In partnership with Creative Screenwriting and ScreenCraft, “First Draft” is a series on everything to do with screenwriting.
As a former studio script reader, I’ve read hundreds of screenplays—the good, the bad, and the ugly. A clear problem with most is that they fail to showcase unique voices for most of their characters. You could mix and match the character names with the dialogue and not see the difference—they are interchangeable and sound or read the same. And when they are interchangeable, that’s a clear issue when it comes down to a reader’s visualization of the script, as well as the potential casting later on in the development process.
Screenwriters need to learn how to create distinctive characters—but it is easier said than done.
Here we showcase seven ways in which you can determine if your characters aren’t unique—and how you can go about finding methods that make those characters stand out from the rest.
1. It’s Not About Accents and Syntax
Let’s first cover how not to make your characters seem more unique. While accents, specific syntax, and even different dialects technically make characters stand apart, you don’t want to use them as a crutch.
The wrong way to handle this situation would be to give everyone different backgrounds for the sole purpose of making them stand apart from each other. A majority of the time with most stories, the characters aren’t all going to have vastly different background and accents.
If you’re going to write a script that offers a diverse cast of characters, wonderful. But if you’re doing that for the sole purpose of making them stand out from one another, you’ve missed the point.
If their accents and dialects are different, but they are still lacking in unique characteristics, your efforts in possibly creating an excellent diverse cast of characters has failed. It can’t fall solely on accents or syntax.