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Scott Myers

About the Author


Im Scott Myers and I have been a screenwriter for three decades. I broke into the business when
I sold a spec script to Universal Pictures which became the hit movie K-9 and spawned two
sequels. I've written over 30 movie and TV projects for every major studio and broadcast
network, including Alaska (Sony/ Castle Rock), and Trojan War (Warner Bros.). I have been a
member of the Writers Guild of America, West since 1987.

I graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts degree (with Honors) in
Religious Studies and Yale University, where I received a Masters of Divinity degree cum laude.
Ive variously enjoyed stints as a musician and stand-up comedian.

From 2002-2010, I was an executive producer at Trailblazer Studios, overseeing the companys
original TV content development for Scripps and Discovery networks.

In my spare time, I took up teaching in 2002 in the UCLA Extension Writers Program, receiving
its Outstanding Instructor Award in 2005. For eight years, I was a visiting lecturer in the Writing
for Screen and Stage program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2010, I co-
founded Screenwriting Master Class with my longtime friend and professional colleague Tom
Benedek whose movie credits include Cocoon.

In 2008, I launched Go Into The Story which for the last five years has been the Official
Screenwriting Blog of the Black List. Some numbers: The site has had over 10 million unique
visits, 20 million page views, and I have posted 20,000+ items for over 3,000 consecutive days.
The Go Into The Story Twitter feed has over 43,000 followers.

In November 2015, I went public with the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge write an entire script
draft in 30 days and over 1,000 writers joined in. Out of that, the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook
group emerged and as of January 2017 has over 1,400 members.

In 2016, I was excited to be offered and accept the position of Assistant Professor at the DePaul
University School of Cinematic Arts in Chicago where I teach screenwriting to both
undergraduate and graduate students.

The adventure continues...

Scott Myers
About the Go Into The Story PDF Book Series
Two motivators I had in launching Go Into The Story in May 2008 were:
1. to create an extensive online resource for writers and
2. to provide that information for free.

The world needs more diverse voices in the filmmaking community and making
educationalcontent available to anyone and everyone is my humble way to facilitate that
vision.

There are currently over 20,000 posts on my blog and while an impressive number, it can
be overwhelming for readers. So, based on suggestions from several people, I decided to
launch a new initiative:

Make a new Go Into The Story PDF available each month to the public.

I reached out to the GITS community for volunteers to help with this effort and Id like to
express my deep gratitude to Trish Curtin and George Clay Mitchell. They stepped up
to handle the process of taking blog posts and creating the ebooks in this series. A special
blast of creative juju to you both!

You can download the previous editions by clicking on their titles below.

Volume 1: 30 Things about Screenwriting


Volume 2: So-Called Screenwriting Rules
Volume 3: Writing a Screenplay
Volume 4: Rewriting a Screenplay

Volume 5: A Screenwriters Guide to Aristotles Poetics

Volume 6: A Screenwriters Guide to Reading a Screenplay

Volume 7: Everything You Wanted to Know About Spec Scripts

Scott Myers
Table of Contents: Movie Character Types

About the Author


About the Go Into The Story PDF Series
Introduction: Movie Character Types 5
Addict 6
Advocate 9
Angel 12
Artist 15
Bully 18
Clown 22
Companion 24
Destroyer 27
Femme Fatale 30
Gambler 34
Healer 37
Innocent 40
Loner 43
Martyr 47
Orphan 49
Prostitute 51
Rebel 54
Rookie 56
Visionary 59
Warrior 61
Go Into the Story and Find the Animals 64
Resources 66

Scott Myers
Introduction: Movie Character Types

This book is a collection of Character Types common in movies writers can use in conjuction
with known Archetypes when developing characters for their own stories.
Stuck on how to make your Protagonist unique? What about an Addict or a Gambler?
Working on developing an interesting Nemesis? How about an Angel or a Rookie?
Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or taken courses with me through
Screenwriting Master Class know how fascinated I am with character archetypes, specifically
how there are five which recur in movies over and over and over:

Protagonist:
Almost always the central character in the movie. It is their goal, their journey
that creates the spine of the Plotline.
Nemesis:
The Nemesis provides an antagonist function in that they work in opposition to
the Protagonist. Generally their goal is the same as the Protagonist or involves
the same elements, only the Nemesis has a different intent in mind.
Attractor:
Oftentimes, but not always a romance figure, the Attractor is an ally, one most
intimately connected with the Protagonists emotional growth.
Mentor:
Typically a teaching figure, the Mentor is an ally most directly connected with
the Protagonists intellectual development.
Trickster:
Often a sidekick character, the Trickster tests the Protagonists will, shifting
from ally to enemy, back and forth.

Some might see archetypes as a sort of reductionist approach to writing. In my experience, it is


precisely the opposite. By working with these five Primary Character Archetypes, we can
identify the core narrative function of every key character, then use that knowledge as a guide
as we build them out in a limitless number of ways.
One approach is to use an extensive array of Character Types available to us - using them to
add layers to our characters as we develop them, adding imagination and unique detail to bring
them to life.
Here we will explore 20 Character Types, and consider how we as writers can use them to
create unique, compelling figures in our stories.
As with any of the tools and suggestions I offer - they're tools, not rules. Feel free to use them
or lose them as it suits you. I hope you find it helpful!

