Character Development – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Screenwriting Glossary Terms

I. What is Character Development in Screenwriting?

Character development in screenwriting refers to the process of creating and evolving characters throughout a screenplay. It involves giving characters depth, complexity, and growth as the story progresses. This includes exploring their motivations, desires, flaws, and relationships with other characters. Character development is essential for creating engaging and relatable characters that audiences can connect with on an emotional level.

II. Why is Character Development Important in a Screenplay?

Character development is crucial in a screenplay because well-developed characters drive the plot and engage the audience. When characters are three-dimensional and dynamic, they become more relatable and interesting to watch. Strong character development can also help to create empathy and emotional investment in the story, making the audience care about what happens to the characters.

Additionally, character development can add depth and complexity to the themes and messages of the screenplay. By exploring the internal struggles and growth of characters, screenwriters can convey deeper meanings and insights about the human experience. Ultimately, strong character development can elevate a screenplay from being just a series of events to a compelling and impactful story.

III. How to Develop Compelling Characters in a Screenplay

1. Create detailed character profiles: Before writing a screenplay, it’s important to fully understand your characters. Develop detailed profiles that include their background, personality traits, motivations, goals, fears, and relationships. This will help you to create more nuanced and believable characters.

2. Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply telling the audience about a character’s traits or backstory, show them through actions, dialogue, and interactions with other characters. This allows the audience to infer information about the character and creates a more engaging viewing experience.

3. Give characters arcs: Characters should undergo growth and change throughout the story. Develop arcs for your characters that show how they evolve, learn, and overcome obstacles. This adds depth and complexity to the characters and keeps the audience invested in their journey.

4. Create conflicts: Conflict is essential for character development. Introduce internal and external conflicts that challenge your characters and force them to make difficult decisions. This will reveal their true nature and lead to growth and change.

5. Use dialogue effectively: Dialogue is a powerful tool for revealing character traits, relationships, and emotions. Make sure that your characters’ dialogue is authentic to their personalities and motivations. Use subtext and nuance to convey deeper meanings and emotions.

IV. Techniques for Showing Character Development on Screen

1. Visual cues: Use visual cues such as changes in appearance, body language, and facial expressions to show character development. For example, a character who starts off as timid may gradually become more confident, which can be reflected in their posture and demeanor.

2. Relationships: Show how characters’ relationships evolve over the course of the story. This can be done through changes in dialogue, interactions, and emotional dynamics. For example, a character who starts off as enemies may develop a bond of trust and friendship by the end of the screenplay.

3. Actions speak louder than words: Use characters’ actions to demonstrate their growth and change. Show how they make different choices, take risks, or confront their fears. Actions can reveal more about a character’s true nature than words alone.

4. Symbolism: Use symbolism to convey deeper meanings about characters and their development. For example, a character who starts off feeling trapped may gradually break free from physical or metaphorical constraints, symbolizing their growth and liberation.

5. Foreshadowing: Use foreshadowing to hint at future developments in a character’s arc. This can create anticipation and suspense for the audience, as they wonder how the character will change or evolve in the future.

V. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Character Development in Screenwriting

1. Flat characters: Avoid creating characters who are one-dimensional or stereotypical. Characters should be complex, with layers of personality, motivations, and flaws that make them feel real and relatable.

2. Lack of growth: Characters should undergo growth and change throughout the story. Avoid keeping characters stagnant or unchanged, as this can lead to a lack of emotional investment from the audience.

3. Unrealistic behavior: Characters should act in ways that are consistent with their personalities and motivations. Avoid having characters act out of character or make decisions that feel forced or contrived.

4. Lack of conflict: Conflict is essential for character development. Avoid creating characters who have no obstacles to overcome or challenges to face, as this can lead to a lack of tension and drama in the story.

5. Excessive exposition: Avoid relying on exposition to convey information about characters. Show, don’t tell, by using actions, dialogue, and interactions to reveal character traits and backstory in a more engaging and natural way.