Fall in Love with Your Characters: Writing screenplay characters that resonate

I struggled for years to write a script that would make contest judges, producers and my twelfth grade English teacher sing its praise. Now, that it’s happened, everyone wants to know how I got here. Everyone, except my English teacher, I’m pretty sure she’s retired.

Well, I took classes, read lots of manuals, climbed the cliffs of the most exalted and marketed gurus. I got lots of sound professional advice. But none of it stuck. And then, IT happened.

In the end, it was like falling in love. My heart raced and my typing fingers tingled. The hero of my dreams was named Morgan Masters. He was only 16 and I was…well, a multiple of that. He had a social development issue and I had a debilitating addiction to the Boston Gay Mens’ Choir. But none of that mattered when we first met. I didn’t think about the whens, whys or hows. Unlike my failed relationships with ex-protagonists, I decided to let things happen naturally, organically. And it felt amazing. He fascinated me as no other character ever had. I wanted to get his view on everything.

“Fall in love with your characters” is not a cliche. It’s a screenwriting necessity. With Morgan, I discovered that the success of my script is wholly dependent on my relationship with the protagonist. If I’m dishonest, act passive-aggressively, or take his behavior for granted, then the story fizzles out. In this way, my writing process is similar to the rules of a satisfying courtship.
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