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 5


Addict

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.

The words of Paul in the New Testament (Romans 7:15) werent about addiction per se
(his focus was on sin that could live within a person), but it offers an apt description of
the condition. He goes on to say:

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do
the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to dothis I keep on doing.

And this goes to the heart of at least one reason why filmmakers have explored stories
with Addict character types: The struggle between self-control and the pull of the
addiction. It represents conflict on a fundamental level, powerful physical needs and
impulses at war with an inner knowledge, conscious or unconscious, that the character is
destroying him or herself.

There are stories about drug addicts such as Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Trainspotting
(1996) and The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).

There are alcoholics featured in movies such as Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Barfly
(1987) and Bad Santa (2003). There are movies about sex addiction like Thanks for
Sharing (2012), Don Jon (2013) and Shame (2011).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 6


The behavior has an authority over the Addict and its nature is even more insidious
because addiction activity has the potential to become an object of obsession.
One iteration of this type movies explore over and over is the character who is addicted
to power. At this point, it is almost a given when dealing with superhero, science fiction
or fantasy villains, their lust for power a presupposition per their narrative function like
Sauron in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They want to be all powerful because they
want to be all powerful.
But there are more nuanced versions of this obsession with power. Consider Charles
Foster Kane in Citizen Kane (1941), Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979), or Scar in
The Lion King (1994). Their addictions derive from wounds deep within their psyche,
their pursuit of power an externalized attempt to heal their inner selves.

Perhaps there is no more comprehensive an Addict type than Tony Montana (Al Pacino)
from the 1983 movie Scarface. He is addicted to drugs. He is addicted to power.
Addiction with a capitol A. Watch these clips: Sonny and Cocaine Mountain and Say
hello to my little friend.
Sometimes Addict stories have happy endings where a character kicks the habit. More
often than not, as Tony Montana conveys, the Addict ends up in a state of desolation.
The dark pull of addiction often leads to grim stories, so why not play around with a
counter approach? Arthur (1981) featured a happy drunk who eventually confronted his
Self and made some changes in his life. But the movie was in fact a comedy.
What about an Addict as Mentor? We see that in the 1978 movie Midnight Express with
the character Max (John Hurt) who dispenses wisdom to the Protagonist Billy (Brad
Davis) between hits of hashish.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 7


Or a Trickster as with Withnail (Richard E. Grant) in the wonderful 1987 comedy
Withnail & I.

Look at characters in your stories. Are any of them under the control of an inner impulse
or the allure of an outside temptation? If a character seems flat, explore the possibility
they have some secret addiction. What might that be? What does it say about who they
are and why they are the way they are.
That pull toward doing what I dont want to do is an experience every human being
has at one time or another. The universality of that impulse creates an excellent
opportunity for creating a bond between a script reader and an Addict character.
What other Addict character types can you think of in movies? Why do you think they
make for such compelling figures?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 8


Advocate
Some of the greatest movie roles have been Advocates. For example, memorable
attorneys like Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) in Inherit the Wind (1960), Frank
Galvin (Paul Newman) in The Verdict (1982), and perhaps the greatest Advocate them
allAtticus Finch played brilliantly by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Advocates champion a cause in a public arena such as politics. Notable figures in this
area include Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) in Dave (1993), President Andrew Shephered
(Michael Douglas) in The American President (1995), and Jefferson Smith in the classic
1939 movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
One of the central themes of many Advocate movies is empowerment, speaking up for
the powerless. Its no surprise that there are some great Advocate roles featuring
women, inspired by the feminist movement, including Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver)
in Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) in Erin Brockovich
(2000), and Norma Rae (Sally Field) in the 1979 movie of the same name.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 9


The power of an Advocate character derives not only from their passionate beliefs, but
also from oppositional forces, Nemesis figures who are, in fact, advocates for their own
cause albeit for personal gain, not the benefit of others. The essential goodness of a
Protagonist Advocate is highlighted even more when a Nemesis figure works against
them. This is a contrast reflected not only in substance, but also style. Compare Frank
Galvin, the rumpled, alcoholic lawyer who rises from his own personal ashes, against his
foe Ed Concannon (James Mason), the slick, enormously well-funded, and vicious legal
eagle.

