How To's | Screenplay Doctor | Screenwriting

The Top Ten Checklist for Creating Winning Characters

31 Dec , 2010  

Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by:

Use this month’s checklist from the Screenplay Doctor to determine if your screenplay has compelling characters or if it’s time to head back to the drawing board. Email screenwriter@newenglandfilm.com to have your screenplay questions answered in an upcoming issue.

A successful script must contain compelling characters. If your characters are not fully developed, your script will most likely be rejected. Your job is to wow film industry executives! Here’s some advice on how to do that with your characters…

  1. EMPATHY: Executives demand characters with whom they can empathize. If they don’t care about your characters, they won’t care about your script and it will be rejected.
  2. UNIQUE: Characters must be unique with distinctive and/or surprising personalities. If they are interchangeable with other characters, then go back and rewrite your script.
  3. MAKE THEM HUMAN: Characters must have specific appearances, behaviors, hopes and dreams.
  4. GOALS: Characters must have clear and consistent goals, otherwise it’s clear that you don’t understand who your characters are or what their objectives are in the story.
  5. CONFLICT: Whether characters are having inner discord or disputes with others, characters’ conflicts must make sense and must be interesting.
  6. REASON TO EXIST: Each character must serve a purpose in your script and advance the plot forward in some way. You should get rid of any character that doesn’t.
  7. MOTIVATIONS: Characters must have clear and plausible motivations.
  8. BEHAVIOR: Characters must have specific emotional, mental, physical and/or social behaviors and traits.
  9. ATTITUDE: Show how your characters relate to others or don’t fit in, and how they view themselves. Characters must have specific attitudes towards each other.
  10. FLAWS: Characters’ flaws, such as insecurities, make them more identifiable and interesting.

    Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures — a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990. She is the author of The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! www.su-city-pictures.com ; www.su-city-pictures.blogspot.com/


Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures -- a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990. She is the author of The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! www.su-city-pictures.com ; www.su-city-pictures.blogspot.com/