What makes a film a masterpiece? What makes it resonate with the audience? Most importantly, what makes it tell a story?
The best stories have a few simple elements: a simple structure, relatable characters, an engaging purpose. We’re exploring each of these elements over a few blog posts. If you haven’t already, get started with our first instalment Starting with Structure. This week, we’re delving into character development.
Here at Imagination Station we’re big fans of movie-making, and the key to a really great film or story is having easily identifiable characters. They help the audience relate to the theme of the film as well as follow events as they unfold.
Creating a character can be overwhelming when you start to consider all the possible experiences this character has had leading up to the story you’ve decided to tell. So just how much background does a character need? And what makes a character interesting or boring?
The Audience Loves an Underdog
We’re all looking for someone to believe in, and according to Pixar, we tend to admire characters more for their effort than their successes.
If they aren’t struggling with something important, there’s no reason for the audience to believe they’ll take action. A character with nothing at stake isn’t an interesting person to follow. Make sure that your character has good reasons for any big decisions.
As much as we love a strong character, there have to be some shortcomings or weaknesses to help the plot develop. If your character can just magic themselves out of any situation, or is always having lucky or coincidental escapes, it’s not going to impress the audience. When faced with a problem, write down the easiest way out of that situation. Then, don’t use that way out: make the character resort to something that is a real challenge for them.
Giving your Character Credibility
Plausible characters have opinions and learn things for themselves. If you’re struggling for plot, consider what your character is good at. What are they comfortable with? Throw the opposite at them and explore how they cope with that.
If you aren’t sure how a character would react to a certain situation, consider how you would feel. Your real thoughts and feelings will give the character realism. Those feelings are how the audience will connect with your story.
Condense the Cast
Telling Compelling Stories 1: Starting with Structure is available here.
Telling Compelling Stories 3: Providing Purpose will be coming up next, so keep an eye on our blog page!
For more information about our Storytelling and Movie-making classes and our downloadable movie-making worksheets, check out the ‘Learn at Home’ section of our website here.