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Hollywood Jargon – Character-Driven

By August 12, 2016Script Advice


You’ve heard the term, but do you know what it means?

Do you prefer films with clear goals and lots of action, or films with intriguing characters who may not verbalize to the audience what they want? Do you prefer emotional development that drives plot or dramatic action that drives plot (often considered “high-concept“).

While the Greats (Wilder, John Hughes, Shane Black) could easily navigate between the two extremes as needed, most of us screenwriters have an instinct for one style or the other.

Character-driven scripts have a tendency to deal more with aesthetics and creativity, very much written in the vein of “right brain” thinking. While high-concept plots are often more structurally designed with clear A to B goals. Character-driven plots are born organically out of character. For instance, take films like “Scarface,” “Sideways,” and “Aviator.” Tony Montana, Miles (what’s-his-name) and Howard Hughes likely know what they want, but does the audience? Nope. We’re never quite sure.


Character-driven scripts are propelled by the character. Generally, someone memorable with tons of flaws – usually a prick you’d never want to meet in real life but would be fascinated by on screen.


Ultimately, what separates character-driven scripts from plot-driven scripts is the GOAL. Does the character want something tangible, something clear-cut? Or is it more wishy-washy… a feeling, to evolve and become someone “stronger…”

My frequent co-writer Norith Soth had a great point on the subject. He described the difference as being between an introvert and an extrovert. In plot-driven stories, the audience knows. In character-driven scripts, the audience wants to know…. you know?

Written by: Mich Medvedoff

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