The Advocate taps into some powerful psychological and emotional strains at work in our
collective psyche. The hope that there are good people out there. Fighters willing to take
up our cause. Right can defeat might. That there is someone who gives voice to our
beliefs and aspirations. In this regard, the Advocate becomes our spokesperson and
moral leader. We willingly give ourselves over to their story because their story is our
story.
What brainstorming can you do with an Advocate character type?
The Advocate is a perfect type for a Protagonist: their passion, beliefs and underdog
status a natural for a Heros Journey. Moreover actors love to play these types of roles,
witness all the Oscar winners who played Advocates.
What about Advocates as Mentor figures? Their ability to see through propaganda and
conventional wisdom. Or Attractors? Their passion for a cause reflecting their general
enthusiasm for life and love.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 10


But what I think is perhaps most interesting is to embrace the idea noted above:
What if you think of your Nemesis figure as an Advocate?
The best Antagonists have a world view that makes sense to them. They believe in what
they do and, therefore, it is only natural for them to advocate for their own cause.
This figures to be an excellent writing exercise: Envisioning your Nemesis as an
Advocate.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 11


Angel
It is surprising how many movies featuring the Angels character type there are. Good
Angels. Bad Angels. Wise Angels. Bumbling Angels. Across all genres. Perhaps their
presence in films should not be a surprise. According to a 2011 poll, 8 in 10 Americans
believed in the existence of these ethereal beings. For those counting at home, that is
more than the number of Americans who believe in climate change.
A prominent movie genre for Angels is comedy including noteworthy movies like The
Bishops Wife (1947), Michael (1996), and Date With an Angel (1987).
Emmanuel Bart portrays a classic version of an Angel, complete with wings and
heavenly glow, an alluring Attractor which was pretty much the whole point of this high
concept 1987 comedy.
There are other comedic versions of Angels that explore different characteristics such as
the bumbling Clarence (Henry Travers) in the 1946 Christmas classic Its a Wonderful
Life, the over-anxious Escort (Buck Henry) in the 1978 romantic comedy Heaven Can
Wait, and two angelic renegades Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) in the
1999 movie Dogma. Clip: How can you be sure?

The downward moral spiral represented by the Angels noted above opens the door to the
darker side to this character type such as the cursed Angel in the 1998 movie Fallen, the
half-angel, half-devil child Little Nicky (2000), and the 2010 action fantasy Legion.
Watch the clip here showing The arrival of Gabriel.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 12


But for my money, the very best Angel movie is the original 1987 German language
version of Wings of Desire (Der Himmel ber Berlin). Premise: An angel tires of
overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a
mortal.

Of course, not all angels have to be supernatural in nature. How many of us have
received a grandparents compliment, Well, arent you an angel for some nicety we
brought their way? Perhaps the best example of this type of angel is Melanie (Olivia de
Haviland) from the 1941 movie Gone With The Wind. Generous, kindhearted, long-
suffering, and a loving soul even on her deathbed, Melanie provided an angelic
counterpoint to the selfish machinations of Scarlett OHara.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 13


Angels come in all shapes, sizes, demeanors and forms. Their presence in movies and
culture reflect a desire on our part to believe in an after-life and to acknowledge there
are supernatural forces of good working on our behalf as well as darker entities
creating havoc and destruction.
What brainstorming can you do with an Angel character type?
If the only thing you take away from this post is to consider Angels who are not the
typical beatific well-meaning spirits from Heaven, thats a start.
How much fun to consider an Angel as a Trickster, imbued with whatever powers you
wish to give them, but instead of seeking to benefit others, out to satisfy their own
desires.
In other words, go against convention and do something surprising when working with
this particular character type. What brainstorming can you do with a Angel?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 14


Artist
How does the creative mind work?
What are the inner forces the spawn great art?
Why are some people drawn to give expression to their unique vision of life?
It is questions such as these that give voice to a longstanding fascination in Hollywood
movies with Artists. Much of the persistence which filmmakers have demonstrated in
dipping into this particular well again and again for stories arises from the knowledge
that the masses are ever curious about the artistic mindset. Some of it, however, must
derive from the filmmakers themselves who are, after all, artists in their own rights.
There have been numerous biographical movies about artists including Frida (2002),

Pollock (2000) and Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965):

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 15


Oftentimes Artist stories focus on the madness of creativity such as the 1956 movie
Lust for Life with Kirk Douglas portraying the brilliant but tortured existence of Vincent
Van Gogh:

In some cases, the Artists struggles manifest themselves more in the physical than
psychological realm as with the 1989 movie My Left Foot featuring Daniel Day Lewis,
who learned to paint and write with his only controllable limbhis left foot: Christy
writes his first word.
The Artist appears in movies also as fictional characters like Simon Bishop (Greg
Kinnear) in the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets or Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp
in the 1990 urban fairytale of the same title): Edwards ice sculpture.
As Simons character demonstrates in the scene above, the Artist can get a sudden
inspiration. Combined with their passion to express that vision in some physical form,
the Artist character type can be about communication, but also about the intensity of
their creative experience.
To see the world differently. To feel life fully. To immerse oneself in the experience of
the creative moment. That is the domain of the Artist character type. What
brainstorming can you do with an Artist character type? One obvious area to mine is
this: Artists are about visual expression.
Since movies are primarily a visual medium, they would seem to fit hand in glove. So
what if you have a story that is weighed down by too much exposition, too much
expression of backstory? Why not explore the possibility that one of your characters is an
Artist? If a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words, then what better way to cut
excess dialogue by giving a character the ability to speak through what they draw, paint
or create.
You can also widen the scope of what we may typically think of art. The central concept of

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 16


the movie Butter did precisely this: In Iowa, an adopted girl discovers her talent for
butter carving and finds herself pitted against an ambitious local woman in their towns
annual contest.

