If your characters are good enough, your audience will be hooked. If you want proof of this, take a look at some of the biggest comedies of the last few years – “Neighbors 2,” “Ted 2,” “Minions,” and “Trainwreck.” These movies do not have complex and intricate plots at all. What they do have in their favor, is characters that are highly likable and relatable. As a result, a funny thing happens to us as we watch these movies – we begin to actually start giving a damn about what happens to them. If you can make an audience care about what happens to the people you’ve put on the page, you’ve already mastered one of the hardest parts of writing a screenplay.
“But what if I’m not good at writing likable people? How can I finish writing a screenplay?” You might find yourself saying right now – don’t worry, as you happen to be in luck. You see, we’re now, probably more than ever, in fact, living in the age of the anti-hero. Remember, one of the biggest television heroes of the last television decade – you might have heard of him – was a dying chemistry teacher who became the biggest meth kingpin in New Mexico’s history.
Your character does not necessarily have to be likable when you’re writing a screenplay, but he or she does have to be relatable. Beginning screenwriters get these things confused often – one means that you’d actually want to spend time with a character, the other simply means that you can understand their motivations. And how do we go about making a character relatable? It’s incredibly simple – we make him (or her) want something, and want it badly, to the point that they would go through heaven and hell to achieve this goal.
By doing this, we’re better able to put ourselves in this person’s viking style hoodie – everyone wants something at every stage in their lives. When you’re an infant, you want your parents to care for you and feed you, and when you’re an adult, well, you want a good job, a nice home, and so on and so forth. Wanting things is part of the human experience, and it’s where great characters begin when you’re writing a screenplay.
If you’re having trouble with this part, make a list of a handful of personal goals that you would like to accomplish, and then think about how you would go about accomplishing them if you didn’t have anything (and I mean anything) standing in your way of doing so. You might be surprised at what you find about screenwriting – and yourself – in the process.
write by Ceridwen