Writing - Characters In The Photoplay
( Originally Published 1922 )
Why Your Characters Should Be Worth Knowing.—Figuratively speaking, you will be the social sponsor of the characters you create in your photoplays; therefore, if you introduce the picture-going public to characterless or uninteresting people, you will be guilty of a social indiscretion, so to speak. The average person does not care to associate or mingle with people who are not worth while. Likewise, the picture-goer does not want to waste an evening meeting fictitious characters who are not worth the time and trouble.
The Secret of Writing a Good Photoplay.—To write a good photoplay you must become in love with your characters. If you are not deeply absorbed in the lives of the characters you create, you cannot expect the public to be. In other words, you cannot interest your audience in things in which you yourself have not become deeply absorbed. You must feel every thrill, all suspense, every joy, and every sorrow you expect your public to feel. If you cannot rejoice with your hero's triumph, weep with. your heroine's sorrow, rave at your villain's treachery—in short, if you cannot excite yourself with your own story, if you are not affected by all the emotions created by the events through which your characters pass, you cannot expect the theater-goer to be affected, and you cannot write a successful story.
Where to Find Characters for Your Photoplay.—Where do writers find the many different types of people depicted on the screen? How should the beginner proceed to create various characters for his first photoplay? There are only three ways in which photoplay characters can be created. (I) You must find your characters from direct observation or knowledge of people as you know them or have observed them directly in the actual world about you; or (2) you must create your characters from the things you hear and read about people, thus appropriating the experiences of others; or (3) you must create characters purely from your imagination.
1. Creating Characters from Direct Observation.—Creating characters from direct observation is of necessity a very limited process, for every man's experiences with various types of people is of necessity more or less limited. Obviously, a traveling salesman going about from city to city, from hotel to hotel, and meeting all classes and conditions of people, has countless opportunities to observe various types of human characters. On the other hand, the farmer, who naturally comes in contact with a limited variety of humans, would not be likely to create as great a variety of characters from personal observation as the salesman. Yet, when the actual writing of a photoplay is begun, the farmer might be able to create far more characters, and a greater variety of characters, than the salesman could; for there are other and perhaps more important ways to find people for plays.
2. Creating Characters from Indirect Knowledge.—This brings into consideration characters created from indirect knowledge; that is, from what the photoplaywright reads and hears of people. A great many writers create screen characters from things they hear about people, from stories and articles they read in books, in magazines, or in the news-papers. The characters of many of the greatest photoplays have been created from things the author has read about people of other countries and other ages. In order to produce "The Birth of a Nation," the producer, Mr. D. W. Griffith, of necessity was forced to create his characters from what in-formation he could secure from various historical writings, and what information he could gather from people who lived during the Civil War period. Many writers have devoted months of time to the reading of as many as three or four hundred books relating to the customs and manners and habits of the people of a certain period before they have attempted to create their characters. This method of character creation is not a good one for the new writer, however, because he is not apt to depict characters realistically unless he writes about people with whom he is more familiar—people who live in the now-a-day world about him.
3. Creating Characters from the Imagination.—The most common and the most successful way to create vivid characters is to mold them direct from your own imagination. It is not generally customary for writers to transfer to the screen characters whom they have read about, have heard of, or have seen in real life. The real artist prefers to remold the characters he has heard of, or read about, or lived with; he prefers to do this because he desires to create something different from the common characters of real life. Of course, all character-drawing must of necessity depend to a certain extent upon what the author already knows of real people; but the best method of depicting a character on the screen is to place yourself in the imaginary character's situation and determine the act of your imaginary circumstance. Therefore, your ability to create characters is limited only by your own knowledge of human nature. This, the third method of character creation, is the one for the average beginner to follow.