Artist as Attractor, filled with passion for living.


Artist as Mentor, a distinctive perspective of the universe.
Artist as Trickster, living on the fringe of society and the welfare of strangers.
What can you do with an Artist character type?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 17


Bully
Movies have a long history with bullies. There are boy bullies such as in The Outsiders
(1983), The Karate Kid (1984) and Billy Madison (1995). There are girl bullies such as
in The Craft (1996), Mean Girls (2004) and Heathers (1988).

There are bullies who are family members such Biff in Back to the Future (1985).
Bullies in bureaucratic positions like Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
(1975). And bullies who have enormous authority like Commodus in Gladiator (2000).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 18


Why are bullies such a recurring character type in movies?
First, they give an audience someone to hate, a focused object of personal loathing. Why
personal? Because everyone at some point in their lives has been the subject of bullying
physical, emotional, or both. As a writer, this is great because the bully characters we
craft can tap into a script readers own life experience, dredging up memories and
psychological associations, imbuing our story with that much more power.
Second, the dark, malevolent energy created by a bully only makes the Protagonists
goodness stand out even more, the contrast highlighting the essential difference
between the two.
Third, bullies create instant conflict with whoever is the object of their scorn. And
conflict, as we all have heard a thousand times, is key to drama.
But perhaps most importantly, a bully can represent what Joseph Campbell calls the
dragon:

Psychologically, the dragon is ones own binding of oneself to


ones ego. Were captured in our own dragon cage. The problem of
the psychiatrist is to disintegrate that dragon, break him up, so that
you may expand to a larger field of relationships. The ultimate
dragon is within you, it is your ego clamping you down.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 19


In this respect, the bullyas dragonis the physicalization of that negative power
restraining us. So consider Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs (1991):

What is Clarice Starlings dragon cage? Its the boogeymanor in her case, menthe
two assailants who shot and killed her father. The evil ghosts from her past, lurking in
her nightmares, the crying of the lambs representing the pleas for help from her father,
also an innocent who is slaughtered. Her narrative destiny is, in part, to confront her
dragon. And that narrative function is performed by Buffalo Bill who has taken being a
bully to an extreme. He does not see his victims as people, rather as objectsIt puts
the lotion on its skin. Clarice cannot be free unless she disintegrates the dragon,
Buffalo Bill, who represents the bullies who slew her father: Buffalo Bill watches Clarice
What brainstorming can you do with the bully character type?
Ask yourself: What does my Protagonist fear most? What is their dragon cage?
Then this: What character could best represent the object of the Protagonists
fears in the form of a bully?
How would that bully look? How would they act? What would be their goals? Why
would they be focused on the Protagonist?
Its natural to assume a bully is a Nemesis character, but why not play around
with other of the primary character archetypes as bullies?
You can have Protagonists as bullies such as Melvin in As Good As It Gets (1997).
Mentor figures can have a bully streak to their personality such as Miyagi for the
first half of The Karate Kid.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 20


How about a Trickster like Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket (1987)?

The bully type is all about power.


As such, they can make for a powerful character in a story.
Consider whether the story youre working on now could benefit from having a bully
or whether you have a dragon lurking inside the psyche of a character who already
exists.
What other bully character types can you think of in movies?
Why do you think they make for such compelling figures?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 21


Clown
Some of the earliest and most successful actors in cinema history were clowns including
The Keystone Cops, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin: Charlie Chaplins boxing match.
Its interesting to note how broad, physical humor, often called slapstick, is a feature of
clown character types. One of the greatest of all in movies is Harpo Marx from the Marx
Brothers: The best of Harpo Marx in Animal Crackers (1930).
Of course, they are often known by their verbal wit such as Danny Kayes character in
the 1955 movie The Court Jester: The vessel with the pestle.
Clowns tend to be Trickster figures and often defy convention or authority. As such, they
upset the normal state of affairs, creating confusion, even chaos. But that can be
precisely what must happen to reveal some underlying truth that needs to emerge into
the light of day. Consider Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers) in the 1946 movie Its a
Wonderful Life. He is a Clown in the form of an Angel who upends the ordinary life of
George Bailey (James Stewart), compelling into an extraordinary experienceone in
which George has never been born.
We may think of Clowns as happy figures, but they can don their comic masks to shroud
deeper, darker psychological dynamics. A great example is Steven Gold (Tom Hanks) in
the 1988s Punchline, a comedian tormented by inner demons: Steven Golds meltdown.
Then there are Clowns whose stories are enmeshed in tragedy like Guido (Roberto
Benigni) in Life is Beautiful (1997) who concocts an elaborate fantasythe Holocaust is
a game and the grand prize for winning is a tankto protect the imagination of his son:
Watch Guidos last moments.
There is a tradition in the horror genre of scary clowns such as It (2017), Clownhouse
(1989) and Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 22


