Characters who are well-rounded and complicated take the audience on an emotional journey in a movie. While developing a fascinating character description is a good start, creating memorable characters takes a lot of thought. There is possibly no greater guide than writer and director Spike Lee if you're a first-time screenwriter learning the craft of creating memorable characters.
A Quick Introduction to Spike Lee:
Spike Lee's debut film, She's Gotta Have It, which was released in 1986 and depicted the narrative of a sexually powerful woman in Brooklyn and her three lovers in black and white, grabbed our cultural awareness. Spike has frequently pulled on his own life over his long and varied career, which has included everything from historically Black colleges and universities to colourism in the Black society, culture collisions in Brooklyn, love and jazz, interracial relationships, and addiction. Spike Lee keeps making movies and moving: Malcolm X was named to the National Feature Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010, and his most recent film is Da 5 Bloods, which will be released in 2020.
What Is Character Development?
Character development in screenwriting refers to the process of giving a character a personality, depth, and motivations that propel them forward in a story. A character's evolution over the course of a story is also known as character development. Characters with personalities and backstories that are relatable are developed by good screenwriters. The narrative arc is formed by a character's motivations, which guide his or her actions and decisions.
5 Character Development Tips from Spike Lee
Spike Lee's character-development advice is backed up by decades of masterful writing. Spike's advice on creating great characters can be found here.
1. Create a distinct voice for each of your characters
Many characters say the same thing in young writers' stories. As a result, distinguishing your characters is critical. There won't be any disagreement if everyone is the same. Strong characters have unique backstories, personality features, mannerisms, quirks, and internal problems, which Spike recognizes. Make sure that each character in your screenplay thinks and talks in their distinctive way as you write it.
2. Give a few of your characters a shady viewpoint
"You could have your characters say some nasty things. That isn't something you're claiming. It takes bravery to develop fictitious characters with viewpoints that are opposed to your own, but you must trust that the audience will understand that a character's attitude does not necessarily mirror the writer's. You can't use your own experiences to guide your writing when you're creating characters with defects; this ensures that your characters are as real as possible, even if they're unlikable.
3. Create two characters who are opposed but, in some way, complementary
When activist Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) begins a fight with pizzeria owner Sal (Danny Aiello) about the wall of fame at his restaurant in Spike's 1989 masterpiece Do the Right Thing, he exemplifies this well.
When all of Sal's customers are Black, Buggin' Out points out that it's sad that he only hangs images of Italian Americans on his wall. Sal retorts that as the owner of the company, he has the last say on who's images are shown on the walls. Spike believes that it is having such characters with strong views or beliefs in what they stand for that makes it dramatic: when both people have strong convictions and are correct, and they come face to face.
4. Spend some time alone with your characters to get to know them better.
"Writers, in my opinion, must set aside a significant amount of time to write. You, your characters, and your tale are the only ones present. That is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you should cherish it." Character development involves time and focused attention, whether you're fleshing out primary characters or small supporting characters. Remove all distractions, including your smartphone, when you sit down to write.
Try new things. Allow your thoughts to go wild. Getting to know your characters is a crucial and sacred process.
5. Characters based on your findings should be written, even well before you begin writing the real script
You must perform the work. I have yet to meet a decent screenwriter who does not research the topic at hand. That's just one of the responsibilities." Spike uses music from the historical period, reads books and magazine articles, and watches documentaries to immerse himself in the period of his work. Researching real-life people and events connected to your subject matter is a terrific method to come up with interesting character ideas, even if your characters are entirely imaginary.