What Your Attitude Toward Your Characters Should Be.— When portraying a character on the screen, the photo-playwright may assume any one of three positions, so to speak, with respect to his characters. (I) He may gaze up at them in frank admiration of their virtues; or (2) he may look down at them in a detached or even openly hostile manner; or (3) he may assume a position of equality, whereby he places himself on a direct level with his characters, looking at them frankly and openly, in an effort to interpret all of their emotions in a sympathetic, friendly manner. Many screen writers assume an attitude of frank worship for their characters, especially their heroes and heroines. In many cases, especially where the photoplay tends to border on the allegorical, this is a good attitude to assume. In general, however, it is not a good idea to treat characters too much as demigods. The result is quite apt to be unrealistic. On the other hand, it is not advisable to assume a superior attitude toward your characters, or to adopt an attitude of detachment or open hostility toward them ; for the picture-goer is quite apt to assume the same attitude, with the result that his sympathies will not be aroused and your play is apt to suffer. The best attitude to assume toward your characters is one of frank equality. Stand on a level with the children of your brain; gaze at their virtues and weaknesses with frank, open eyes; study them in a friendly manner. Depict your characters in such a friendly manner that they seem to be well-rounded people. Try to ascribe motives for their actions, whether good or bad. Do not make your hero snow-white or your villain coal-black. There is good and bad in the worst and best of us.
The Importance of Moral Sympathy.—Moral sympathy with your characters is absolutely essential if your work is to possess value. Of course, your delineation of character must be impartial, and it is better that your sympathy with your characters should be implied rather than expressed ; but you must sympathize with them nevertheless. No writer can pro-duce work of permanent value, or even of temporary merit, unless he is close to his characters and sympathizes with them deeply. In this way, you cause your audience to sympathize with all of your characters, even the most unworthy. You should make your audience realize that the worst character of your play was human after all, although actuated by mistaken motives and warped ideas, which, however, were justified in his own mind.
Why the Audience Must Be Considered When Creating Characters.—It is vitally necessary that you carefully consider your audience. The average motion picture audience is made up of people of all ages, all temperaments, all degrees of education, or lack of it. It is obvious, therefore, that plays with a highly-colored sex appeal will hardly be acceptable to the average producer, due to the fact that he must take into consideration the large number of young boys and girls who frequent the movies. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to soar to intellectual heights that are far beyond the average person, and it is the average person who constitutes the motion picture audience. Just because a writer may feel at home in a lofty atmosphere, it does not follow that he will find a sympathetic audience among the motion picture public. You must always bear in mind the fact that your photoplays are not written for college professors; you are trying to sell your photoplay to a picture editor of average education, and he in turn is attempting to produce pictures that will appeal to the average American citizen. The average American is not delving into ancient history or worrying about the Einstein theory of Relativity. The average person nowadays is too busy earning a living to be concerned to any great extent with higher arts and sciences. Therefore, the average person is not interested in characters who delve in these subjects.
Why Characters Should Be Placed in Typical Environment.—You should begin your photoplay with action showing your characters in their natural element. For example, if the heroine of your play is a small-town girl who longs to , make a name for herself on the stage in the city, it will be much better to show her at the outset in a small town, dreaming of her future, than to begin your story with her already in the city and then try to explain the past with a sub-title. You should also show each character in some characteristic action when he first appears in your synopsis. If the plot of your production deals with the young man who has a mania for speeding, it might be a good idea to begin your play by showing him driving at a terrific rate in his car. In is way, a correct impression of your character will be made immediately.
Why Characters Must Be Up-To-Date.—Yesterday is dead. Forget it. Write of to-day. Make your characters modern. To-day is the day of action. Liveliness is what the world wants. Some conservatives may charge that people today are less wise, more rude, reckless, and impertinent than people of yesterday; but they are entirely mistaken. They misunderstand. People of today have merely learned to say more in fewer words, to be incisive, to omit all that tends to delay. Slang is more popular than ever—not because it is less meritorious, but because it is more vivid and less cumbersome. The difference between yesterday and today is the difference between a letter and a telegram, between a buggy and a motor car. We may have lost some of the poetry of life, but we have gained time.
The Kind of Heroine You Should Create.—The heroine of photoplays today is a far different creature from her sister heroine of the past. In the early days of motion pictures, the heroine was golden-haired, angel-eyed, frail and faithful, but lifeless and drab. Following this type, the vampire came into vogue. This vampire heroine marked what might be termed the second epoch in the development of photoplay heroines. Both of these extreme characters were too unnatural and unreal to be permanent. Both soon vanished from the screen.
