Action Is Character

"Should I develop a character first and then a story, or should I develop a story first and then create a character?" "Is the plot more important than the Character or is the Character more important than the plot?"

These are questions many beginning writers ask when they first start their screenplay. However, there isn't really an answer because you don't develop either one first and the other second. Story and character develop from each other. They are synergistic and each one emanates from the other. Why? Each one is dependent on the other, because the character is the action and the action is the character. They are one and the same.

What does this mean? Let's look and see. Do you remember that special relative you always loved and admired? Do you ever wonder what happened to the mysterious couple who lived in your neighborhood and always had their shades drawn? Do you still fantasize about the most handsome guy in your high school? The one you had a crush on and who didn't know you existed?

In all of the above examples you had a particular person in mind, someone you knew, liked or feared. If you decided to write about any one of these people you would end up with a character, but you wouldn't have a plot. It would then be your job to take the character and put him in an exciting story. As you would get to know your character you'd begin to create the proper environment, problems and conflicts for him or her. Your story would develop as your character would develop. You would lay out your plot according to your character's choices, his or her decisions, actions and reactions. In other words the person your character is and what he or she does determines the plot structure of your screenplay.

Character driven films are those in which the focus is on the character rather than the action. Such examples of classic character driven films are Tootsie, or Rocky. In both cases, each screenplay features, and is named for, the main character. Each script also illustrates how the main character determines the action. You'd never create a frail, slight, educated character to play the role of Rocky. Nor would you create a stocky, muscle-bound character to play the role of Tootsie, who impersonates a woman in order to get a lead as a woman in a television soap opera. Could you imagine Mike Myers playing the role of Rocky or an action hero like Harrison Ford playing the role of Tootsie? Of course you wouldn't, because these characters wouldn't be realistic or create the necessary action to make the screenplays work.

Who your character is, what he thinks, feels and believes will determine how he or she will behave. Your character's actions must be consistent with his or her personality. You must have your character be realistic and believable through his or her inner motivation, desires, drives, as well as his or her outer goal. This will be discussed more in depth in a later chapter.

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