Top 10 Screenwriting Tips: How to Write Better Characters

Are you looking to improve your screenwriting? Writing believable characters is the cornerstone of great storytelling, and it’s a skill that can elevate your writing to new heights. Whether you’re penning a thrilling adventure, a heartwarming romance, or a dystopian epic, mastering the art of character creation is essential. In this guide, we’ll explore ten invaluable tips on how to write better characters that will resonate with your audience and get your viewers hooked.

Top 10 Tips to improve your Character Development and Boost your Screenwriting

Fade in to Top 10 tips to improve your screenwriting

1. Know Your Characters Inside Out

Before you start writing, take the time to fully understand your characters. What are their motivations, fears, and desires? What makes them tick? Delve deep into their backgrounds, personalities, and quirks to create well-rounded individuals that feel authentic and relatable. Try drawing a mind map of your character – get creative and draw up as many details as you can about them.

2. Give Your Characters Flaws and Imperfections

It can be really tempting to focus on your character’s positives. Perfect characters are boring. Inject realism into your scriptwriting by giving your characters flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections. Think about what your character gets wrong and how they let themselves down. Make a list of things that your character isn’t good at. These flaws will humanise them and make them more compelling to your audience.

3. Show, Don’t Tell

Instead of simply telling your audience about your characters, show them through their actions, dialogue, and interactions with others. Let their behaviour and choices reveal who they are, allowing everyone to form their own opinions and connections. Try and think visually- how can you show things to your audience without having to describe them? Consider adding visual sequences and shots to your scriptwriting, so you can reduce lengthy dialogue and replace it with images. “A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue.David Mamet

4. Create Complex Relationships

Characters don’t exist in a vacuum. Explore the dynamics between your characters and how they interact with one another. Develop meaningful relationships – friendships, rivalries, romances – that add depth and complexity to your script. Think about chemistry – which characters work well together, and which ones will bring conflict when you put them in the same scene.

5. Provide Backstory in Moderation

While backstory is important for understanding your characters, avoid info-dumping or overwhelming your scenes with excessive detail. Integrate backstory organically into your script, revealing key details at strategic moments to enhance character development. If you do need to show us lots of detail, consider using flashbacks and montages to keep it all super visual.

6. Give Your Characters Goals and Motivations

What do your characters want, and why do they want it? Maybe your character is motivated by money, or perhaps they’re madly in love. Define clear goals and motivations for your characters, driving their actions and decisions throughout the story. This will create tension, conflict, and ultimately, engagement for your audience.

7. Create Characters with Depth

Avoid one-dimensional stereotypes or clichés. Instead, strive to create characters with depth and complexity. Explore their internal conflicts, contradictions, and growth over the course of your story. Consider playing with the character’s consistency – experiment with what might make a character modify their behaviour in different scenes. What winds them up? What drives them? Who might they be trying to impress or influence?

8. Use Dialogue to Reveal Character

Dialogue is a powerful tool for character development. Pay attention to how your characters speak – their tone, vocabulary, and speech patterns can reveal a wealth of information about their background, personality, and emotional state. Watch some films and note how different characters vary their dialogue. Can you spot any patterns? Look at the lines of dialogue you’ve already written, and ask yourself whether another character could have said it. If so, it might be a little too generic, consider changing the line to more closely align with your character.

9. Show Character Growth and Change

Characters should evolve and grow over the course of your script. Allow them to learn from their experiences, confront their flaws, and undergo meaningful transformations. This not only makes for compelling screenwriting but also resonates with readers on a deeper level. Think back to the motivations we discussed earlier, perhaps your character’s motivations have changed throughout the story. Or, perhaps they’ve become aware of their flaws. There are lots of ways characters can adapt, have a play with it!

10. Empathise with Your Characters

To write believable characters, you must empathise with them. Imagine meeting them, and imagine getting to know them. Put yourself in their shoes, understand their perspectives, and empathise with their struggles and triumphs. By forging a connection with your characters, you’ll create stories that resonate with authenticity and emotional depth.

Learning how to write better characters is a journey of discovery and creativity. By following these ten tips and practising your screenwriting, you’ll be well on your way to creating rich, vibrant characters that sizzle on screen. So, grab your pen (or phone!), unleash your imagination, and bring those characters to life.

Practise your Screenwriting with Sparks Film Schools

The Sparks Film School workshop programme includes weekly workshops and holiday courses – the perfect place to practise your screenwriting skills.

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