How to create strong fictional characters?

How to create strong fictional characters?

Creating your fictional characters requires a lot of work before writing your script (or novel because the technique is the same) and requires going in depth into human psychology. But this is such an interesting step (it’s one of my favorite steps when writing) because, thanks to these characters that we have to create in 3D, that we can then bring our story to life. So take a little time, read this article carefully, we’re gonna dive onto an exciting subject!

Creating a character, or several characters, is also a good idea to find the subject of your scenario.

Syd Field

The different types of fictional characters

When writing, it is important to develop your characters clearly in order to make them evolve in the story without losing the reader and, in this case in screenwriting, without losing the producers and the director first of all, and then the audience.
As a result, you will have characters who will have specific roles in the story to create actions, interactions and reactions and who will push the story forward in a fluid and natural way.

So what are the different types of characters?

  • The Protagonist: This is the first role of your script. Most of the time, this character has to “take the road” and brave storms to get what he/she wants. Your protagonist may want revenge (Thor), survival (The Hunger Games), defeating a disease (Still Alice), finding someone (the Secret life of Walter Mitty)…
  • The physical antagonist: This character is a person in his own right who tries, throughout the story, to put obstacles in the protagonist’s wheels to prevent him from achieving his goal. Don’t think of him as a monster, an alien or any other science fiction film entity. This character can be represented by someone who is afraid for the protagonist (The Space Between Us), a jealous lover (The Lucky One), a psychopath (The Room), etc. But of course, your antagonist can also be this famous evil character.
  • The abstract antagonist: Not all antagonists are living beings. In some scenarios, the protagonists are confronted with diseases (Miss you already), grief (Southpaw), financial difficulty (House of Sand and Fog), grief (Wild), administrative system (The Good Lie), war (Thank you for your service), etc… These antagonists have no physical form, they are abstract and not palpable. You can imagine it as such: “Could my antagonist be put in jail?” If the answer is no, it is probably abstract.
  • Supporting characters: These characters have an important role in the life of your protagonist. Whether they are characters who are omnipresent in the life of your main character, such as a parent, a friend or a teacher (Good Will Hunting), or just passing through, they are the characters who will support the hero in his quest. These characters, like the protagonist and the physical antagonist, must have their own dreams and adventures to bring your story to life in 3D.

Build your fictional characters

The characters’ arc

In the same way that we will create an arc for the whole story, we will create dramatic arcs for each of our characters and mainly for the main character, the hero of your story.
I will soon prepare an article on the structure of a script, but a dramatic bow for a character is the emotional change that your protagonist will go through between the beginning and the end of your story.

Quel est le développement d’un arc de personnage ?

Arc 1 :
A. Ordinary world, daily life, everything is normal;
B. Call for adventure, an incident that changes the routine;
C. Refusal of the call, need for security;
D. Meeting with a guide, a confidant, a person who pushes for change;
E. Reaching the first step, taking action
Arc 2 :
A. Tests, allies and enemies;
B. Preparations for the adventure;
C. Crisis (moment of doubt);
D. Awards.
Arc 3 :
A. No more turning back;
B. Final battle to reach his goal;
C. Victorious (or not) return.

The character’s arc, like the story’s arc, can be represented by a diagram. I personally like the use of sketches when I create my characters and my story. This allows me to see more clearly with a relief my narrative choices.

Character's arc in the story structure (for screenplays, novels, etc)
Character’s arc

Relationship of characters between each other

When writing your stories, it is very important to keep in mind the relationships your characters have with each other. This will allow you to create an emotional web that will make writing interactions and creating dialogues between characters more accurate.

Again, for this process, I work with sketches that look like this:

What are the relation between your characters ?
Relationship between fictional characters

This way of working is my own, I like to know in detail what the relationship of the characters is between them and to have it in front of my eyes. This is a very simple and basic process. As the creation phase progresses, many annotations are added to this sketche, whether on certain emotions between certain characters, positive and negative points, reactions of one in function of the other, all of that is linked to the story’s arc.

Create your fictional characters in 3D

To create your 3D fictional characters, you need these characters to have depth, hidden secrets, a past, dreams, desires, distinct relationships and established relationships with the other characters in your story. For this reason, for each character in your story, in addition to knowing the character’s arc for the story you are going to write, you will write a well-defined biography for him. This will be your guide for writing your script. You may not need to go back to this every time you write, but once you will have done it, your character will be created in 3D in your subconscious.

⚠️ This information may be useful to you, but actors do the same when creating their character. You’ve done a lot of work as a writer to create a realistic character that can come to life on screen, but an actor needs to create even more depth. So they too will do research, talk with people who have the same job as the character they are going to play, who have experienced similar things, who live in the same place, etc., but also immerse themselves in the daily life of these people. For example, Jake Gyllenhall did it for the movie End of Watch.

What are the creative characteristics of a fictional character?

For all the characters in your script

  • Name :
  • Age:
  • Date of birth:
  • Sign of the zodiac and the characteristics of this sign that may belong to it:
  • Where was your character born?
  • Where does your character live? What’s it like there?
  • Size :
  • Eye colour:
  • Physical appearance:
  • Strange or unique physical attributes:
  • Definition of gestures and movements (sudden, slow, very calm, etc.):
  • Things about his or her appearance that he or she would like to change:
  • Speaking style (fast, monotonous, fast talking, etc.):
  • Pet peeve:
  • Best memory:
  • Hobbies and interests:
  • Special skills and abilities:
  • Insecurity :
  • Weird things and eccentricities:
  • Temperament (easy to live with, angry, etc.):
  • Negative traits :
  • Things that upset him:
  • Things that embarrass her:
  • Things this character really cares about:
  • Phobias?
  • Things that make him happy:
  • The best thing that ever happened to this character:
  • The worst thing that ever happened to this character:
  • Superstitions:
  • Family (elaborate on parents, siblings, past, etc.):
  • The deepest and darkest secret:
  • Reason why he or she kept this secret for so long:
  • The opinion of others about this character (What do people like about this character? What don’t they like about this character?):
  • Clothing style:
  • Favourite groups/songs/types of music:
  • Favourite movies :
  • Preferred television programs:
  • Favorite foods:
  • Favourite sports and sports teams:
  • Political opinions :
  • Religion and philosophy of life:
  • A dream vacation:
  • Description of his house:
  • Description of his bedroom:
  • Domestic animals?
  • Use three words to describe this character:
  • If a song played every time this character entered the room, what would it be?

For supporting characters – questions of morality in support

  • Relationship with the protagonist:
  • What the character likes best about the protagonist:
  • Similarities with the protagonist:
  • Differences in relation to the protagonist:

Questions about physical antagonists

  • Why is he facing the protagonist?
  • Nice features?
  • Weaknesses:

Questions about abstract antagonists

  • What is your abstract antagonist? Is it a disease, a societal problem like poverty, or something like grief or war?
  • How does this antagonist affect the protagonist?
  • Do the other characters notice it? How does this antagonist affect the other people in your scenario?

Some tips to create your fictional characters

Very interested in personal development, I regularly use self-help books to help me build my characters. I also like to immerse myself in the psychology of the characters I create.
What motivates someone to act in such a way? What was their past to get there or to react like that? I ask myself many questions and use external resources, books and movies that I have enjoyed to analyze the behavior of the characters and understand them to help me create my own characters. Immerse yourself in your daily life as well. Without being too weird, analyze your family and friends, colleagues, etc., to understand their personality and reactions.

And here I have given you my most useful tools to create my fictional characters efficiently. Feel free to put these techniques into practice and give me feedback on your experiences. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment under this article, I will answer them as soon as possible! 😊

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