Tag Archives: screenwriter

How to Write Compelling Characters

how to write compelling characters

So, you have an idea for a screenplay with a great plot, now what? Don’t forget the importance of writing well-rounded characters. Audiences need characters to hate, love, cherish, and tell the story fully. Without fully thought out characters, a movie or TV show can seem dull. Luckily, there are many tips and tricks on how to develop characters for TV and film. Here are some tips on how to write compelling characters for the screen.


Carl Jung created Twelve Archetypes of  Humanity and analyzed how people generally behave with these twelve types. This can be a great jumping off point if you are unsure how your characters move around in the world and carry themselves based on history, culture, and assimilation to their environments. The twelve Archetypes include; The Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage. You see many of these archetypes in movies and tv shows already. For example, the Lover can be seen in many romantic tragedies and comedies such as West Side Story and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Check out this video for more information on Archetypes.


Ask yourself questions about the character such as; What is the character’s main goal? What is their secondary goal(s)? How do they interact with the other characters? Where do they live? What do they do in their spare time? The more analysis you do and the more questions you ask yourself about the characters, the more they will come to life. 

Create a Great Introduction

Remember, you only get to introduce your character in a film or TV show for the first time, once. Make sure it is memorable and encapsulates key factors about your character that you need the audience to know and retain. If your character is a villain, is there something that could suggest that in the first encounter? If they are supposed to be hilarious, do they crack a joke right away? Think about the first moment and how the character appears to the other characters as well as the audience. 

Consider Classes 

Finally, consider furthering your education to help with writing these characters and their complex backgrounds. Having a space to explore your writing skills under the guidance of professionals is one of the best ways to learn. For example, Digital Film Academy offers screenwriting and film history classes as a part of the curriculum to better your film writing skills. 

If you are interested in learning more about Digital Film Academy join us for our next free online Open House on July 7th at 6pm EST.

This is a free virtual open house where we will be hosting a demonstration film class and going over more information about the programs we offer.

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4 Rules for Writing Your Screenplay

Writing seems both mysterious and easy. That’s because, to anyone other than the writer, the work is pretty much invisible.

In reality, the easier a script was to write, the worse it probably is.

This dog finished her screenplay in one hour, but it was terrible.
This dog finished her screenplay in one hour, but it was terrible.

Here are four simple rules to make your screenplay the best it can be.

1. Test your concept

The hidden work of screenwriting is actually pre-writing. That doesn’t start with the outline, or the character descriptions – it starts with your concept.

Most people get an idea and are swept off their feet by how great it is. Spoiler alert: it’s usually not that great. Playing with the concept before writing elevates it to a higher level. Ask questions like:

A. Can I change the characters in a way that makes this more interesting? (By changing their careers, gender, etc.?)

B. Where can the story be set that makes it more interesting? What do different settings bring to the idea?

C. Think about potential marketing hooks. What angle could make this more appealing to more people? What would the poster art look like?

D. Come up with a list of concepts and run them by a few people. Gauge their reactions. Don’t waste your time on an idea everyone wrinkles their nose at – writing a script can take years. Find an idea that seems interesting to most people and use your time and energy on that.

2. Outline/Structure

If you want to save time and energy, outline your screenplay.

Screenplays are not wild expressions of creativity. Yes, you have to be creative to bring those characters to life – but screenplays themselves follow a remarkably strict set of rules and have to build tension in just the right way. If you don’t outline first (What’s your first plot point? Your second plot point? Your turning point? Your character crisis?) then what you’ll usually wind up with is a rambling mess that needs to be completely rewritten.

This will be you.
This will be you.

3. Technique

So you outlined, your story hits all the plot points, and you’re ready to write 90-120 pages. Wonderful. Now, what’s going to set it apart from the billion or so other scripts out in circulation?

You need to apply strong writing techniques. Do you know how to alternate between fear and relief during even the most mundane of conversations? Do you use misleads and reveals? Are your characters well-defined enough that, if you picked any line at random, you would know who said it? What are the dramatic choices you’ll make in EACH AND EVERY SCENE to make it both necessary and entertaining?

If you can’t answer the above questions, learn more about writing technique. There are tons of writing exercises and articles you can find online to help you.

4. Revising

I’ve never heard of a successful script that didn’t need at least one rewrite.

The best piece of advice I ever got about revising is “revise your outline first.” Start there (after receiving feedback from script consultants, teachers, and friends), because it’ll be easier to move around major pieces of your story when it’s in outline form. Does it seem like you’re missing a key scene? Find out where to put it by looking through your outline. Does your climax seem to happen too late or too early? Figure out how to re-position it in the outline.

Otherwise, the script itself might seem so daunting that you never look at it again.


Writing a screenplay is definitely a challenge – but it’s a rewarding one. If you dream of seeing your words on the big screen, just keep working on your writing skills! Like anything else, they’ll get there with practice.

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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