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A good film owes its quality to the characters that make up its world. You can’t just write a good concept without coming up with equally good and well-developed characters. After all, it’s them that brings the story to life.
So, we think about the question: “How does one write truly memorable characters in film?”
Here are some tips that should be able to help you out, especially when you’re still at the beginning stages of your journey as a filmmaker.
Characters Must Have a Unique Background
It’s a fact that, with so many films put out by the industry, it’s difficult to find a good back story for the main characters that will make them stand out. However, you don’t have to fuss over the task too much.
You can, for instance, introduce the character as something of the mundane, but you can develop that further by introducing a little twist in the back story. Of course, like all twists, it has to be something that people will not expect. Remember that character who had a degree in architecture but decided to write greeting cards for a living? That’s Tom Hansen from 500 Days of Summer, and we have to admit that he was one memorable character.
Make Your Audience Relate to the Character
Writing that twist is for naught if your audience doesn’t relate or empathize with the character. It’s a fact in filmmaking that audience who relate well to a character can have emotional reactions to every experience the character goes through in the movie. That means that your film can only have a powerful impact on your audience if there is that empathy towards the character or the characters.
Continuing with that example, Tom Hansen and Summer Finn had a totally uncommon summer fling that majority of the audience must have been able to relate to, judging from the overwhelming response to the film.
Director Marc Webb did a good job of drawing out every excruciating detail of the relationship, from the feel-good phase to the really painful ones near the end of the movie. However, that approach can only be effective if the audience had a solid emotional connection to Tom and Summer, which completed the immersion to the film.
Introduce Character Motivation
The last part of a good character backstory is motivation, or impetus. What drives him or her to their actions? Having a unique but relatable impetus will flesh out your character in full, making him or her a truly memorable one that will stay with the minds of your audience; when you achieve this, your movie will have a cult following you won’t expect!
In 500 Days of Summer, Tom is a hopeless romantic who seemed to have found the “right” girl in Summer. Thus, he did what he did in the movie, which we all know end up in an unforgettable series of scenes and dialogues that still echo up until now among its audiences.
To summarize, a good and distinctive character must have a totally uncommon backstory, fleshed out by a set of empathetic experiences and motivations.