Your heroine today must be like the girls and women of today. She must be democratic and reasonably proud; brisk; up-to-date; well-tailored; active; sophisticated, yet unquestionably wholesome. She should be innocent but not ignorant. Do not under any circumstances make your heroine the unsophisticated, silly type of old who was deceived by the well-dressed stranger, who generally encounterd her while out for his morning canter. This type of heroine was laughed off the stage and screen years ago.
The modern heroine should not be an idler, a time-waster.
She should have ideas, independence, and something to occupy her attention. The theater-going public is not interested in the idling, time-wasting, unoccupied heroine of yesterday. The modern girl is full of life and activity at all times. This is the age of action.
The girl of to-day is quite unrestricted by fashion and tradition. She wants to be more than a mere fiancee or wife. The modern girl wants to do something, to be accomplished, to develop her personality, to better her physical and social self. Your heroine should be that type of girl. Understand, she should not be masculine in any way; her femininity should only be the more attractive because of the new elements in her personality. Of course, your heroine must not be forward or coarse. Make her vivacious but not improper.
By all means endow her with a sense of humor. Until recently no one knew that a woman was supposed to have a sense of humor, but of late years this remarkable discovery has been made, and the photoplay is a good medium for displaying it.
When creating your heroine, don't be afraid to have her flirt, or kiss, if necessary. But if she is affectionate, have her kiss and run, not kiss and cling. The "vampy" type is objectionable; the former is not. The modern audience of today likes a heroine who is gay, vivid, active—purely from good spirit. The heroine in your play can be as vivacious as you want her to be, can even flirt on occasion, provided she is not trying to trick someone. A heroine may be animated, but should not appear silly or spoony. There should be a lot of gay, buoyant laughter behind all of her adventures, but the gayety and laughter should at all times be wholesome. By all means avoid having your heroine appear to be an adventuress. She may be admired by many men, may be the object of many men's devotion, but she should not under any circumstances attempt to do anything which might be interpreted as trying to take advantage of any of her admirers. It may be well enough to "kid them along," to use a common expression, but your heroine's motives must always be innocent and aboveboard at all times.
Some Things Your Heroine Can and Cannot Do.—Your heroine should be typical of today, but how far can you go in being up-to-date? The public at large does not care to see a heroine coolly smoke a cigarette. The world has progressed in rapid strides since heroines fainted at the least excuse, but it has not reached the point where it will tolerate this type of heroine. You cannot let your heroine indulge in any in-discretion and still be the ideal of thousands of movie fans. The world approves of many things to-day, where it once was shocked at the young lady who used perfume; but your heroine must not be suspected of being indiscreet. Little details of character often make a great difference in the way your manuscript is received by the scenario editors. They do not want you to create prudish characters; in fact, they prefer the gay, vivacious and dashing type, but you must be sure not to of-fend the average person.
Let your heroine dance. You will not offend anyone. Disapproval of dancing is dead. All the world dances today or loves to watch it. All the world loves to see a screen heroine who dances with a great deal of animation and seemingly for the love of it. And a great many married women find a great deal of pleasure in imagining themselves in the role of your dancing heroine.
Do not be afraid to have your heroine use powder and rouge. There was a time when provincial folks looked with horror upon the woman who dared to hide the shine on her nose with a little powder ; but we have now progressed to the point where we realize that a woman may powder and rouge without any loss of virtue.
How Your Heroine Should Dress.—Your heroine may be permitted to wear low-necked gowns, provided they are not extreme. A backless gown might not be objectionable if worn by an adventuress, but it hardly would meet with favor worn by your heroine.