A mainstream version of this is the Joker (Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight (2008):
Watch here as The Joker offers to bring down Batman.
Clowns can mock and betray, but also delight and inspire. Since movies are
fundamentally a visual medium, Clowns can cut quite memorable figures due to their
sheer physicality and Id-driven impulses.
What brainstorming can you do with a Clown character type?
Is your story in need of some levity and chaos? Consider your cast of characters. Might
one of them have a bent toward a humorous psyche, willing to flaunt conventions as well
as be the object of ridicule?
While a Protagonist can be a Clown type, some of the best sidekick characters fall into
this category, creating a comic spark to change the mood, put things into perspective, or
just to give a jolt to a scene.
What other Clown character types can you think of in movies? Why do you think they
make for such interesting figures?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 23


Companion
The Companion character type is one of the most common figures in movies. We can
begin our analysis with this most basic reason for their existence: A main character,
most often the Protagonist, will need someone to talk to. Think about it. How can we
know about a characters Inner Self? Through their actions, yes, but largely through their
dialogue. A Companion provides a natural object to which a particular character may
express their feelings, thoughts, ideas, and so forth. A perfect example of this is Wilson
from the 2000 movie Cast Away.

Obviously Companions can be much more than a listening ear. Often they are staunch
allies to the Protagonist exhibiting loyalty, tenacity and unselfishness. Examples of this
type of Companion include Chewbaca from the Star Wars films, Timon and Pumba
from the 1994 movie The Lion King, and Samwise Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) from
The Lord of the Rings trilogy: I want to hear about Sam.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 24


Sometimes Companions provide such mutual levels of friendship and emotional
support, they exist within a narrative as co-equals such as Romy (Mira Sorvino) and
Michelle (Lisa Kudrow) from the 1997 comedy Romy and Micheles High School
Reunion, Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) from the 2008 movie Step
Brothers, and Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) from the 1991
movie Thelma & Louise.

Sometimes a Companion is a Trickster, switching from ally to enemy, enemy to ally,


their function to test a Protagonist. Examples include Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher
Lloyd) in the 1985 movie Back to the Future, Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) in
the 1988 film Midnight Run, and Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) from the 1992 movie Lethal
Weapon 2: Riggs and Murtaugh meet Leo.

Whatever their personality or


narrative function, a Companion
character type goes along for the
ride, and can be a major source
of entertainment on the journey.
Just like this furry guy:
Michael Dooley (James Belushi) and Jerry Lee from K-9

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 25


What brainstorming can you do with a Companion?

Here again is a character type that can work with any of the five primary archetypes:

Co-Protagonist Nemesis Attractor Mentor Trickster

You want instant conflict?


How about if you handcuff together your Protagonist and your Nemesis,
then put them on the road, companions at each others throats?
You want romance?
Work with an Attractor figure like Ellie (Claudette Colbert) in the 1932
movie It Happened One Night.

When thinking about a Companion, ask yourself:


What can this character bring to the mix that the Protagonist cant?
How can they aid the Protagonist on his/her journey or create stumbling blocks?
What entertainment value can they bring to the narrative?
What other notable Companion character types in movies can you suggest?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 26


Destroyer
From serial killers to tyrants, mad scientists to evil geniuses, Destroyers have carved a
deadly, yet noteworthy path through the history of movies. Lets start at the big end of
the spectrum: Monsters including the the Shark in Jaws (1975), the Xenomorph in
Alien (1979), and Godzilla in many cinematic iterations.

Rampaging and hell-bent on destruction. There is no negotiating. No resolution with


these kind of Destroyers. They themselves must be destroyed to stop the carnage.

We see this same type of slaughterous behavior at work on a


smaller scale with Destroyer characters such as:

Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


Jason in Friday the 13th (1980)
Michael Myers in Halloween (1978) pictured at right

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 27


The fact that each of these movies spawned numerous sequels speaks to the allure of
Destroyers and this specific iteration: The Boogeyman. But unlike the shark in Jaws,
with these characters, we get a small glimpse into the psychology behind their madness.
This speaks to one of the draws of Destroyers, how they provide a window into the
Shadow, the dark aspects of the human psyche.
Consider the psychopathology of characters such as Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) in
Schindlers List (1993), Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in American Psycho (2000),
and John Doe (Kevin Spacey) in Se7en (1995).

Even psychopaths have a world view which makes sense to them. In some cases,
Destroyers are more consistent in their allegiance to their code than the humans they
destroy like Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in The Terminator (1984), Joker
(Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight (2008), and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in No
Country for Old Men (2007): I got here the same way the coin did.
Chigurh lives according to a strict set of rules. People make their choices. If they choose
wrong, they become victims. In a way, he is quite legalistic. And theres the rub: The
trick is to make this type of Destroyers world view at least understandable to a script
reader because in doing so, that pulls the character closer to the readers experience
makes for a much more interesting psychological dynamic wherein we can actually
relate to the killer.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 28


What brainstorming can you do with a Destroyer character type?
The Destroyer character type is a natural in providing the Nemesis function, but what if
we imagined a Mentor as Destroyer? What if the end point for the Protagonist was for
him/herself to destroy Evil? How to learn that? How to embrace destruction if its not
part of your natural order? Enter the Destroyer Mentor.
How about an Attractor whose function is not to slay the Protagonist, but to seduce him
to destroy others? This takes us into Femme Fatale territory, but what if instead of
manipulating the Protagonist to do violence on her behalf, this iteration of the Attractor
is seeking a soulmate to go off on a destructive path together like Bonnie and Clyde
(1967) or Natural Born Killers (1994).

