A common thing observed in scripts is that the characters don’t differentiate between themselves. There’s no juxtaposition in terms of goals, looks, ideology, etc. So, what can writers do to make their characters pop? Why is it so crucial for a movie script format to have characters that can juxtapose from one another?
Importance of Character Juxtaposition
Characters need to juxtapose from one another is because it creates coherency in fluency within the narrative. It helps readers understand the characters. If characters on a page are similar, then readers will not be able to distinguish between them. So, if a script outline has characters without distinct action descriptions that differentiate them, then the read of the movie script format will not be smooth. These actions descriptions include personality, goals, motivation, etc.
The format of a script outline should be that the reader shouldn’t need to look at the names of the active characters. For example, Adam wants the money and Mike wants to stop him from getting it. Then readers will immediately recognize who is speaking in which dialogue. This is because their character motivations have been set from the beginning.
The motivation of the character does the talking. So, setting clear goals and motivations is the foundation of a smooth reading script. Now, going to the details like name, people shouldn’t put two names that are similar in a movie script format. This is because readers shouldn’t need to do a double-take to see which character is active at the moment. Writers should also avoid characters that are in effect but don’t contribute anything to the narrative. For instance, ensemble characters need consolidation because they are basically the same even if they have different names.
It’s a way to create coherency and is an example of a good craft. This is simply because it will make the characters pop. The characters pop when they have their own color and flavor that makes them juxtaposed.
Creating Juxtaposed Characters
In TV pilots, main characters are introduced by targeting one specific character attribute and resting on it. So, there could be a funny best friend or a sassy girl and that would be their main trait. The question arises that is it enough to focus on the archetypes to differentiate between characters?
The key feature is to individualize characters by setting clear motivations and goals. Writers can get by with nuanced dialogue and juxtaposing their characters by having contrasting goals and motivations. Or two characters can have the same goal but they should be motivated by something different. So, motivation always needs to be juxtaposed if the goal is the same.
So, suppose two characters are hunting for treasure and one wants to find it to feed his family while the other wants to be rich. They have different motivations that make one a hero and one a villain.
So, writers have to understand the fundamentals of character development. And they should let that guide who their characters are. The one who does it for his family speaks a certain way that complements his goal. On the other hand, the villain speaks in a different way that is a little darker and more villain-esque. The foundation primarily lies in motivation. Writers can play with the dressing after setting the foundation in their film script format. These are the details that make a script outline specific and the characters fun and unique.
The Bottom Line
The main thing to take away from this discussion is that the underlying motivation is what makes everything relevant. Writers who are going in the right direction but lack something should make sure to establish and juxtapose the motivations. It will help them juxtapose characters in a scene and create distinguishability. So, if writers struggle to make their characters pop, then the best solution is to go back to the fundamental goals and motivations. They are the cornerstones of the story that make sure that they’re in place.
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