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Updated by Frontrunner Magazine on May 14, 2018
Headline for Screenwriting Essentials: 5 Keys to Writing the Perfect Movie Character
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Screenwriting Essentials: 5 Keys to Writing the Perfect Movie Character

Your film's main character is arguably the most important part of your story. She or he is the one that each person in your audience will identify with — and root for — on the adventure that makes up your plot. It's vital that your protagonist is strong-willed, courageous, and active in every decision along the way, but most important is that they change over the course of your film. That arc of change is the key to creating a satisfying experience for everyone who comes along for the ride.

1

Something They Need

Something They Need

At the beginning of your story, your main character should be in a state of disunity. They lack something important; maybe it was taken from them in the past, or perhaps they're on a quest to attain something new. It might be an internal evolution, or a tangible prize. In either case, your character needs something, and that's what drives the story forward. This need must be strong enough to push the main character through conflict and all the way to the climax of your film, where they'll either accomplish their goal or come up short — the ending is up to you.

2

A Key Obstacle or Opponent.

A Key Obstacle or Opponent.

Most stories feature a strong villain that must be defeated in order for the hero to succeed. Remember that the stronger your villain is, the more impressive your main character will be when they emerge victorious in the end. This is true of every obstacle the main character faces throughout the plot. Give your protagonist a series of tests and challenges that help them grow, then force them to face the ultimate opponent at the most important moment of the story.

3

A Special Power

A Special Power

Your main character should have a particular skill or strength that sets them apart from normal people. It doesn't need to be a supernatural power or a magical weapon of some kind — it can be just as impactful to give your character a superior intellect or poetic soul. The important thing is that your character's strength comes from their desire to achieve the central goal of the story, and it's what aids them in overcoming the challenges set in their path.

4

A Mentor

A Mentor

Of all the archetypes your main character will meet along their journey, the mentor is the one who will be most instrumental to their growth. Whether it's a teacher, a parent, a friend, a spiritual figure, or none of the above, the mentor's primary role is to arm the main character with the wisdom and tactics they need to be successful. It's not uncommon for a story's mentor character to die before the end of the film, once their role in the main character's growth has been fulfilled.

5

A Love Interest

A Love Interest

"Love," in this context, does not refer exclusively to romance. While many films feature a strong romantic relationship at the center of the plot, it's not necessary that your character have a kissing scene for your film to be great. What matters more is that your character develops a strong bond with another character, and that the bond serves as a catalyst for their growth. Whether it's a friend, family member, coworker, or a romantic partner, this kind of "love interest" is universal and represents the importance of connecting deeply with others.