There was a time when an elaborate hairdress was regarded as a device of the devil, but the belief that feminine beauty was only a thing to tempt men and lead them astray has gone the way of other barbarous superstitions and stupidities. To-day your heroine may adorn herself as she thinks best. The modern woman has revolted against many of the older ideas. Imagine the horror of the public at any woman who would have dared to "bob" her hair twenty years ago. Today it is common and has been adopted by the best people, especially those who are sufficiently alive to. assert themselves. So you need not hesitate to make your heroine modern in every respect. Let her swim skillfully, drive an automobile readily, ride a horse fearlessly, and dance with grace. Most moving picture actresses can do these things, so you will not be placing your manuscript under any handicap if you make your leading character one of this type.
Married Women as Heroines.—Until recently, most producers thought the public was interested only in the marrying off of the young heroine. The rush for young girl stars swept the country, but that day has past. Youth is no longer the main thing. The problem of youth readjusting itself to marriage is the theme of many of our best photoplays. So the heroine of your photoplay need not necessarily be a young unmarried girl. Many of the best photoplays produced today deal with the problems of married life. Forget the old-fashioned idea that romance died when a girl married. The married woman of today dresses just as well and looks just as beautiful as her single sisters. Many of the best stories produced on the screen assume that the most interesting problems of love begin at marriage.
Just stop and think of the married people you know. Where might you have helped some of them when dealing with their problems? Where could you have helped them to greater happiness with a word or two of advice? Where would a word or two of caution have saved a home from disintegration had you been so situated that you could have uttered that word?
If your heroine is married, she should preserve her appearance and youthful spirit. She should dress the same as the young unmarried girl of her day, she should look the same as she did before marriage, and should be attractive mentally and physically, and should maintain her interest in all the joyful things of life from the newest dances to the latest books.
As a matter of fact, the young married woman who retains her youth and beauty, and refuses to become an old lady after a year of marriage, ought to figure largely in many of your photoplays. This is a type found everywhere today. This young married woman who follows the latest fashions and refuses to be relegated to the back row with her grandmother, should feature in many of your best plays. This young woman dances with whom she pleases, talks candidly about things her mother never dared to think of except secretly, resents the idea that there are things in life she should not know about, says she will be better able to combat evil when she is fully informed about it, refuses to allow her husband to act as a guard, and yet is far worthier of his confidence than the ladies of old who nervously met their Romeos in secret lanes.
Why the Young Married Woman Makes a Good Heroine.—This young married woman offers you great opportunities because her husband is "between two fires." He likes to see his wife admired by other men and women and is anxious to have her wear the latest fashions and appear at her best ; still, something in his personality causes him to resent her refusal to resign herself exclusively to him and his home. Of course, he wants other men to envy and admire his wife, but he doesn't like to have them flirt with her. His better judgment makes him positive that his wife can always be trusted in evry situation; still, he is forced to combat an age-old feeling within him that his wife should be devoting herself exclusively to him. Here is a fertile field for finding characters. A story built around this situation will interest men and women of all ages, temperaments, environments, and education.
Remember the Young Mother.—Don't forget the young mother of today—she makes an absorbing heroine for many photoplays. In "Dangerous Curve Ahead," Mr. Rupert Hughes used this situation as a basis for his absorbing play. The wonderful success of this play proves that the heroine of your photoplay need not be a young girl who meets her hero in the first reel and marries him in the fifth. Your photoplay can just as well, and perhaps better, be built around the absorbing things happening in the lives of the young married woman who is the mother of one or two children. This young mother furnishes interesting story material because she is so different from her mother of yesterday. People yesterday thought a mother must devote every minute of her life to her children. They devoted themselves in this way too much, and often injured their health, not to mention their social future. Today young mothers love their children just as much as the mothers of the past, but they have grown more sensible. They realize that a mother can care for children properly and still maintain interest in other things. Yesterday the world looked with horror upon the mother who would go out in the evening and leave her children in the care of a nurse-maid. Today this is common. The world realizes that a mother owes something to herself and to her husband—that she has the right to enjoy life, to be up-to-date, to preserve her health, to enjoy wholesome sports and amusements, and to think occasionally of other things besides her children. Of course, there are in every community a few individuals who still cling to the old ideas, but they are so few in number that they will not injure the prospect of selling your photo-play if you deal with the modern woman. Motion picture making is an up-to-date art and 'insists upon dealing with the up-to-date world as it actually exists.
