How to Create Characters Who Are Believable Individuals!

“All your characters sound the same!”

Ever had that note from a producer, exec, writer, or script consultant?

Yikes if you have!

It’s damning. And it hurts. It means your script is not yet pro or produceable.

But this is not the time to feel stupid or to cry. Truth is truth. See this damning script note as good news. You have learned what is holding back your story and storytelling. The question now is: How can this problem be fixed?

When a client hires me to assess/improve their script and I find that it has cliched characters who all sound the same, first I empathize. All creatives at some time have written flat dialog that lacks individuality. Functional plot puppet speak. Explicit, toneless, and monotonous tongue wagging. One layered words that just get the exposition across and fill the unforgiving white void.

Next, I tell my client: It’s not a dialog problem.

It’s really a character problem.

Real individuals speak with their own particular phrasing, attitudes, expressions, and voice. Think Hans Gruber and John McClane. Think Rick Blaine versus Louis Renault.

So, listen up.

The solution to your characters sounding the same is simple. In principle.

Go back to your foundations and recreate your characters.

If your characters don’t speak like “real” three-dimensional people, it’s because they aren’t. They are not layered, multifaceted individuals who have distinct beliefs, traits, and desires. And do they, like most people, have contradictions and self-conflicts?

Now you can get excited.

There are principled and practical ways to make your characters “real” and particular. Creating layered compelling characters, like all elements in a story, can be learned. Writing muscles are created. Thought by thought. Practice by practice.

Actionable Creative Takeaway

Human beings are motivated by ideas, or more specifically by their premises and values. And more concretely, we know people by their traits. It is the same with characters in a story.

Don’t just wing it and hope that your characters will create themselves, will just pop up from your subconscious and speak dramatically. That’s a prayer whose only answer is anxiety. Instead have a process of how to build characters. That will give you confidence and an earful of colorful dialog.

To help you create 3D deeply motivated individuals ask questions of your characters. Here are few key examples:

--What is his dominant premise or belief?

--What are his highest values?

--What are his defining traits and attitudes?

--What is his main goal?

Asking questions such as these will help you create layered believable characters.

The hardest part in this creative process is to make these character elements original and logically related to each other. For example, how does your character’s dominant premise influence his values and traits?

The above writing advice is just part of the process of how to create 3D individual characters who won’t shut up speaking their realistic, unique, and entertaining dialog. If you need help with your character layers and originality, hit reply. I promise to listen!

When industry players read your script, you want to receive a note like this: “Your characters were distinct and real and their dialog was individualized and revealing!”

“I highly recommend Scott to identify your hidden story gold and refine it”.  Dr. James McCabe, the Story Doctor

Read more reviews of my story work.

To receive more free writing advice like the tips above click here to subscribe to The Story Guy Newsletter.

More Deep Dives Into Scriptwriting

1. If you want to know 6 practical ways to test your story concept check out these questions in less than two minutes if you dare. 

2. Get ahead of the game by practicing compelling writing by checking out this easy to apply tip of how to twist your story and audience. 

3. If you need to create layered, conflicted, three dimensional characters who leap from the page into a lazy reader’s mind, check out these tips of how to create real and memorable characters 

Ideas to make your story resonate ow