When writing a screenplay, we are always balancing the details of the plot with the believability of our characters. I suggest that we writers must accept the fact that we cannot avoid being a part of every story, even if we are invisible. Use that fact to your advantage, and you will always write rich and believable characters. Two ways to mine your own experience are:
1.ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU WOULD DO. Ask yourself what you personally would do in the same situation as the one you are putting your characters into. No matter what genre you are writing in, people are people, and the person you know best is yourself, whether you like it or not.
This trick is helpful not just at the big critical moments in a script, but also within any scene you are struggling with. For example, if you write crime stories, and your character has to hold up a bank, but you have never even crossed the street on a red light, how are you going to easily imagine the scene you have to write or determine the placement of this event in the screenplay or outline? Here’s the trick: Simply ask yourself what it would really take for you to rob a bank. What are the circumstances that would make you do that? Or would you literally rather die than break the law? The answer may surprise you, and even better, it may also raise the stakes and improve your plot. By identifying what you would actually do, you will naturally contrast yourself with the character – and there’s the trick: It’s so much easier to know what’s wrong than to imagine what could be right.
2. INTERVIEW YOUR VILLAIN OR OBSTACLE as if he or she were the hero not the problem. Main characters are often passive, just trying to keep things going smoothly. It’s the villain or obstacle that is initially driving the story because he or she is actively pursuing a goal. For example, in any superhero movie, such the latest Iron Man, the main character is just trying to live happily ever after. The bad guys try to kill him and his wife, and then, he is forced to fight back. The villain or obstacle often acts as the catalyst who gets the action of the script started.
Further, the villain or obstacle often sees him or herself as the hero of the story, and is helpful to interview him or her without judgment. Here’s the tip: Set a timer for 10 minutes and now, take a moment to imagine yourself as the character, and write in the first person as if you were the character. It’s a very useful exercise, because you will get a fresh insight. Two questions I always ask are: “Why do you have it in for the main character?” and “What is your mission?” Seeing how you can “speak” as the obstacle or villain helps us sympathize and if not like, understand a darker part of our imaginations.
To recap, these two tips will help you create rich, living characters quickly and efficiently.