Do Not Create Characterizations for Well-Known Stars.—Do not make the fatal mistake of creating a leading character in your story to be played by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Lillian Gish, or any other star! Write with only your own particular characters in mind, regardless of how tempting it may be to fit a story around a screen personality you admire or how great your understanding of the type of .parts he or she plays. Create your own characters. Leave the fitting of people to your characters to the director.
Keep Your Hero Smiling.—It is perfectly proper and right that your hero should be serious at times, but never solemn. Solemnity never should creep into your photoplay. Make your hero a laughing, active man full of the spirit of modern life. Picture audiences of to-day care nothing what-ever for the solemn heroes of Tennyson's day. Years ago people admired heroes who wasted away from love; they be-came enamoured of long-faced sentimentalists who solemnly mourned in sylvan glades because their Juliet would not answer the call of their moaning guitar. The photoplay has happily taken this character out of fiction; it has put a smile in romance. Heroes no longer bear a perplexed frown because of defeat; the screen hero today smiles both in defeat and victory and his smile pleases the audience. Understand, your hero should not be a grinning idiot. He should not smile merely for the sake of smiling. There should be a reason for his smiles. Your plot itself should furnish the situations and characterizations for a good-humoured hero. Furthermore, your hero's smile should not be one of good-humoured laziness. It should radiate cheer and optimism and determination to forge ahead regardless of obstacles and disappointments.
Keep Your Hero Clean.—The public will not tolerate a hero of questionable character. Of course, he should not be a Sir Gallahad—he should act like a normal, red-blooded young man. He may even err and see the error of his ways, but never, under any circumstances, should it seem that erring is willful or intentional. His mistake should be the result of carelessness, thoughtlessness, mischievousness, or recklessness, but never the result of direct intent.
It is not desirable to write a story around a hero who is a criminal. For one reason, it is practically impossible to get the censors to pass such a play. Furthermore, a real criminal is seldom heroic. There was a time when criminal heroes were quite popular, but it is not now advisable for the beginner to attempt to write a photoplay around a "Jimmie Valentine."
By all means your hero should not be the type who makes love to married women or deceives simple girls. This will not only offend good taste but will undoubtedly prove unacceptable to the censors. Neither should your hero be made ridiculous by being constantly surrounded by a swarm of pretty girls making love to him. The public does not care for "he-vamps." They feel that the hero of such a photoplay is not sufficiently manly to be a real hero.
Better a hero who is backward in love affairs than one who is "tricky." The heroine may be capricious and perhaps uncertain in her devotion but you must not endow your hero with these traits. Let your hero suffer from the whims of your heroine, if necessary, but do not let her weep and wonder about him. His love should be constant; it may even border on worship. His should keep the sympathy of your audience. Your hero should be devoted to one woman. He should be constant and reverent. He should be willing to overcome any obstacle to secure the object of his affection. But he should not be a slave to his affections. The type of hero who tears his hair, expostulates, protests, vows, swears, and broods, never has been and never will be popular with American audiences.
Your hero should not be all virtue. A few faults will make him more human. He will not be injured in any way if he has a few of the amiable weaknesses of the average American man; he will not be ruined if he mildly uses profanity and smokes cigarettes. Of course, these slight vices will not raise him in public esteem, but they will prevent him from seeming too angelic, too good, unreal.
Make Your Hero a Character to Be Admired.—We are all idealists when we attend the movies ; we like to see characters we can look up to and admire. Women especially are apt to think unconsciously of the hero as an imaginary husband or admirer. Therefore, you should inject into your plot situations that emphasize the hero's strength, constancy, and fidelity. Women admire sincere men. They look for this character in film heroes. So when creating your leading male character for the screen, always satisfy yourself that he will be approved of as an ideal husband or admirer.
Like your heroine, your hero should have something to do. The public will not tolerate an idler as a hero. They demand one who is keen, strong, intelligent, and very much in love with his work. He must have a "job." And your photoplay should deal more or less with his work. The main events of your plot and its climax, however, need not deal with this phase of his life.
