Character Development... How much do I need?



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  • Character Development... How much do I need?

    How much development of my charaters do I need when writing my screenplay.

  • #2
    Adam, I think a question like that is best answered with a reading list. Check out Joseph Campbell, Syd Field, Linda Seger, etc. Good luck!


    • #3


      • #4
        To quote a great writer "to adjust flavor to suit your taste simply add more or less"

        -- Crystal Light package.


        • #5
          As much as you can get.

          People watch movies, people read scripts... so your script needs *people*. Not cardboard cut outs, not 2D characters, but people with flaws and goals and emotional needs and everything else that makes us say "I understand that guy... that guy could be me."

          I haven't seen the new SPIDER-MAN movie, so let's take a look at the first one... That's a comic book action flick, and look at how much character Peter Parker has. Look at how *emotional* the scenes are - even the action scenes! Should Peter save a bunch of kids... or the girl he loves? Peter is *responsible* for his Uncle's murder! That guilt is part of every scene, too. It;s his motivation for being a crime fighter. And that guilt fuels his responsibility... and interfers with every relationship he has. The guy has to dump the woman he loves because his love puts her in danger! Hey - that's a lot of emotional stuff for a comic book action flick... and we haven't even brought up the relationship between Peter and his best friend and his best friend's dad... who also happens to be the villain. Emotional stuff. Character stuff.

          Okay - that's a comic book action film. That's on the shallow end of the character pool.

          - Bill


          • #6
            Spider-man is a good example of trite, cliched character development that didn't work and was totally unbelievable. The action scenes were cool, though.


            • #7
              Let me put it this way â€"

              I've never gotten halfway through Act 2 and gotten hung up by the fact that I knew too much about my characters.

              Just saying.


              • #8
                Don't know if it helps, but sometimes It helps to be mysterious. Look at Terminator 2. The beginning of the film makes it seem like Arnie is the villain again. He aims the gun at John Connor, but then tells him to duck and then blasts the real villain (who is in a police uniform by the way.) It's not until later do we learn Arnie was captured and re-programmed, answering the question: why is he a good guy now?

                Would I try to do is to only reveal key pieces of a character's past through situations. I'll use one of my own characters as an example:

                i have a man who is not bothered by violence, in fact he's always itching for a fight. he's a karate black belt and is entered into a small tourney. most of the other students in the class dispise him as they think he just uses karate to fight, as he pays more attention to the violence of the martial art, and ignores the 'art' part. (sorry if i'm confusing anyone lol)

                The only thing is, that most of the fights the man gets into outside of the tourney, is sticking up for men who are abusing their girlfriend's/wives. I actually had one scene where he beats on his only real friend after he sees her slap his fiance.

                towards the end of the script, the man discovers that he is set to go up against a women in the semi-finals match. he decides to blow the match and lets her win. she then confronts him about it after, thinking he just thinks of women as weak and doesn't want to hurt them, but he explains to her she's wrong, and says that he had to grow up watching his mother be beaten by his father--only he never was strong enough to do it.

                Through her, he learns that not all women have to be like his mother, as she wins the tourney. she then puts her title on the line in a fight with the main character. the two fight, but its more of a symbolism thing than a hardcore fight. the MC finally confronts his demons, not by sticking up for every woman he sees, but by learning that there are some women out there who can handle himself.

                I don't mean to cloud the topic with my own creations, but i thought this could be a good example. He doesn't announce to a man in a bar fight "ill beat u up with no problem, but i dont hit women since back in the day i had to watch my mom get beaten." that kind of ruins the mysteriousness about the character. you know something happened in his life regarding violence against women, but you don't know what, and you don't know how it affected him.

                There's a scene in the movie Sling Blade where Billy Bob talks about his entire past. The scene is honestly about 10 mintues long, and I hated it so much!The movie got great reviews, and made Billy Bob famous (or more famous, whatever) but I just thought you could stretch out his past and reveal pieces of it throughout the movie, instead of just in one scene.

                Sorry if i've been rambling. that's my two and a half sense. I hope it helped.


                • #9
                  Your character sounds a lot like Bud in LA Confidential, Eyeshine.


                  • #10
                    How much development of my charaters do I need when writing my screenplay.
                    Enough to make the viewer truly invested in your protagonist. As for the secondary characters, I'd say enough to serve the story and the protagonist vis-a-vis their relationship dynamics. My two cents.


                    • #11
                      Bud from L.A. Confidential?

                      How so? I'm sorry, but I haven't seen the film in a long time, so I can't tell how their familiar? Is my "man" character ALOT like Bud from LA con, or do they just sound the same?



                      • #12
                        small doses

                        For me, it often takes me sriting something and having a completed draft before I think i can write decent characters. You have to build the framework first. Then it's easy to infuse what you need becuase everyline needs to matter.


                        • #13
                          Bud is a brutal man who beats up wife beaters... and eventually reaches the point where he loses his temper with his girlfriend (Lynn? Leigh?) and hits her - then spends a great deal of time hating himself for having done it.

                          - Bill


                          • #14

                            Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate it. This is a great site.


                            • #15
                              Re: Character

                              Spider-man is a good example of trite, cliched character development that didn't work and was totally unbelievable. The action scenes were cool, though.
                              Like Bill said, it was a comic book character, the bottom of the barrel so to speak. That said, I'm not sure I agree with the trite, cliched statement. Spidey was carrying some pretty heavy baggage as he struggled to champion the city. I'm basing this on the movie, as I haven't read the script, but I think he was fairly well developed.