In screenwriting, characters serve as the driving force behind the narrative, captivating audiences and drawing them into the story. At the Toronto Film School, students are provided with the screenwriting knowledge to master the art of character development and create unforgettable on-screen personas.

Character Development

Character development is a crucial aspect of screenwriting that sets the foundation for a successful screenplay. A well-developed character has depth, complexity, and relatability, making them resonate with the audience. This may mean they have elements about them that contradict or seem conflicting at first, but then make more sense as the story unfolds.

Crafting the Backstory

The first step in character development is understanding the importance of a backstory. Just like real people, characters have a history that shapes who they are and why they behave the way they do. If you’re trying to improve your characters, delve into their past, exploring their upbringing, experiences, and motivations. This process enables writers to create multidimensional characters that feel authentic and believable.

The Character Arc

A character arc refers to the transformation or growth a character undergoes throughout the story. Try to create characters who evolve and change as the plot unfolds. Whether a hero overcoming their flaws or a villain experiencing redemption, a well-crafted character arc adds depth and emotional resonance to the narrative.

Distinctive Traits

Focus on unique traits and quirks for each character to further enhance character development. These distinctive characteristics make them memorable and instantly recognizable to the audience. Whether it’s a nervous tic, a catchphrase, or a specific way of dressing, these details help bring characters to life and make them stand out on screen.


Characters need to face obstacles and challenges that push them to their limits. By creating internal conflicts (emotional struggles, self-doubt) and external conflicts (physical challenges, antagonists), writers can create compelling narratives that keep audiences engaged and invested in the characters’ journeys.


Never forget the importance of dialogue in character development. Dialogue is a powerful tool for revealing a character’s personality, beliefs, and desires. Crafting distinct voices and speech patterns for each character elevates a story, and writers can create dynamic and engaging interactions that reveal more about their inner workings.


Subtext refers to the underlying meaning and emotions conveyed through actions and non-verbal cues. By incorporating subtext, writers can add layers of complexity to their characters and create moments of tension and intrigue. If you’re working on your characters, try to explore ways your characters can use sub-text to further communicate their needs and motivations.


Screenwriters must create characters that reflect the diverse world we live in. When creating your characters, try to explore different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. This kind of learning will only improve your storytelling.

Improve Your Characters

Aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters need the necessary tools to take their films to the next level. The art of character development is nurtured and celebrated at the Toronto Film School, which paves the way for the next generation of talented storytellers.

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