Nothing will injure your photoplay quicker than to have your hero appear conceited. It is permissible to make him proud, but he should always seem democratic. He should not pose. He should never be placed in situations where he appears self-conscious. He may be strong and determined, but he should be considerate of others. He should be considerate of women's comforts; courteous without being excessively polite.
Number of Characters to Put in Your Photoplay.—The average photoplay should contain from five to ten characters of sufficient importance to impress the audience. In some cases it is possible to evolve a strong plot with less than five characters, but this is rather a difficult undertaking for a beginner. Futhermore, it is difficult to depict character strongly where so few characters exist, because there is a lack of contrast which is readily produced when several characters are introduced. In other words, the strength or weakness of any character is brought out by that character's contrast with other characters in the photoplay. As an example of character contrast, consider Tom Mix in some of his Western pictures. Mr. Mix does not pretend to be much of an actor. He merely attempts to do real Western stunts with brilliance and fidelity. He is masculine, athletic, rugged. As a rule, a very effeminate leading lady, of the willowy, clinging type is selected to play opposite him. By this device of character contrast, the talent and the dominant traits of each character are made to stand out strongly in the eye of the audience. The result is pleasing and effective and is sure to enhance interest.
A photoplay is greatly improved by a varied cast, especially when the different characters represent widely variant ages and conditions of life; but you must be exceedingly careful not to introduce too many characters in your play. While too few characters make for lack of contrast and cause the spectator to weary of the same faces, too many characters, on the other hand, will only serve to confuse the audience, muddle your plot, and make your story very uninteresting. While it is not generally desirable for the beginner to attempt to build a photoplay around two or three characters, it also is very undesirable for him to make the mistake of introducing a great many characters, most of them more or less unimportant.
The Age of Your Characters.—As a rule, it is advisable to use heroes and heroines who are young, or in their prime. This is not an infallible rule, and it may be possible to build a wonderful plot around the life of an elderly person. Generally speaking, however, the public prefers strong, young heroes and beautiful, charming heroines. These youthful main characters are greatly enhanced in effectiveness, though, when some of the minor characters are of greater age, more experienced, less unsophisticated. Undoubtedly, you have seen Theodore Roberts' expressive face, with its shaggy eyebrows and inevitable cigar, in support of many youthful heroines. Mr. Roberts' finished artistry and careful attention to rich detail, not to mention his rugged characterizations, have undoubtedly contributed more to the success of several of these youthful heroines than the average person realizes. While it may not be obvious to the casual theater goer, the minor characters in a photoplay, when they are carefully selected so that they evince considerable contrast to the main characters, very often contribute a great deal more than their share to the success of a photoplay. Your admiration of many of the beautiful, though rather characterless, female stars you may have seen has been engendered in a large measure by the meritorious support they have received. So it behooves you by all means to devote considerable attention to your selection of the minor characters in your photoplay, to make them in contrast with the leading characters so as to strengthen your characterization.
Be Careful of Extremes.--When writing their first photo-plays, many beginners take a short-cut and attempt to get quick, effective results by creating a villian of the blackest dye, an unmistakable "Jack Dalton," who ominously strokes his piratical mustache while plotting dastardly deeds. This type of scoundrel may register quickly on the screen, but he will soon be laughed out of the picture by a public which will not tolerate such a character. On the other hand, a sanctimonious hero who passionately pleads for justice when there is no important issue at stake will not "register." Neither will your heroine seem interesting if she is merely snow-white. When creating characters, always remember that there is good in the worst and bad in the best. No one is all white and no one is all black—they are merely contrasting shades of gray.
