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These charts can help you define your movie characters and understand them better. This knowledge is essential to keeping your movie on course.

They are based on tips from Chris Keane's How To Write A Selling Screenplay and Linda Seger's How To Make A Good Script Great.

Character Profiles
Plot-driving Conflicts
Inside/Outside
Backstory

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Psst: The best way to use these charts is to print out this page and write on it! With a pen!

Sounds crazy, I know!

Character Profiles

It's important to decide who your Protagonist and Antagonist are as soon as possible. If you're not sure who the Antagonist is, think of the character whose goals are most opposed to those of the main character. The "Buddy" character appears in most scripts as someone who emotionally supports the main character, and who sometimes offers comic relief. The Buddy may also change sides, e.g., a double agent. The "Love interest" is the person the main character develops a bond with over the course of the film, it doesn't have to be a romantic partner. It may also be the Buddy or Antagonist.

> Philosophy is the character's attitude to life: "I don't trust men." "I'm looking out for number one." "Family is important above all." "I deserve to be loved." Each of these beliefs can determine how a character will respond to challenges.

> Emotion/Attitude is how this philosophy expresses itself: the character is egotistical, meek, self-involved, dispassionate, or gregarious, based on how they feel about themselves.

> Appearance/Façade can often be the opposite of their emotion/attitude. A person who is insecure may show a brave face to the world, while one who values charity may seem aloof.

> Lives in... refers to how the character relates to time. Are their actions driven by their past? Are they someone who is totally in the present, or do they live on dreams of the future?

> Transformation contrasts who they are at the beginning of the film with who they are at the end. Preferably, these two states should be diametrically opposed. A Protagonist who is alone in the world should attain the love of many. An Antagonist who starts the movie the richest man on Earth should end up with nothing. The Buddy who thinks life is a party should realize the importance of responsibility.

'How To' Video



Character Philosophy Emotion/ Attitude Appearance/ Façade Lives in… Transformation
Protagonist:       Past Present Future From:

To:
Antagonist:       Past Present Future From:

To:
Buddy:       Past Present Future From:

To:
Love interest:       Past Present Future From:

To:


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Plot-driving Conflicts (Protagonist/Antagonist)

If your characters are not in conflict both externally and internally, your movie may not hold an audience. This chart helps name these conflicts and bring them out.

> The External movie is the A story, the main action that will keep the audience from falling asleep. The Internal movie is what is going on beneath the surface, or to use a Theatre term, the subtext.

> Under External Motivation, describe the event in the script or set of circumstances that causes the character to behave as they do during the story. For the Antagonist, this may have occurred before the story starts, but for the Protagonist it should happen early in the story itself. For Internal Motivation, ask yourself what the characters' key emotional needs are what is keeping them from being met.

> In the Action column, pinpoint the event in the film that shows (not tells) the audience what the character's internal and external motivations are. If there is no such scene, there should be.

> Your character's Goal is a logical outcome of their motivation. It may be a negative - to avoid having something happen - and it may also be subconscious. Knowing the goal gives you a touchpoint by which to judge how your character will respond to any given situation.

> In the Conflict box, make a positive statement of what the character WANTS. Knowing their motivation and goal should make this clear. The key to conflict (and therefore interest) in the movie lies in the fact that what the Protagonist wants is directly opposite to what the Antagonist wants. Additionally, each character's External "want" should be at odds with his or her own Internal "want". If it doesn't work out this way, you may need to rethink it until it does.



Internal/External Motivation Action Goal Conflict
Protagonist's name - External

.
.   TO Protagonist WANTS
Antagonist's name -
External

.
.   TO Antagonist WANTS
Protagonist's name -
Internal

.
.   TO Protagonist WANTS
Antagonist's name -
Internal

.
.   TO Antagonist WANTS

Now that the hard work is done, try and find a word or phrase that epitomizes your Overall Conflict. Examples: Betrayal. Discrimination. She's Too Good For Me. War. The Survival Of The Earth. Justice. Sexism. Corruption. Accepting Difference.

Overall Conflict Defining the Issue of the Movie:

____________________________________________________


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Inside/Outside

These questions are to help you think about your characters as real people.

The first, "What are they afraid of losing?" is very significant. Think about your own life: What, if it was suddenly gone, would have the most crippling effect on you, both materially and psychologically? Is it the love of your spouse? Your position in society? Being able to find a job? What most threatens your self-image and self-respect?

Knowing this, and putting it in peril, allows you to keep the "stakes" high for your character. The obvious answer is your life itself, and in many films this is at stake, but for it to be interesting there should be other issues attached. If nobody cares if you die, saving your life won't make for a satisfying climax.




Question Protagonist Antagonist Buddy Love Interest
What are they most afraid of losing?

.



.
       
What is their name, and why?

..

.

.
       
You have a photo of them in front of you. Describe it.

.

.


.
       
How old are they, and why?

.

.


.
       
Height and weight, and how do they feel about it?

.

.

..
       
Eye and hair color.
.



.
       
Scars or handicaps and the story behind them.
.

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Education, ambitions.

.

.

.
       
Music they like.

.

.

.
       
Room they are most comfortable in.

..

.
       

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Backstory (Protagonist)

There are many ways to go about developing "backstory". These particular questions are designed to bring out the key influences on your Protagonist's character. These are things you might not think about otherwise, and which may or may not come out in your movie, but which go a long way in explaining who they are and how they got that way.

Question Answer
What key event informs his/her attitude toward life?
(likely in childhood)

.
 
What later event intensified or added wrinkles to his/her existing inclination? How?

.
 
What was his/her parents' relationship like?
(relative ages, temperment, issues, behavior with each other or with kids)
 
What was his/her relationship with each parent like as a child? Now?

.
 
What fear dominates his/her life?

..

.
 


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.Copyright 2010, Mitch Moldofsky, All rights reserved

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