• Behind The Set

Making Characters Real & Relatable

So many films nowadays are very one dimensional, generic, and have one-aspect in their characteristics. Horror writers fro example often just go with the basic stereotypical character type thinking they will flesh them out more as the story goes on, but in the end, they rarely ever do leading to the viewers often having to watch the same characters repeatedly throughout many different films. Yeah the people playing those characters change, males become females, races change, and even the names change but in the end, it is still the same characters being portrayed the strong one, the nerd, the hot one, etc. leaving the viewer bored and unable to relate.

How can we write these characters to feel more real and become relatable in a way that our audience can connect with these characters on an emotional level? Well, one of the best ways to start is to create what is called a “Character Outline”.

A Character Outline is best described as almost being like a simplified Wikipedia page, and is actually quite a simple process to complete. You start out by writing the famous five Ws’ and an H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How), from there you can broaden out each of those Ws’and H into smaller subsections that will ask questions which will flesh out each of your characters into someone more real and relatable.



Who are my character's parents?

Who does my character idolize?


What is my character’s name?

What are some accomplishments my character has?


When does my character like to wake up?

When does my character like to go to bed?


Where does my character live?

Where does my character come from?


Why does my character get up at that time?

Why does my character live where they do?


How does my character like to dress?

How does my character spend their money?

Once you believe that you have asked and answered enough questions that your characters feel real, just organize everything and write it all out as if you were writing a biography (like Wikipedia).

The next step recommended in order to see if your character feels real is to read the Bios you have just finished writing. Once you have read the Bio enough to really understand who your character is and what your character's motivations are, then go take a walk in a crowded area.

When you are on this walk start to act like your characters, walk as they would, talk to people as they would, do things they would do, just really become your character for a while. In doing this you will see how people respond to your characters in real-life settings, and with that knowledge, you will be able to write accurate dialogue not only for your main character but real responses for when your other characters interacting with each other as well.

In the end, this is just two ways out of a multitude of other ways that might just help take your characters from basic, boring, un-relatable, stereotypical characters, to full-on real feeling characters that you could actually meet on the street.

(Note: When doing something like this for an antagonist, please remember that we DO NOT recommend anyone to BREAK THE LAW under any circumstances.)

David Laidley is an independent film teacher and the founder of Filmmakers Helping Filmmakers, a worldwide community that strives to help each other teach the art film and so much more. You can contact David through email filmmakershelpingfilmmakers@hotmail.com You can also join the community through their website filmmakershelpingfilmmakers.com or by finding them on Facebook.