Character Fireworks

There was a lively discussion on Scriptchat two days ago with guest Scott Myers. The topic was character-driven screenwriting. I joined in with the other busily-tweeting screenwriters near the end of the chat and was amazed at the great info flying around.

On a related note, I have recently been discovering how a minor scene change can make a big difference for a character. By merely altering the time or location of my scenes this week, I challenged my characters in intriguing ways.

Here’s one example. I needed my protagonist to confront another main character in the third act. But it wasn’t until I put the two together while the protagonist was already in a highly emotional state that the fireworks happened. How many times have we accidentally been on the receiving end of someone’s wrath merely because they were already in a foul mood? The wrong place at the wrong time. This is what happened to my poor character. Bad news for him, but good news for me as the writer.

Another example was setting a scene at night rather than day. I have a scene in which my protagonist finally accepts herself as an artist and sets to work on a sculpture. Initially I set this scene during the day. But when I decided to have her eschew sleep and work all night on her effort, it suddenly became much more dramatic.

We behave differently in various places and times, so our characters will too. It has amazed me how a small tweak can allow a scene and dialogue to flow much more naturally. It’s worth playing around with a small element of a scene to see what it can do to challenge a character and elicit changes. The right place. The right time. It can make a difference.

 

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