Just as with all character types, there are endless possibilities. All we need to add to the
mix is our own imaginations.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 29


Femme Fatale
Although we may associate the Femme Fatale most closely with film noir, this character
type has been in existence since ancient times, the fatal woman often portrayed as a
seductress, even to the point of having some sort of mystical power as an enchantress.
Indeed we find an example in the Gospel of Matthew (14:69):

But on Herods birthday, the daughter of Herodias (Salome) danced before them: and
pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she
would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in
a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath,
and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and
beheaded John in the prison.

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (Caravaggio)


Obviously there is a strong element of sexuality at work with the Femme Fatale and that
cuts both ways as an narrative element: empowerment for the woman, weakness for the
man. Witness the hold Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) has over the ultimately
hapless Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) in the classic 1944 film Double Indemnity.

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This is a core element of dozens of movies including The Maltese Falcon (1941), The
Killers (1946), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), a staple of film noir. But
even after that sub-genres heyday, Hollywood has returned to this character type in
movies during the last three decades including The Last Seduction, To Die For, and the
1992 box office smash hit Basic Instinct and its Femme Fatale Catherine Trammell
(Sharon Stone):

Indeed the largest spec script sale in 2013for a reported $2Mwas Reminiscence
by Lisa Joy and it features a Femme Fatale in a prominent role.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 31


One dynamic common with almost all Femme Fatale characters: They engender
dialogue that crackles with sexual subtext. Take this exchange between Ned (William
Hurt) and Matty (Kathleen Turner) from the 1981 movie Body Heat:

NED
You can stand here with me if you
want but youll have to agree not to
talk about the heat.

MATTY
Im a married woman.

NED
Meaning what?

MATTY
Meaning I'm not looking for company.

NED
Then you should have said I'm a
happily married woman.

MATTY
You aren't too smart, are you? I
like that in a man.

NED
What else do you like? Lazy? Ugly?
Horny? I got 'em all.

MATTY
You don't look lazy.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 32


Not all Femme Fatale characters are working perfect black widow plans. Some find
themselves trapped in circumstances in which they are desperately attempting to
survive.
A case in point: Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) in the 1986 movie Blue Velvet.

Since many, if not most of the movies featuring a Femme Fatale are written by men, it
seems fair to consider a Jungian take on the character type, that it represents the
negative aspect of the anima, more of a projection of how a woman appears to a man,
rather than an objective reality. No matter how one interprets the Femme Fatale, clearly
there is a not so veiled subtext at work: Sex is dangerous.
What brainstorming can you do with a Femme Fatale character type?
Is it possible to do a gender switch, make the character a male? That brings us to
another character type: Don Juan. However whereas a Lothario is typically all about
sexual or romantic conquest, the Femme Fatale has a darker edge often involving
manipulation and murder. So could we work with a Homme Fatal? As long as there is
some sort of violence in the cards.
One interesting way to go: Rather than making the Femme Fatale a Nemesis, Trickster
or as a variation on theme an Attractor as in Blade Runner (1982), what would a story
look like with the character being the Protagonist? That would be tricky as part of the
allure of this type is the mystery: Is she or isnt she playing the guy? However it would
be possible, at least in theory, in which we never quite know whats in the mind of a
Protagonist Femme Fatale until the end and maybe not even then.
What other Femme Fatale character types can you think of in movies? Why do you think
they make for such interesting figures?

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Gambler
In a sense, every Protagonist is a gambler in that they choose their standing in the Old
World for what may or may not lie ahead in the New World. Even Nemesis figures will
play the odds through the machinations of their plan to achieve their goal, generally in
opposition with the Protagonist. In that match-up, there are winners and there are
losers. So a certain amount of gambling is implied in the characters decision-making
process.

But then there are actual Gamblers, a specific character type whose career, life, and
personality is infused with a need, proclivity or instinct to take big risks like Val Kilmers
portrayal of Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993). Often for money. Sometimes for fame.
And other times, primarily for the rush it brings despite or perhaps because of the
danger involved.
Lets start with card players. Hollywood has featured Gamblers in high-stakes games in
movies like The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Owning Mahowny (2003), and Rounders
(1998) starring Matt Damon as a reformed gambler who is forced to return to the game
to help a friend (Edward Norton Jr.) pay off loan sharks.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 34


Card games require certain skills: math, probability, psychology and the ability to wear
masks when confronting a rival across the table. There are other forms of gambling that
necessitate different, more physical talents such pool as in movies like The Color of
Money (1986), Poolhall Junkies (2002), and the 1961 classic The Hustler starring Paul
Newman as an upstart talent who takes on the legendary Minnesota Fats played by
Jackie Gleason.

