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How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part V

If you have not already, please read the Nicholl Fellowship introductory article.

The How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship is a series of articles:

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part I

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part II

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part III

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IV

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part V
How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VI

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VII

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VIII

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IX

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part X

Nicholl Director talks Screenplay Characters

In a recent interview, Greg Beal, Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, said this about script characters:

GREG BEAL: For me, Graham Parker’s song title “Passion Is No Ordinary Word” should apply to every story. If the writer truly cares about her story, her characters and the moments of true feeling she’s conveying, it appears on the page and on screen. If she can make her characters live and laugh and survive, then I have the opportunity to live through them, feel with them and learn from them.

The Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Characters

The team provided this sound advice on the Nicholl's Facebook page:

Often paired with dialogue is characterization, the next item on our reader's criteria list.

Filling a screenplay with vivid, memorable characters will impress readers, especially when those characters are appropriate to the story, genre, setting and arena. Whether they're heroes or villains, protagonists or antagonists, leads or supporting, characters need to be intriguing; they need to capture an audience's attention.

In addition to assigning varying traits to your characters, differentiating them as appropriate by age, sex, appearance, jobs, etc., it's important to give all your central characters their own individual voices. You don't want your characters to sound alike when speaking dialogue. If the adults, teens and kids in your family comedy all seem to speaking in one voice, how will a reader be able to tell them apart?

One quick example before we wrap up. Consider "Midnight in Paris" (and if you haven't seen it, you should). Woody Allen fills his movie with a host of characters, drawn from real life and imagined, and he gives them their own distinctive voices and traits. Those lifted from history - Hemingway, Dali, Man Ray, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, etc. - are distinctive whenever they're on screen. So too are the fictional characters - the Woody Allen surrogate Gil, his fiancee Inez, the beautiful Adriana, the record stand woman Gabrielle and the time-traveling detective.

If you can bring your characters to life on the page through their dialogue and distinctive traits, you'll be a step closer to drawing readers anywhere and everywhere into the world of your screenplay.

Reel Authors articles offering tips and advice on this topic include:

How to Create Great Characters

Understand Character Arc

Character Intros

Put Characters in Worst Possible Situations

How to Write Great Dialogue
The Stakes: Set Them High

Drama and Conflict

Your Script Must Emote Well

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Related articles on this site

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Nicholl Fellowship - introductory article

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part I: What are Nicholl judges looking for?

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part II: What Makes a Great Script - the Nicholl answers

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part III: What Makes a Great Story?

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IV: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Dialogue

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part V: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Characters

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VI: Nicholl and AFF Screenplay Competition Directors talk Screenplay Conflict

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VII: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Verbose Descriptions

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VIII: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Formatting

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IX: Nicholl Reader Comments

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part X: Additional FAQ

External links

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Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition - home page

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting - Facebook page

Example Nicholl-winning scripts

AFF Interview: Greg Beal, Franklin Leonard and Matt Dy

AbsoluteWrite: An Interview With Greg Beal

Moviebytes: Interview with Greg Beal: An Inside Look at the Nicholl Fellowships