Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

Veteran TV Writer Ross Brown’s Trick for Developing Characters in a Screenplay

Ross Brown, a veteran TV writer, and creative writing professor, reveals his keys to character development in this interview with SoCreate, from the mystical to the more mundane things a screenwriter should consider when building their character list.  

You may have seen Ross’ name attached to hugely popular shows like “Step by Step” and “The Cosby Show,” but now he spends his time teaching other writers how to get their story ideas to the screen as the director of the MFA program at Antioch University in Santa Barbara.

“You need to not think of each character in isolation,” Brown told us. “You need to think of your whole pool of characters as an ecosystem, and think about what pressures each of them put on the other.”

Rather than listing characters, he suggests looking at your cast as a wheel, with your central character in the middle, and the secondary characters as the spokes. “Ask yourself how each of those secondary characters puts a different challenge, pressure, demand, or whatever, on your main character. And that will also help you to develop both your main character and your secondary characters.”

If you try and make the character something other than what they are, that really won't work for the script or the character. You need to not think of each character in isolation. You need to think of your whole pool of characters as an ecosystem, and think about what pressure each of them puts on the other.
Ross Brown

“Character development is really interesting. In some ways, it feels organic,” Brown said. “I try to let the characters speak to me. I know that seems a little mystical, but if you try and make the character something other than what they are, that really won’t work for the script or the characters.”

In a recent blog post, “How to Write Characters in Your Script that Your Audience Can’t Get Enough Of,” we also delved deeper into five tips for writing characters that your audience will be drawn to:

  1. Know your characters from the beginning

  2. Create clear motivations and goals for your characters

  3. Create a purpose for every character in your script

  4. Give your characters flaws

  5. Your passion is your character’s strength

For many writers, stories start with character rather than plot, making character development even more critical. How does your character development process begin?

Stay in character,

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