Then there are Gambler types who bet on sporting eventshorse races, basketball,
baseball. Here there is no direct skill involved and no way, at least legally, to influence
the outcome. The smarts required are an immersive knowledge on the sport in
question or just gut instinct. Movies featuring this Gambler character type include the
1989 comedy Let It Ride, the 1984 drama The Pope of Greenwich Village, and the 1974
film The Gambler starring James Caan as an NYU professor with a gambling habit that
eventually gets him in over his head.
Generally Gambler types are lone wolves, the individual in an existential exercise to
beat the odds. However there is an entire subset of movies that feature a team of
Gamblers, most often with a plan to make a big score. Movies in the sub-genre include
The Sting (1973), Oceans Eleven (1960, 2001), and The Italian Job (1969, 2003).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 35


The appeal of Gambler character types is apparent. Who among us doesnt imagine
having loads of money? A bit of larceny in their soul? We can live vicariously through
these characters, their ups and downs, the danger and the scores. And sometimes we
may need to watch a straightforward morality tale to remind us of the substantial risks
involved with a gambling lifestyle.
What brainstorming can you do with a Gambler character type?
Gamblers can get in over their heads financially, forced to seek out funds from loan
sharks. While thats an obvious path to work up a Protagonist character, what about a
Trickster? We see this dynamic in the movie Rounders.
Sometimes the Protagonist plays life too safe, they live too much inside their head. Then
along comes a Mentor figure who goes by his gut and is willing to gamble everything on
a fantastical scheme with the Protagonists life-savings. Thats the plot of Zorba the
Greek (1964).
And what about a Gambler as Nemesis? They could be out for a big score like Hans
Gruber in Die Hard (1988), but what if their thefts and games are all in service of
something bigger, a plan to create chaos in order to flush out the real identity of a
superhero?

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Healer
Nurse. Doctor. Psychiatrist. Therapist. The Healer character type is typified by a passion
to serve others with the skills to repair individuals. There are medical doctors feature
prominently in movies such as Awakenings (1990), Dr. Doolittle (1998), and Patch
Adams (1998).

While there are benevolent Healers who focus on the body, there are also counselors
whose work is about the the patients psychological self in movies like Spellbound
(1941), Good Will Hunting (1997), and Ordinary People (1981).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 37


Sometimes the Healer needs healing, either a disease of the body or a readjustment of
their values and world view such as The Doctor (1991) and Doc Hollywood (1991).
Watch this Doc Hollywood clip: Interview with Halberstrom.
There are also shadow versions of the Healer. The characters give themselves over to
darker impulses as in Frankenstein (1931), Dead Ringers (1988), and Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde (1931). Heres a link to The transformation scene.

Educated and intelligent, combined with their calling to make people well, the Healer is
generally a character others put their trust in. Oftentimes this is a key to the patients
ultimate well-being or their downfall if they put their faith in a depraved Healer.
What brainstorming can you do with a Healer?
I took a psychology class in college in which the professor told of a study that showed a
majority of people who chose to go into the field of psychiatry did so in large part to
figure out their own emotional and behavioral issues. That right there creates a path
toward Disunity, the mask of professionalism and care-giving shrouding deeper,
perhaps darker motivations.
Another thing to consider: If Healers are grounded in science, why not put one such
character into a scenario that defies logic and can only lead to the conclusion there are
forces beyond that which we can know through our intellect?
The point is we can spin conventional wisdom and twist tropes. For example, what if we
take a psychiatrist who is a psychopath, but put him into the role of a Mentor?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 38


That is precisely what we have with Dr. Hannibal Lecter who in The Silence of the
Lambs (1991) leads Clarice Starling into and through the morass of her own tortured
psyche.
Or how about a nurse who is an insensitive control freak like Nurse Ratched in One Flew
Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975).

What are some of your favorite Healer characters in movies?

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Innocent
One of the most common narrative themes is innocence to experience, so there are
plenty of stories where a character starts off in more or less of an innocent state. But a
true Innocent presents a character existing in a heightened state of purity. Their
innocence can derive from the fact they are a child like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird
(1962) or Alice in Alice in Wonderland (2010), not having much in the way of life
experience. Their innocence can be based on having led a sheltered life such as Princess
Anne in Roman Holiday (1953).

Their innocence can arise from them suddenly being thrust into an environment
completely new to them such as E.T. in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 40


There are several appeals for a writer working with an Innocent. First, it is easy to
establish a sense of sympathy for them because once they venture on their journey into
the New World, they are immediately put into an underdog role, causing readers to
worry about them, everything from their basic safety to the big question of how in the
world will they achieve their goal.
Additionally it can be a compelling and entertaining ride to go along with an Innocent as
they experience one new thing after another, sharing in their fears and joys, mistakes
and learning.
Finally as the Innocent becomes more experienced, we are witness to their emergence
as an active participant in the world as the process of metamorphosis, psychological and
emotional, is perhaps most visibly noticeable in such characters precisely because they
begin in such a guileless state.
While children oftentimes fill these roles, there have been some notable adult Innocents
such as Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump (1994) and Chance in Being There (1979).
Heres the Trailer for Being There.
As with Chance, Alice, and E.T., there is often a kind of magical quality to the Innocents
journey, almost as if a sort of fable. Perhaps this is because their innocent view of the
world is an enchanted one, seeing beauty and wonder all around them. The journey
puts their innocence to the test: Will they be able to retain that essence as they gain
their experienceor will they lose it?
What brainstorming can you do with an Innocent character type?
Do you have a character in your story who goes through an innocence to
experience journey?
If so, is there a way to begin them in an even more advanced state of purity,
either through youth, sheltered living or a Fish Out Of Water?
What lessons do they learn along the way?
What lessons do they bequeath upon or inspire in others?
As a character building exercise, imagine a Mentor as an Innocent, perhaps
imbued with some supernatural insight into macro events, but lacking in
experience in mundane matters.
How about a Trickster whose innocence gets the character into trouble through
sheer lack of knowledge about local customs or laws?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 41


