(It sounds obvious when you put it that way.)
Here's the thing though... Most screenwriters don't know the fundamentals of creating compelling characters.
This article will teach you how to write a compelling protagonist in your screenplay.
good characters are experts (in anything)
A great way to do this is to make your character an expert in something. Anything. Really.
Walter White is a master chemist. Already that's someone that I want to watch, because that means that Walt is a passionate man. He's driven enough to become an expert at something, so I can assume that he's going to be similarly driven throughout this series.
We're immediately intrigued by Walt because he is the BEST. His story wouldn't be nearly as interesting if he just made okay meth. And he wouldn't be nearly as valuable or dangerous to the people around him if not for his singular abilities.
But your character doesn't have to be an expert in something as intense as chemistry, and they don't have to have their expertise recognized publicly either.
Even 'loser' characters are expert pot smokers, or shop lifters, or whatever.
Ferris Bueller is an expert at skipping school.
"Chasing Amy's" Holden and Banky are expert comic book artists.
At the very least, great characters are experts at being themselves. They have mastered the art of it, and they go through their lives employing the every day tricks they've put in place to make their lives easier.
Make your hero the best at anything he does, and that character will be fun to watch.
good characters are flawed
So it follows that good characters begin their stories flawed in a very real and significant way. Your hero's flaw should get him in trouble at every turn. It should motivate the story, and the story you tell should provide ample evidence that he needs to change if he's going to get what he wants.
But be careful when you're thinking about your character's flaw... It's easy to get lazy and decide on a shallow flaw. Here are a few examples of shallow flaws:
- Committment Phobe
When you're crafting a flawed protagonist, you always need to think about what's driving these qualities. Why is John afraid to commit? Why is Sarah always staying late at the office?
Flaws like 'working too much' are symptoms of a deeper disease, like insecurity or maybe ambition. So you have to be very careful when you're diagnosing your hero's flaw.
Walter White is, above all else, prideful. Time and time again, his decisions are motivated by pride. He starts cooking meth to avoid taking money from an old friend, and he keeps cooking meth because he can't stand the idea that someone out there is going to be cooking an inferior product and passing it off as the blue stuff.
Pride is a real flaw. Tons of people have it. Walter White is a case study in it.
Give your hero a deep flaw like that, and you'll have someone worth watching.
And remember... Don't write a perfect character. Nobody's perfect. Nobody wants to see perfect. Perfect is boring.
good characters are active
He refuses to let anyone else dictate what his life will be like (back to pride again), and he's always fighting for more and more control of his situation.
Your character's decisions, if driven by their flaw, do not always need to be likeable. Walt, for instance, poisons a child to manipulate Jesse Pinkman into murdering Gus. While a tad questionable in the morality department, Walt's choices are undoubtedly active.
If your character's not that active, look for ways they could be.
And whenever you're at a loss for what your character should do next - look back to their flaw.
Walt fights on behalf of his pride.
What is your character fighting for?
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