(NSFW - Language)
Welcome to the first of, what I hope to be many, screenwriting lesson from yours truly.
These lessons won't be in any sort of order. Just whatever pops into my head that day.
I hope my unique insight will provide guidance to everyone from beginning screenwriters to seasoned vets.
If you want to know what kind of writing qualifications I have, you're on my screenwriting website, just look around and find out.
So, lets jump right into today's first lesson.
Writing Female Characters
As you've probably noticed recently in film and television, there's been more stories coming out with female leads. I think this is a great thing as long as it to share new stories, new perspectives, and not just to try and make a quick buck (Ghostbusters reboot I'm looking at you).
If you're a female writer reading this blog post then you don't need any help from me, a male screenwriter. As for my fellow male writers, I think I can give you some great tips on how to write great leading female characters.
Why? Well, for starters I've written several films and television shows where my lead was a female. I'll get into those examples later in the post.
The tips you'll find in this blog post are in no partiular order. They're all important but I can only talk about one thing at a time.
(To get the full idea of what this post is about I suggest reading the whole thing)
1. A Perfect First Impression
We have one shot to make our female character pop off the page. This is the first time we get an understanding of who she is. If you handle this wrong the whole script can fall apart. If you do it right, you're on your way to writing not only a film both men and women will love, but writing a film masterpiece.
So, how do we make that first impression?
We make it all about our female character's looks.
Forget about personality. Forget about what might be driving her internally.
How big are her tits? Does she have a nice ass? How beautiful is she? Like on a scale of one to ten. Did I already ask how big are her tits?
This is the basics of making a great female character not only pop off the page but also pop on screen.
For us to care at all about her she must have large breasts. In a perfect world we'd see them immediately. But we don't live in a perfect world and sometimes we've got to wait to see them.
So how would this look on the page? Well, first let's look at what it shouldn't look like.
KELLY, 20's, a hardworking farm-girl, who pushes herself to work harder than anyone else because she doesn't know any other way, works on her tractor's engine trying to get it back to working condition.
No other time in our script can we write in a novel style other than when we're introducing a character. It allows us (and the actress playing the role) to understand WHO the character is; what internally drives them.
But that example above is shit. That doesn't pop! But if we make a few slight adjustments, we can make her jump off the screen even if this isn't a 3D movie.
KELLY, 20's, breathtaking beautiful, in a low-cut top, bends over as far as she can to work on a tractor's engine. Sweat running down her perfect smooth skin, making her glow like an angel.
See how much better this is? We not only see how beautiful she is, but we get a nice shot of her tits to let us know she is in fact a woman. On the business side of film making, this brings the sex factor. Sex sells, and this shot alone in the trailer is going to bring people into the theater.
We can add to this if we'd like to show how smart Kelly is. Sure she's working on a tractor's engine which tells us she has to be smart to do that, but, we can really nail it home with a very small addition.
KELLY, 20's, breathtaking beautiful, wearing glasses, in a low-cut top, bends over as far as she can to work on a tractor's engine. Sweat running down her perfect smooth skin, making her glow like an angel.
See what I did there? She's weraing glasses. Only really smart girls wear glasses.
This wasn't the "in a perfect world" example. We only got a hint of her tits, which were covered by her shirt.
Let's take a look at the "perfect world" example.
Keep in mind this is the first time we ever see this character on screen.
KELLY, 20's, a perfect ten, completely naked, takes a shower, washing off oil and grease.
This gives us everything. We see her tits (probably ass too) and we see that she's a hard worker. How? A lazy girl wouldn't have oil and grease on her.
How do we make this even better and give the audence and reader a more clear picture of who this character is? With a nice small addition like this:
KELLY, 20's a perfect ten, wearing glasses, but nothing else, takes a shower, washing off oil and grease.
But she doesn't have to be in the shower. The only thing that brings people see to a movie more than a naked girl is a naked girl having sex.
Let's try it again. Remember, this is the first time we ever see this female character on screen.
KELLY, 20's a perfect ten, completely naked, rides a man in various positions on her bed. While he's doing nothing but enjoying himself, she's doing all the work and building up a sweat.
We see her naked. A+
We also see that she's a hard worker from how she makes loves, which of course, tells us a lot about her as a person. But, as usual, we can make this introduction even better.
KELLY, 20's, a perfect ten, completely naked, rides a man in various positions on her bed, adjusting her glasses as things get rougher and rougher. While he's doing nothing but enjoying himself, she's doing all the work and building up a sweat.
2. Wants and Needs
When you figure out who your character is, it then becomes much easier to figure out the rest of your story. When it comes to female characters there's only a handful of things the character could possibly want and/or need.
- A job in fashion.
- A boyfriend.
- A new boyfriend.
- A higher paid job in fashion.
- A makeover to get the man and/or fashion job of her dreams.
- Something stupid about being a mother.
What makes writing films (or TV) with a female main character easy is that women's stories really only involve the six things I just listed.
Once you have your character, which I'll keep as Kelly, you just have to figure out what she wants and needs.
If our perfect-ten Kelly wants a job in fashion you'll then start to see your script taking shape right before your eyes.
Wanting a job in fashion means she doesn't currently have a job in fashion. From no fashion job to a job in fashion. There's your arc.
Maybe she wants a boyfriend. If that's the case then that means she doesn't have a boyfriend right now. No boyfriend to having a boyfriend; arc.
