comes from my interest as a digital artist though.

CJ Walley

I mould the characters to fit the story. What I write tends to be very much plot based so I need them to behave a certain way. Compounding that is the need to have characters that are fundamentally interesting. Once I have my basic story I create a character alignment matrix. At this stage my characters are just refereed to as things like Girl, BF, Friend, Boss etc and I decide which ones are good, neutral, evil and if they are lawful, neutral or chaotic. This gives me pretty much free reign with the treatment and as I'm writing that I'm searching for likeable character traits for the protag and finding good workable backstories for everybody. Once I get to the end of the full treatment I have a very rounded idea of who my characters are, I've effectively been through the story with them. Then they get names and I start writing. Woven within this of course is theme and the belief system various characters have.

Steve Tomas Fecske

I agree, for me by setting up the foundation of my characters, their likes, dislikes, weaknesses, strengths and the like - it helps me stay consistant in their dialog and actions within the story.

Shaunia McKenzie

I lean in the middle like you. I have an outline of their personalities, but I may portray certain quirks and characteristics to flow along with the story as I write.

Kalisa Moore

Well, when I'm writing a screenplay, my characters start developing within my script. Its almost like a "brainstorm" before I begin bringing my characters to life and the more I write, the more their personalities start developing. Now, don't get me wrong, for on the screenplays that I have written, at times I do need to take a break, just to get my thoughts in order and to bring out the best in all my characters.

Adam Strange

My characters develop as i write them.

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