Create Memorable Characters By Studying Musicals

One problem screenwriters have is developing character. In other words, what do people want and how do they want to go through life? In traditional screenplays, characters reveal themselves through action and dialogue.

Unfortunately, most writers don’t let characters fully express and distinguish themselves through their actions and dialogue. Yet that’s the key to good character development. To see over the top examples of how characters express themselves through action and dialogue, study musicals.

Look at the way Sandy dresses and behaves in the beginning of “Grease.” Then look at her sudden transformation at the end. In the beginning, Sandy dresses like a good two shoes type person, which matches her personality. Then in the end, Sandy transforms into a leather-clad biker chick persona.

Ignoring the visual transformation, listen to the song lyrics. In the beginning, Sandy is singing about her summer nights drinking lemonade on the beach and staying out until ten o’clock. Then the song she sings in the end is more sexual in nature.

Pick any musical and you can see the visual and emotional transformation in a character. Yet that dramatic transformation is often missing in traditional stories.

Think how your hero can look in the beginning that dramatically contrasts with the end. That doesn’t mean your hero needs to change their appearance but they do need to change their emotional beliefs.

Also read your character’s dialogue in the beginning of your screenplay and contrast it with their dialogue in the end. Again, unlike musicals, this change may not be dramatic and easy to spot, but there should be some change from beginning to end.

Once you get used to seeing how your character needs to visually and internally change from start to finish can you better define your character in your screenplay.

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