Be detailed when creating your character so that your reader can imagine them.

Describe their height and build; the color of their skin, eyes and hair and provide detailed biographies. In doing so the reader can actually see a vivid image of the character before them, allowing the audience to live by your character as the story plays out.

The Naked Character Building CharactersWith writing a script, on the other hand, you must be careful about character descriptions. If you write with a specific actor (or actress) in mind, for example, there is no guarantee that you will book that actor. It is possible that the film simply can’t or that they simply won’t be interested. Casting is not the script writer’s responsibility, after all.

It is important, therefore, to write script and dialogue which can work with anyone. If a character would best be played specifically by Julia Roberts, for example, then clearly it is not a good script. Similarly, if a funny dialogue would only work specifically because it was tailored to Jim Carey’s unique personality and quirks, then clearly it needs re-working.

For a script to sell and made into a movie anyone should be able to play the parts as well as be able to do the lines. This is in essence what distinguishes writing for a book from writing for film.

While great actors can rescue a bad scene or deliver a lousy piece of dialogue with panache and get away with it, a script which depends on such actors is clearly a poorly written one. Stories and the dialogue they contain have to be made “actor proof”. This means that even if someone who has no acting experience gets hired for the role, that script should still be able to stand on its own merit, and still be able to deliver an impact.

A character’s inner character

A good way to craft your character so that they can be played by anyone is to pay less attention to their looks and to focus on what’s inside. An ideal character can be played by anyone regardless of their race, sex, age, and physical appearance from the perspective of a script.

To do this, it is important to focus on what it is the character is supposed to depict. While factors like race, sex, age, and appearance can indeed be central to the story, the character’s inner self must play the dominant role.

If, for example, your story requires a beautiful young woman and all people can remember at the movie’s end is what she looked like (and not the story itself, or what it was she was supposed to be doing in it), then clearly the character’s only impact was in her looks. There was no character in the story, in other words, only a face.

A memorable character is one who stands out, but not because of their looks (be they attractive or otherwise). They stand out because of what they exude, what they represent, or what they do.

There are three ways to make a good character. The first is to have them represent a stereotype (or the opposite of one), the second is to make them unique among other characters, and the third is to focus on who they are.

Stereotypes are the easiest. Take the James Bond films, for example. So many actors have filled that role, from Sean Connery, to Roger Moore, and even Pierce Brosnan. Bond is the stereotypical British gentleman who’s cool, suave, and capable, but dangerous and relentless, as well.

The problem with this stereotype was when they chose Daniel Craig as the latest Bond. He did not come across as cultured as the others, but he carried it off by focusing on what makes the Bond character: such as being an efficient killer and spy.

Making characters stand out from others is likewise easy. Main characters stand out by virtue of their role, after all. The trick, however, lies in crafting them to stand out in such a way that the story is not compromised. When Moore still played Bond at the age of 53 in a View to a Kill, critics felt that he had outgrown the role and was poorly cast in it.

Focusing on who a character is can also be tricky because again, such focus should not detract from the story itself.

Honing in to the character’s core

There are several ways to get to the heart of a character, stereotype or something else. The first is to describe them in as few words as possible to strip away all distractions, forcing you to focus on what it is they represent.

Are they the good cop or the bad cop? The laid-back but popular surfer dude or the serious and anti-social geek? Once you have decided on what type of character you want, dig deeper and find out what drives them, what they’re afraid of, and what secrets they might have.

Everyone has a goal, without which they would have neither direction nor purpose. In a movie, no goal means no story, so the character’s goal has to be the central impetus which drives them.

Likewise we all have fears. One of the best stories are about people who somehow overcome their fears in order to achieve their goal, perhaps the geek who overcomes his shyness to get the popular girl, or the hero who saves the world despite being cripplingly anti-social.

Additionally, we all have secrets, some worse than others. In movies, those secrets form the basis of many great scripts. Imagine the closet homosexual senator who passes an anti-gay rights bill.

Having delved into your character’s impulses, give them distinct habits and mannerisms. We all have them. Perhaps your character has a lisp, smokes only a certain brand of cigarettes, or carries around an object that has deep meaning for them. You might even want to give them certain expressions that others find antiquated, or an exotic accent.

In movies where they don’t show the faces of certain characters, audiences can still spot them because of these unique habits, mannerisms, or objects. They become associated with the character, in other words, and can sometimes stand in for the character itself. Harry Potter’s scar is one such example.