Screenplay Character

ABILITY

Give characters special abilities that set them apart from other characters, and the Average Joe. Establish these abilities early, and use them in the story later. Special skills might come in a variety of shapes and forms . .

  • mind reading
  • shape shifting
  • acrobatics
  • hypnotism
  • emotional healing
  • flying
  • languages
  • martial arts

. . but are limited only by your imagination.

These abilities will be the tools, or lack of tools (i.e., weaknesses), that your characters have at their disposal to overcome obstacles and achieve their ambitions. Clear character strengths and weaknesses help drive the story and help establish dramatic potential.

Giving your characters special powers, perhaps superhuman or magical, gives the movie a special charge (and can change the style and genre of your story).

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EXERCISES:
  1. Review a set of James Bond films. Consider how the main character is given special technical abilities by an associate early in each story. How do these play out later? Consider the value of the anticipation set up by this device, together with the expected payoff.
  2. View the classic The Guns of Navarone (1961). Consider how careful each team member is chosen based on his skills, temperament, etc. How does this help prepare you for the challenges they are about to face? How well does the set-up of skills pay off later?
  3. View the western The Magnificent Seven (1960) with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. Consider how the crew of gunfighters is assembled. How does it foreshadow future action?
  4. View the psychological thriller The Sixth Sense (1999) with Bruce Willis. Consider how the special ability of the Haley Joel Osment character drives the entire story. What sort of talent or skill can you give your central character that will have this sort of impact throughout?