Think of your favourite movie (or your multiple favourite movies if you’re like me) and think of what made it so good. Was it the soundtrack? Did the songs move you or put you on edge during intense scenes? Was the plot entertaining? Relatable? How about the characters? Were they funny? Felt real?
In truth, that last point probably has more weight than you realize. When we go to movies to see a film we might have been interested in the plot, but we stay for the characters. We want to root for a character that has a clear goal, who has likely been beaten down by life and is trying to rise back up again. We want to see that success.
The strongest characters are those that change noticeably from the beginning to the end of the movie. This is most easily seen in romantic comedies where the main character is flawed at the start and they work on fixing that flaw/attitude/belief about themselves or others by the end of the film.
This change is important because it means the character has learned something from their experience. This seems like a obvious statement (which it is) but it’s no less crucial to movies. If we’re going to go on a journey for two hours with a protagonist we want those hours to matter. If they haven’t learnt anything after that then they’re no different than when they started out, and you’ve wasted your time watching something that went nowhere.
Writing good characters means giving your main character fixable flaws. The keyword there is “fixable,” don’t write yourself into a box (or an ex machina) by giving them solvable schizophrenia. Are they arrogant? What if a situation they were placed in made them eat a slice of humble pie and appreciate they don’t always have to be the person on top of the world? How about if they’re cold nature has eroded away their friendships? What if they have to make friends with someone they’d never consider to get to the next chapter of their life?
Writing a good movie means writing characters we want to root for, to laugh, cry, and succeed with. It also means giving your characters flaws that they can overcome and triumph over. They need to feel like people you could meet and have a conversation with. Doing so makes a great movie a memorable one.
What help you write great characters? What character stands out as one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!
In writing screenplays one aspect that is particularly important is that your scenes have movement. I don’t mean character movement, but movement in the sense that your main character will have changed by the end of the scene.
It doesn’t have to be a drastic change either, for example, your character may be feeling down after losing a special item, but something catches their eye on the street. As they go over to look at the item they realize they’ve found $100! They rush home excitedly to their significant other to tell them the good news and that’s the end of the scene.
Just in that scene they’ve gone from being sad to happy from their new wealth. However, it could also be a more subtle shift too. In trying to figure out a case a partner to a detective could realize that the detective may not be as trustworthy as he seems. The jovial tone the two used to have turns to ice as they try to out-play each other for info the other knows.
The scene I’ve attached below was more of an exercise for myself (and one I can thoroughly recommend to give a try). In it, one character has an item the other wants, but doesn’t want to give it up willingly. I went with two co-workers who are fighting over the last high-quality, top-tier coffee pod, but yours could be anything.
Let me know your thoughts below on my scene, and share your own! I’d love to see what you guys come up with!
A likely case is that you’re not writing a story all-out in one go and may very well be stuck in one section (unless this is some project for university and you’ve left it to the last minute. In which case, may the writing gods look favourably upon you). Below are a few tips that help me (and hopefully you) make stories not only more realistic, but also get back to writing again:
As useful as imagining something in your head can be, sometimes a good picture can help you visualize even more so of where you want to go with a scene. I often use pictures to visualize what an object looks like, or mine the internet for ideas of an object I’m trying to make real in my head. While there’s no true one-stop-shop for images like this, I’ve found that typing in your object plus the keywords “concept art” or “art” into Google Images can help a great deal in not only getting ideas, but also painting a picture more clearly in your head as to how an object may look. For example, in one of my recent stories I wasn’t sure how I wanted an airship to look, but after typing in “airship concept art” and a few other variations of the keywords I was able to find an image I could base my story around. You’d be surprised how many people have created artwork that help you get ideas of how something should or shouldn’t look.
If you can think of it, there’s a generator for it. Okay, maybe not quite as extensive as that, but there definitely more than you’d expect. To clarify, these generators are writing specific. Not the noisy, gas-driven ones that power things. No, these generators can give you a much needed hand in padding out your story. I frequently use namegenerator.biz to get name ideas (since I struggle with creating unique and interesting names) but the website also can help you with last names, locations, and more. Sometimes, just to get writing, I’ll use a generator to split out a few random words and try and put them into a story. More often than not, these generators are free so you can get ideas flowing fast with no cost to you.
3. Friends and Communities
It may seem like a terrible idea to share your writing with others (I would know, I was hesitant to do it for a long time in fear they would steal my ideas) but I assure you, there’s few better ways to get a quick opinion on something. That’s not to say you can’t be careful in how much or who you share your writing with, but just getting a second opinion about a section you’re struggling with can make all the difference to get back into writing again. There’s many online communities and forums to get a quick hand, many of which would be more than happy to help you succeed (check out Reddit for a place to start). Don’t be afraid to reach out to well known successes though and ask their advice. They might even give you the edge or connection you need to sell your screenplay or novel.
I hope this helped you (leave a like if it did) and feel free to leave a comment below on what helps you get ideas for writing and any particular website (or generator) that has been invaluable to your success. Thanks for reading!
