Without strong and real characters, your story will have no framework to be built around. It’s worth investing time in developing and getting to know your characters. Even after your first draft, you will still have plenty of time to get to know your characters and change them, in case they don’t seem real or your readers have difficulties connecting with them.
I usually use the checklist below to keep myself in check:
1. The story is all about the characters.
2. What happens during the story isn’t most essential; we, the audience, watch the characters.
3. To get to know a character, you need to throw a plot (something happens) at them.
4. What happens during the story is what we throw at the character to show what actions they will take to overcome these obstacles. Obstacles and how the characters overcome them is what the audience is interested the most in.
5. The choices and decisions of the character drive the story.
6. Character’s decisions = the consequences they will have to deal with during the story.
7. To control the character is to force decisions onto them.
8. A character can’t just be dropped to the plot. The plot needs to be built around the character/s.
9. As a writer, you must have the confidence to be in charge of your characters.
10. When the script begins, the character starts in one place and by the end of the script ends up in another place. Sometimes it’s a circle, but that journey from one place to another is what gets the audience attracted to your film/story and characters.
11. The ending of the film is a conclusion of the plot and the protagonist’s journey.
12. Drama is a conflict between people, ideas, the inner conflict etc.
13. Your character won’t change until they must change because there is no other option for them to get to where they want to get/be.
14. What is the worst thing that can happen to your character next? Don’t be soft on your characters; they won’t grow if the challenge isn’t challenging enough.
15. Don’t let your characters be ambiguous; they need to be clear in who they are.
16. Characters cannot be invisible.
17. Bad characters — are driven by knowing that they have done something bad, but they don’t want to fix it.
18. Stories are organised around one central character (or group of them). You will begin and end your story on them. That’s why you should centre your story around your main character/s.
19. The audience wants to watch the characters that are willing to do something.
20. We judge the characters by what they do more than by what they say.
21. As a writer, you are in charge of the characters, but the character is in charge of the story.
22. The more you know about your character, the better the audience knows the character.
23. Your knowledge of your character/s will determine what their choices are going to be like.
24. If you are writing a short script, you must find your character and know who the character is if you want the story to work.
25. Keep your main character in the centre stage throughout the story; keep them on the screen.
26. Your character is your story.
27. We (the audience) like the character more for trying than succeeding.
28. Your character isn’t a result of your plot; they’re the result of their choices.
29. Make your character adjust just like you (the writer) does in real life.
30. You shouldn’t protect your characters all the time like we often do in real life. Let them have the life experiences they need to have to grow and change.
31. Give your characters the scenes that will show the audience who they are.
32. Ask yourself about how you can portray the characters without announcing everything through dialogue?
33. You need to decide on how much information you’re going to give to your audience in the opening sequence.
34. The secondary characters aren’t in the story to solve problems but rather to bring more troubles to the main character. Allow those characters to add difficulty to the story.