Making a movie requires several different ingredients. You need an exciting or engaging plot and suitably inspiring locations to set the story in. You need talented cast and crew, gorgeous costumes and expert direction. Above all, however, you need believable, well-crafted, strong characters that your audience will care about. Sounds tricky? Don’t worry, there are many ways to create a movie character while having fun along the way. You can learn about them as you go along on your own, or find out more by attending specialist filmmaking classes.
From Oliver Twist to Hermione Granger, there have been many unforgettable characters born out of books, TV and films. Renowned film actors like Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Lawrence, Will Smith etc have different movie characters we all remember. How are those characters created? What do they all have in common?
They are well-rounded, relatable and interesting. They grow and evolve throughout the story, being moulded by their experiences as they go along. The best movie character have an interesting backstory and a compelling adventure or journey ahead of them. Often they have character flaws. First thing’s first, however. They need to be created. Who can forget the amazing characters from movies like Dark knight, Mad Max, Star Wars and Sparks members’ all time favourite movie character of Jack Sparrow?
Nice to meet you
You can start pretty much anywhere when creating your movie character. Aspects that you need to decide first include:
· Their name
· How old they are
· Where they live and with whom
· What job they might do, or what their day looks like?
· What their appearance looks like
· What clothing they wear
· What they like and dislike
Pick one of these things and go from there. As you settle on one idea, more and more will follow. Keep going until you have a really good idea about who you are going to write a movie about.
Filling in the details
Next, think of lots of adjectives that help to describe your movie character. Add metaphors and similes if that helps fill out the picture. Write down some phrases that they might say or think. What else do you know about their personality? Are they happy or sad, confident or shy? Obedient or cheeky? Have they done anything extraordinary such as win an Olympic medal or break a world record? Extended family? What are their parents like? Have they done anything noteworthy, amazing or maybe even terrible that shaped your character’s childhood?
Don’t make your characters too perfect. Make them show some vulnerability and even some flaws so that your audience will empathise with their situation more closely. If you are creating a villain, make sure you work out what their motivations are for being so dastardly. Perhaps there is some good in them, deep down, or perhaps there is a good backstory as to why they are truly evil.
Give your movie character a distinctive voice
No, we don’t mean give them a comedy accent (although this can be a fun thing to include if their personality calls for it). When they speak, make their dialogue unique to them in the way they phrase things, use speech patterns and what sort of vocabulary they use. Note how they react to and speak to different characters and how this differs depending on their listener. For instance, a child might be scared of a teacher and speak respectfully to them, but be more confident around friends.
Make things match
Unless you are going for a surrealist movie or a fantasy film, the different aspects of your movie character should match with each other a little bit. Their name should reflect the setting and time period you are filming in, for instance. Unless you want them to stand out as part of the plot, try to make them align with other characters in the story too. Make their personality and skills believable.
For instance, if you are writing a romantic comedy, having a main character suddenly experience tragedy might not fit in with what you are trying to achieve. Likewise, having a character who can cast spells might not mesh well with a gritty police drama. Unless it is set in a magical world, in which case let your imagination run wild!
It’s amazing how closely some film fans follow a story, remembering every single tiny detail of the character or plot. If you leave any holes or inconsistencies, they spot them and comment very publicly on them. This can be embarrassing at best, and damaging to a film writer’s career at worst. Write down everything you decide upon for each movie character that you create.
Keep files on your characters to refer back to as the plot develops. When you add more characters, work out how they relate to each other – and write this down too. It is important to keep the details consistent. So, make sure you know who is related to know who, who has met and not met each other and where these interactions have taken place. Know who is scared of what and who likes which type of food.
The best film writers do lots of research before finalising their characters and the stories they tell about them. So, research online if you can’t decide what to call your movie character. If you are setting their story in a specific historical period or country, research some of these details in advance. This is because you want your character to be believable in your chosen timings,geographical setting and situation. Watch films and read books set in similar times or settings too. This will help you get a real feel for how other people’s movie characters develop.