The Essed Syndrome

The more desperately your main character wants to reach his goal the more suspenseful and exciting your story. I always tell my students to make their characters have the ESSED syndrome: distressed, obsessed, suppressed, dispossessed, oppressed, stressed, depressed, repressed, messed, or possessed. These are just a few adjectives that help describe the state of mind of a desperate, complex character. Your main character's desperation creates the momentum that moves your story forward at an exciting, tension-filled pace. You're not writing about the well-adjusted, happy non-dysfunctional family, like The Partridge Family or the family in Eight Is Enough.

Every character wants something in a script, and each character is there to move the main character's story along to the climax. A character shouldn't be in the story, unless he or she helps move the main character's story. The more desperately a character wants something the more exciting your screenplay.

Great writing is about emotional conflict and we deal with stories in which the characters have personal problems, thwarted dreams, passionate goals. We aren't interested in stories that have no resolution to the conflict. We can experience that in real life, working in dead-end jobs, being in never-ending relationships and living lives of quiet desperation.

When we view a film or television movie, we want to escape, to see human beings who overcome the odds, who beat the system and who conquer the forces of evil. This is what writing is all about. This is why people pay for parking, baby sitters and movies so they can be entertained and hopefully experience a catharsis along with the main character's by the end of the film.

Characters don't just happen. It takes a lot of hard labor until you give birth to well-rounded, three-dimensional characters. To help you avoid some of the most prevalent flaws that writers make when creating characters, I'm including the five most common ones and techniques on how to avoid them. The following flaws are listed below to help you avoid making these mistakes before you begin to develop your characters.

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