There’s a new program called “Character Writer” designed to help you create more fully dimensional characters. Just remember that buying software is still no substitute for sitting down and actually writing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you only had the right software, you could write a better screenplay. All software is just a tool and if you don’t use the tool correctly, it won’t help you no matter how good the program may be.
Character Writer simply provides a fill in the blanks approach to helping you think more about your characters such as their common, distinctive dialogue along with their physical characteristics. The big problem with Character Writer isn’t that it doesn’t work, but that it creates the illusion that characters are created separately from your story.
For example, you could use a program like Character Writer to define a fully dimensional hero, villain, and love interest. Now you could create an interesting story. However, the separate items of your story must all work together. Creating fully dimensional characters makes little sense if they don’t support your story.
For example, most people agree that John McClane in “Die Hard” portrayed a fully dimensional character. Now plop John McClane in “Star Wars” and suddenly you have a different story because John McClane doesn’t have the same goals as Luke Skywalker, so the choices he makes will be different and his needs will be different. Just tossing separate items and mixing them together won’t necessarily create an integrated story.
Take WALL-E from “WALL-E” as a lovable garbage collecting robot. Toss him as the hero in “Terminator 2” and you have a complete different story, even though both of them are about intelligent robots. To use any tool like Character Writer effectively, you have use it with all aspects of your story in mind.
Typically, your hero and villain are mirror images of each other, such as Jimmy Stewart and the villain in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Once you define your hero (or your villain) you automatically know your other major character. Yet if you create your hero and villain separately using Character Writer or any other tools, you risk creating completely different heroes and villains, which will destroy the subtle structure and integration of your story. Technically you may have a decent story, but because it’s underlying structure is flawed, you’ll wind up with a flawed story.
Your hero and story also need to mesh together. A story like “Avatar” wouldn’t work if your hero is the neurotic Marlin from “Finding Nemo.” So when using a program or any tool like Character Writer, just be aware that the tool itself can’t magically make your screenplay excellent if you don’t also understand the underlying structure of a story in the first place. In the right hands, a tool like Character Writer can be helpful. In the wrong hands, any tool will be less than useful simply through the fault of the user, not necessarily of the software.
The bottom line is that you can’t expect any program to help you magically write a great screenplay. You still need to exercise your own imagination, creativity, and knowledge of story structure. Then you can write the screenplay of your dreams.