How to Make Characters Seem Real.—Each character you create should be a living, breathing person who will stand out from the typewritten page even before the director and actor take him in hand. This realism may be produced in many instances by drawing your characters from people you know; at least, your characters should be people you might easily have met. By studying your friends and relatives, and the people you meet every day in your home and out of it, you will make your photoplay characters more natural and life-like. It would also be a good idea to carry your characters in your mind for some time before you begin the actual writing of your play. You will then become intimately acquainted with them. You will get to know them so well that you will be absolutely sure of the reaction they will take to any given circumstance. Until you are perfectly acquainted with the real disposition of the characters you are attempting to bring to life on the silver-sheet, you should not write a line of your play; for if your characters are vague to you, you certainly will not be able to make them real to the editor who reads your synopsis. And the real character drawing in your photoplay must be done by you in the synopsis. You cannot leave this to the person who makes the scenario out of your synopsis or to the director who produces the photoplay. Even a skillful character actor cannot create a character who has not lived in your own mind. So the question of character portrayal in your work is an important one and should be given careful consideration.
How to Characterize the People in Your Photoplay.—To say that your hero is "a good-looking young man" is not enough. Any number of young men would fit in with this description and yet might differ radically in character. If you label your heroine as "young and pretty" you are not characterizing her in the least, for many young girls fit this general description. To say that the mother in your photoplay is an elderly woman will not suffice. She must be given distinguishing characteristics. You must show by her appearance, by her actions, by her mannerisms, the exact kind of elderly woman she is. When she first appears in your photo-play she may stop to speak to a little child; or, on the other hand, she may quarrel with a tradesman. These two actions indicate two very different types of women.
You cannot portray character in your photoplay by means of subtitles. You cannot say that So-and-so is Such-and-such. You must bring out his character by the things he does. It will not do to say that your heroine is "graceful and athletic"—you must bring this fact out by showing her playing tennis or engaged in some other similar sport.
The things your characters do throughout the story must not only help to bring the plot to its climax, but must also be consistent with their personalities. Therefore, after your characters have been introduced and their characteristics have been clearly impressed upon the mind of the audience, you must be on your guard against inconsistencies of character. Each of your characters should react naturally to the various situations as they arise. The brave young man should be courageous, the schemer should be plotting, and the erring one should continue his crooked way, at least for a time.
Difficulties of Character Reformation.—This brings us to a consideration of reformation of character. While some plays are built around the idea of character reformation, the idea is a difficult one to handle. As a rule, reformations are not convincing, and it is almost impossible to put a character through a chain of circumstances that will make a reformation seem plausible. There must be something to make the change convincing and the change must take place very slowly. The character change which takes place must begin early in the story and must progress in such a gradual manner that the audience is hardly cognizant of the change until it has taken place.
Take "The Miracle Man" for example. This great photo-play was an excellent example of a production built around the idea of character reformation. The play was very successful and very realistic, due entirely to the fact that it was handled in a rarely skillful manner. While it is possible to produce a play of this character, it is so difficult that the beginner is advised against attempting to write any synopsis in which the main personages undergo any great change of character.
Identify Characters Quickly.—As soon as any new character enters the plot of your photoplay, it will be a good idea to have him do some little thing that will reveal his character to the minds of the audience. If the main character of your play goes out of his way when he first appears to kick a dog, the entire audience will immediately understand his disposition and will be expecting subsequent cruelty on his part. These little glimpses into the hearts of your characters should be introduced as early as possible in your story without betraying the importance of each character to the plot. The characters in your play should enter and meet much as they do in real life without the audience knowing which ones are to have the most to do with the story itself.
Why You Must Consider the Actor.—When creating characters in your photoplay, remember that they will be brought to life on the screen by real men and real women, so you cannot demand or expect the impossible. All actors are not daring horsemen, high divers, fearless lion tamers. Photo-plays featuring these types of rare characters are especially written in studios by hired writers who know the accomplishments of the actor for whom the play is being written. The photoplay you write should be so endowed with characters that any number of companies could produce it. In this way your chances of success are infinitely greater.
Also remember that every motion picture actress is not the most beautiful woman in the world, and you are only making it impossible to sell your work if you feature this type of heroine in your production. Furthermore, you cannot expect to sell your photoplay if the heroine is to be dropped from the top of a building, thrown from a bucking bronco, or fed to the lions. Motion picture actresses are only human, like yourself, and the young lady who is to play the leading role in your production may have aged parents at home entirely dependent upon her. So you must be considerate of your characters; that is, if you expect to sell your work.