CHARACTER-DRIVEN or PLOT-DRIVEN?
When you write a screenplay, or any kind of story, do you typically begin with the plot or with a character?
Some people see a movie, read a news story or magazine or book and a light comes on for them. Others see a person, usually a public figure of some kind, whether internationally or just locally famous, and decide that that man, woman or child would make a great character to build a story around.
There is no wrong approach, of course, but how you choose will have a definite impact on the results of your script.
If you are the type of person that comes up with plots first, you probably sometimes have difficulty with the development of the protagonist because you have mainly been giving thought to how the story evolves and how it is resolved.
If you are a plot-first writer, the thing to do is to finish at least a basic outline of plot complications and resolution. Then, ask yourself what type of personality (not vocation) would this story be the most difficult for? In other words, you want to make it very difficult, almost psychological torture, for the character who must resolve this story.
Think Roy Scheider's character in “Jaws.” He was a city cop who moved to a small town to appease his wife and to get away from the violence. He is also someone who was traumatized at a young age by an incident in the water. So, naturally, he not only comes up against a more extreme violence by a perpetrator who is almost impossible to reach, but that perpetrator lives in the ocean.
Build your character like that. Don't make the character obviously incapable of facing this crisis – not on the surface, at least. It's better if the character appears to be educated and trained well enough to handle it, until we find out that there is a deep, dark secret he/she keeps hidden from most, if not all, of the characters in the script.
If you are the type that comes up with characters first, then you can simply flip the script with regard to the above. Completely flesh-out the character, and then decide, according to personality, temperament, life situation and job, what would be the most difficult crisis for this person to handle. Make sure that the characters personality flaws make it very difficult to resolve the conflict, but make sure the character is, on the surface, apparently able to deal with a problem like this.
So there really is no right or wrong approach. They are really opposite sides of the same coin. The approach will, however, directly affect the script as to what is focused on. In the plot-driven screenplay, the focus is usually on resolving the plot and character is not as well-defined as in a character-driven script. By its very definition, plot-driven is more concerned with the plot.
And character-driven is more concerned with how the character evolves and the changes the plot forces the character to make, the fears and flaws he/she must confront and how that character is either changed or unchanged at the end of the screenplay.
I've just created a closed Facebook group called Screenwriters World. If you are interested in screenwriting, or ever thought you might want to learn how to write a movie, come and join the group. We're going to learn and grow together. It should be a fun ride. Anyone who wishes to join, please point your browser to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/440606673062245/