Screenplay Character


Define your characters by what they do and how they do it--as well as what they have done and how they did it. In other words: define your characters by their actions. In cinema character is defined by what a person does, not by what he thinks or says. As in life, these are often opposites of the personality he's presenting to the world. A man's actions can betray his true intentions, or show his words to be a lie.

Defining your characters by their clothes, the books on their shelves, their body language, their gestures, their facial expressions, makes not only for more economical and dramatic storytelling, it also exploits the magic of cinema. It brings your characters and your stories to life, and it can make them jump off the page and screen.

"Don't, therefore, simply tell us that a character is 'arrogant' or 'blasť' or whatever; show her reclining on a divan 'with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall,' as Fitzgerald gives us Jordan Baker in Gatsby, or show her 'revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air,' as one will forever remember the vulgar Myrtle Wilson."

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  1. Review the Clint Eastwood Man With No Name Trilogy, i.e., A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Then view some of his later films, such as The Bridges of Madison County. Consider the difference in how Clint's character is presented. In what ways is the earlier manner more effective for the types of roles he then played? How effective is he in other roles?