For myself, and I’m sure many others, just getting down to write can be a difficult task. That first blank page or few lines you write you will usually be the most critical of, and can psych yourself out of going further. Thankfully, I’ve found a way that helps me (and hopefully you) to get going, at least for scratch work and hashing out ideas.
It starts with writing a list, and that’s it. Literally anyone can write a list. You can make it a grocery list, a list of locations you want to place a character, a top ten list of the best cafés in the area, whatever. The point is you sit down and make one.
The next goal is to integrate that list or another you’ve made into your writing. You can do this by making it more relevant to your character(s). For example, a list of five fears your main character is facing, seven goals they have to accomplish to win back their father’s trust, or an unusual grocery list that starts the plot in motion. Make it as relevant as possible, and try to stick to an idea you want to shape for the plot or character.
Now that you have at least one list it’s time to get down to the dirty work, and this is the hard part: you actually have to write. I know, I know, you thought you could get away from this but no, not so much. Lists are great to get the ball rolling to get ideas and thoughts on the page without judgement, but you’ve still got to actualize those ideas. That means actually writing. This doesn’t have to be painful though. Use your list(s) and make a scene based around the items on it. If it’s a grocery list, write your character shopping for those items. Are they embarrassed getting the items? Sad? Do they have a plan on how to use those items? Do they hate shopping? What about a list of objects in a character’s room? Do they have special meaning? Are they frustrated about a particular object not working properly? Are they ashamed of any item in the room? Maybe this leads into another scene, and another, until you’ve got yourself a solid story on the go!
I hope this helps, below I have a few list ideas if you’d like a place to get started:
- A list of objects found at a crime scene
- Top five bad superhero powers
- Ten weird-looking environment features (i.e. a cave that looks like a mouth)
- Six calls your character regrets making
- Seven skills your character wants to work on
Thanks for reading! Please let me know in the comments if this helped you at all and leave a like if you made it to the end of the post!
During my last semester, from January 2017 to April 2017, we had to create a creative non-fiction piece. Everyone in the class had the option to submit to a class journal that would be created at the end of the class if they so chose (seeing as this would potentially exempt their piece from future creative writing contests). I chose to write about the hard times I faced dealing with serious acne during middle school.
My Piece: Don’t Look at Me
The Complete Journal: TRU Creative Non-Fiction Magazine
This piece for university was made for my speculative fiction class. In it, we had to create a twenty to thirty page short story for the beginning to a novel we would later work on. I chose the latter. However, while I don’t plan on making a novel out of this work, it has given me a solid foundation for a screenplay I might adapt from it.
A young first mate, Nick, scrapes by in a world desperate for water. Fresh water is so rare the world economies are built around water as the most valuable resource, and in some cases, currency. Since the ground has become flooded by rising tides and terrible storms, and due to overconsumption, freshwater is all but non-existent. Thus, airships have taken to the sky to harvest water from the clouds. But clouds are becoming more and more scarce day by day, and the only hope for water is an old legend that may be just as crazy as it sounds…
Not A Drop
I recently finished an interactive fiction game (aka a web-version of a “choose your own adventure” book) I made for Thompson Rivers University. While I did complete a finished version by the end of my co-op, I was asked to continue expanding on it during a work study position which I glad accepted. I can finally say that it is truly completed. However, due to the scale of the game (and since I made this singe-handedly) there may be a few grammar or spelling mistakes, but I have done my best to fix or correct all of them.
Can you survive the dangerous lands of Canada? You might not be Indiana Jones, but with your business skills you just might be able to survive, and obtain, the Treasure of Thompson Rivers University. Avoid traps, solve riddles and watch out for a mysterious cult that worships sleep which is said to inhabit the university grounds. Good luck adventurer!
The Search For The TRU Treasure
Another piece from university, this one was a semester-long project I worked on to create a TV pilot. We were allowed to choose any genre, so I went with a mixed high-fantasy sci-fi theme. I created drama and treachery elements similar to the TV show Black Sails, adventure elements similar to Atlantis: The Lost Empire movie, and danger elements similar to those of King Kong (2005).
I built the world of the show entirely from scratch. It all takes place on a planet with similar physics to those of Earth, however, this is a much larger planet (about 1.75 times the size of Earth). Each continent is a perfect square (called Sectors) which there are four evenly distributed around the planet, each with their own unique environment. The show starts with Phineas and Martin on Sector four in an underground city. Both brothers are through with their crummy lives and want to make changes to their world. With recent events, this might just be the chance they’re looking for, but other forces are at play, and the world itself may have other plans for these brothers…
Aurora – “The Shift”
Another piece from university, we were tasked with creating the first 30 pages of a novel we could continue, including planning out a full summary of the novel. I chose to make a sci-fi horror piece.
It takes place in a near future of space colonization. The crew of a cargo spaceship discovers, and boards, a long-lost pioneering flagship sending out a distress call. When strange events start to unfold on the flagship, the crew must fight for their lives and all of humanity’s as they struggle to discern friends from enemies.
This was a horror/drama piece I worked on for my introduction to screenplay writing class at university. It follows the story of Henry, a bus driver who has to deal with a mysterious mist as he tries to rekindle his marriage. But there’s more than just the mist Henry has to worry about…
What Lies Within Excerpt