Spicing Up Scenes with Memorable Characters

Novices often write boring scenes. Imagine someone reading your screenplay for the first time and randomly jumping to any spot in your script. If that scene is boring, chances are good the rest of the screenplay will be boring. So it’s crucial that every scene grabs and holds someone’s attention.

One way to keep a scene interesting is by making the characters in the scene fascinating. First, look at what each character in a scene is trying to accomplish. If characters don’t have a strong need that’s motivating them into action, the characters are likely just vomiting out exposition.

Second, give each character a specific, unique trait. It can be physical but go one step further and go for the emotional background. From the character’s dialogue, do they have a distinct point of view or opinion?

Read this from dialogue from “Soul” and you immediately have a good idea who Joe (the character) is and how he thinks:

Look, I remember one time… my dad took me to this jazz club, and that’s the last place that I wanted to be.

Joe walks to the piano and starts playing while he explains:

But then I see this guy. And he’s playing these chords with fourths on it and then, with the minor. Whooo! Then he adds the inner voices, and it’s like he’s… it’s like he’s singing. And I swear, the next thing I know… it’s like he he floats off the stage. That guy was lost in the music. He was in it, and he took the rest of us with him.

A third technique is to show the character changing between scenes. In “Soul,” the hero (Joe) changes from one scene where he’s trying to teach kids music in school. Then in the next scene, the principal of the school tells Joe that he’s been hired permanently.

In the previous scene, we’ve seen Joe passionate about music, yet in this second scene, Joe is hesitant about getting hired permanently and fakes his happiness. That immediately makes him more interesting because we want to know why he’s hesitant to take the teaching job permanently.

So give each character a goal, make them unique, and show contrast or change between scenes. That can make your characters memorable and that’s the first step to making your screenplay memorable as well.

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