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Now, of course, a ‘unique voice’ doesn’t necessarily mean an accent or anything spoken. It can, but we’re talking more like how they speak, how they carry themselves. What makes them different than an average guy (or gal)? What makes them unique? What gives them their own unique voice?

Each (or at least most) of your supporting-characters should have a story-arc of their own. Bonus points if each of these sub-plots has its own three act structure.

The second act is where you’ll be doing most of your supporting-character work. The first act is mostly concerned with introducing everyone and getting the plot off and running, there’s usually not too much time for sub-plots. While the final 10 or 15 minutes of the script is usually reserved for the big climatic scenes like the final-battle and the climax itself, leaving little more than a few seconds in the denouement. So, that leaves only a tiny bit of the first act, a tiny bit of the third act, and all of the second act for the majority of your supporting-characters and sub-plots to play out. Which is good, as second acts tend to be boring, so you’ll need a lot of distractions to keep audiences interested.

When you watch movies from now on, pay attention to how they introduce each character. Watch when they tell you the character’s name and how they do it. Watch how much backstory they give you in such a short amount of time (and space on a page). Watch how the relationships between the characters are subtly shown within each scene. Etc...

It’s so easy to focus all your time creating your screenplay’s main-character that you can completely forget about your minor and supporting-characters! Don’t make this mistake!

Your supporting-characters should be as interesting and fully-fleshed out as your protagonist. You should know their back-stories and personal-histories. You should be able to speak in their voices. And they should each have unique voices. All your characters should.

Watch the scene above (from Armageddon).

Notice how much about each character the screenwriter gets across in just a line or two! One little scene, and it tells us everything about these guys’ characters.

A two-minute scene - with a dozen different characters - yet it still manages to be funny. It still manages to give each character a voice. It still manages to show us a little bit about each character, despite how little space the screenwriter had to do it in.

Take a look at how much the screenwriter tells us about these characters in even less time:

The Supporting Cast Breaking Away (1979) - Theatrical Trailer

Screenwriting 101:

PROPER SCREENPLAY FORMAT

SCREENWRITING SOFTWARE

SCREENPLAY TEMPLATE

SAMPLE SCREENPLAY PAGES

BEGINNER SCREENWRITERS

FILM SCHOOLS

SCREENWRITING DEGREES

SCREENPLAY STORY STRUCTURE

HOW LONG SHOULD EACH ACT BE?

THREE ACT STRUCTURE

START WRITING NOW

STORY-STRUCTURE TEMPLATE

THE FIRST TURNING POINT

THE SECOND TURNING POINT

PROTAGONIST’S CHARACTER-ARC

GET COVERAGE


FORWARD CLICK HERE to see our story-structure analysis of the film Breaking Away (1979) Writing Relatable Supporting-Characters

Watch the opening of Breaking Away (1979), one of my all-time favourite films (and an Academy Award Winner for Best Screenplay). Actually, don’t just watch the opening, watch the whole movie. It’s that good.

Then, read our more detailed analysis of Breaking Away’s story-structure here.

After just the first scene, you the viewer, know just about everything about these guys. The screenwriter lets you know everything you need to know. Immediately.

You know that Dennis Quaid is the leader. You know that Daniel Stern is the shy, funny poet. You know that Dave is a champion cyclist who thinks he’s Italian. You know that Moocher is the runt of the litter. They live in a small town. They are old friends. Etc...

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