You can just keep doing this for all the wants and needs I listed.
Now it's just about getting from point A (the start of your story) to point B (the end of your story).
But maybe you're a new screenwriter and don't fully know what to do to connect from A to B. No problem, I've got you.
3. Don't Let Her be a Bitch
To write a likable main female character she can't be a bitch. Save the bitch role for the villain of the story.
If Kelly wants a job in fashion, the bitch is going to be the female who's already working in fashion and doesn't want to hire Kelly.
If Kelly wants a boyfriend, the bitch is going to be the girl who's dating the guy Kelly likes.
You might be asking, how do I make sure my female lead isn't or doesn't become the bitch of my story?
Here are some helpful tips.
- Make your lead quirky then she can never come across like a bitch. Even in moments of possible bitchiness, she'll just be seen as eccentric, possibly a little weird, and that's better than being a bitch.
- Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, except beautiful girls, cause they don't poop. If she doesn't have an opinion on things, then she can't be opposed to someone else's views and in turn that keeps her from appearing like she's being a bitch.
- No matter what happens she always stays cool and never shows emotion other than love, happiness, or puppy sadness. What's puppy sadness? When a girl is sad but in a silly/fun way. Any other type of sad could make your female lead look like she's being bitchy and you don't want the viewer (or reader of the script) to start to dislike the female lead.
4. It's Always About a Guy
It doesn't matter if her goal is to start a new job in fashion.
It doesn't matter if her goal is something related to her kids.
At some point in the script she'll realize that she has just been trying to fill a hole in her that's yearning for a man.
She'll come to this conclusion right before the third act. When she realizes she's needed a man all along, things in her life will finally start to fall in place.
The whole script Kelly was fighting to get her foot in the door at Marge Fashions. But no matter what she did, she just didn't have what it takes to succeed. It's at this point in the script that she realizes the man she wasn't with is the reason why she is feeling so down.
Once she brings the man into her life that's when she finds things starting to go in her favor. Why's that?
It'll give her the confidence she didn't have before. Plus, as he's a man, he'll be able to tell her want to do, to land the job.
If your story isn't about fashion but about your female lead getting a man, then of course she's not going to "win" until she get's her man.
Maybe your script is about your female lead and something stupid with her kids. It's hard being a single parent and until she finds her a man that'll love her and her children, things will never go right.
You see, to have a good female character she must find herself an even better man.
5. In Conclusion Lesson
This brings us to the last lesson of this post and I'll focus it on my writing and my experiences writing female characters.
I don't define them as female when I'm writing a female character or the female lead. What does this mean? When I go into a script I don't say, "What would be an interesting female character?" Instead I just say, "What would be an interesting character?"
Females and males have one big thing in common. They're both human. At the end of the day if you want to tell a great story, you want to tell a human one.
You don't have to write a female character with sexy, female logic in mind, cause female logic is just basically saying, female troupes.
"Well, if it's a women lead, she'll probably wants this, cause all females want that." Bullshit.
"She's got to be strong but also sexy." Why can't she just be strong? In turn people would find that sexy which is just an opinion or personal preference anyway.
In a script I wrote, with Alvin Williams called, Street Nurse, which is currently in development and hopefully we'll be shooting the pilot soon, there's six main characters. Four of those characters, including the main lead, are female.
Not once while writing those roles did I think, "I have to show a sexy side to her" or "We have to remind the audience she's a women. It will be obvious to the audience when watching that they're watching a woman cause an actress will bring the character to life.
Sexy is defined as: sexually attractive or exciting.
When it comes to telling a story or exploring a character, that doesn't seem all that important, nor should it be, other than in a few circumstances. And in those circumstances, should it be "sexy" for us the viewer (reader) or should it be "sexy" for someone in the story?
For me I'd say it should be for someone in the story and if the viewer finds it that way then so be it.
How many times have you seen something in a film or on television the way I wrote it in tip number one? Where nudity comes out of nowhere. A sex scene out of nowhere, that doesn't move the plot along, or has an impact on the main character?
Think of when Megan Fox was bent over the car in Transformers and we got the camera panning up her body to get a nice look.
What did that have to do with anything? What did that tell us about the character?
We hardly see a male character this way.
In Street Nurse, the story surrounds a lead female character who helps the poor and homeless with medical issues that they don't have the money to take care or because of the criminal nature of their injuries don't want to go to a hospital. This character risks her life to save others. Runs into dangerous situations putting her life on the line everyday.
That's not just a sexy character. That's a human character that so happens to be female.
A character that's full of love, hard working, kind, a fighter, someone who leads others. And in life, as well as in the world that she exists in, sure that can be something someone can find sexy, but that's not the goal or intention of character.
Another quick example of a female lead character I'm proud of is in the upcoming Psycho Biddies which I was blessed to write ten episodes for and should be filming sometime this year. The character is funny, a real bad-ass, smart woman, all from her actions and the way Ali Chappell, the actress, will be bringing her to life. She's not made to be sexy or for you to gaze at, but those qualities might be something that makes you, and that's on you.
I guess what I'm trying to say is you shouldn't try and write a female lead in terms of thinking what's sexy or how do I write a woman. You should write a human, multidimensional character that just so happens to be a female.
I think if Hollywood would do that more often, we'd have more female driven films that don't rely on sex to draw in viewers.
Princess Leia a perfect example of a greatly written female character