It would be intriguing to play around with a Nemesis as Innocent. Maybe the Powers
That Be have kept this figure locked up to retain his/her purity, but instead of morality,
the purity within the character is a malevolent one. I mean if the Devil were raised in
seclusion, how would the character know if s/he was evil, no experience of goodness
against which to measure his/her being.
What would happen if Innocent Evil were suddenly unleashed on the world?

What other Innocent character types can you think of in movies? Why do you think they
make for such compelling figures?

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Loner
The Loner is another staple in Hollywood movie history spanning across all genres and
story types. If you think about it, the Loner practically defined the Western genre during
the 30s-50s with notable examples such as Shane (Alan Ladd, Jr.) in the 1953 movie
Shane and Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in the 1956 film The Searchers.

The tradition of the Loner gunslinger has continued into contemporary times with
movies like Drive (2011) which parallels the plot of Shane in numerous ways.
Why the popularity of Loners? From an entertainment standpoint, this character type
can convey a palpable sense of mystery. Who are they? And perhaps more importantly,
why are they alone? This last question is a central one in Loner movies like Finding
Forrester (2000), whose central character William Forrester (Sean Connery) is a
reclusive author, and Gran Torino (2008), in which (Clint Eastwood's) Walt Kowalski is
a racist Korean War veteran living in a neighborhood populated by Asian immigrants.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 43


The bitter Loner is a particular subset of this type, one we see pop up with some
frequency as a Protagonist like Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) in Up! (2009) and as a
supporting character like Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) in Home Alone (1990).

As with Old Man Marley and similar characters like Boo in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
and Karl in Sling Blade (1996), the sometimes frightening image of the Loner can be
demystified over the course of the story, becoming more human like the rest of us.
However the Loner can also be a dark figure with violent impulses like Norman Bates
(Anthony Perkins) in Psycho (1960), Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) in Taxi Driver
(1976), and even play the part of a Nemesis as with Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in
the 2007 movie No Country for Old Men (2007). The Nature of Anton Chigurh. This
type of Loner is perhaps set apart from the rest of us precisely because of their mental
instability and/or inherent bent toward the Dark Side.

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Sometimes a characters state of solitude derives not from psychological forces, but
rather physical ones, trapped by forces of nature as in movies such as Cast Away
(2000), Into the Wild (2007), and All Is Lost (2013).

One dynamic that is implied with almost any Loner character is our desire to see them
make connections with others. Indeed many of the movies cited above have this theme
at work, the Loner stretching beyond their own personal boundaries eventually to find a
friend, a lover or a family, like Wall-E in the 2008 movie of the same name. Who of us
didnt get a lump in our throat when Wall-E, enraptured by the movie Hello, Dolly,
mimics the couple on the screen holding hands by holding his own hand:

Right there, from the earliest moments of the movie, we know the Protagonists
narrative destiny: To find someone to be with, to care for and to love.
The thing is, weve all experienced loneliness and almost all of us are, by our human
nature, social creatures. So when we happen upon a Loner in a story, our instinct is to
become engaged with them and their plightto understand them and, if they are not

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 45


vengeful souls, to hope they find their place in the world amidst a community.
What brainstorming can you do with a Loner character type?
If your goal is to create an immediate level of sympathy for any character with the script
reader, there is perhaps no better way than to work with a Loner, for reasons cited
above.
Moreover the quality of solitude can add a dimension of mystery to any archetype: The
Loner Nemesis becomes more threatening because of their silence.
The Loner Attractor becomes more alluring because of their public reticence.
The Loner Mentor becomes ever more wise because their quietude suggests deep
wisdom.
And the Loner Trickster becomes even more vexing because the less we know of their
motives, the less we can predict when they will flip from enemy to ally, ally to enemy.
The Loner also provides an object lesson about the use of dialogue. It should not be
surprising that Clint Eastwood has played so many Loner characters in his career. This
is an actor famous for red-lining dialogue in scripts, cutting out half or ever more of his
characters scripted words. Movies are a visual medium. Less dialogue can play to that
strength.
Who are your favorite Loner characters in movies?

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Martyr
Typically we associate the term with someone who suffers persecution or even death for
their religious or political beliefs. There are plenty of movie examples of this iteration
including Ghandi (1982), Silkwood (1983) and Braveheart (1995) Freedom Speech.

Their suffering can be simply tragic, but more often than not, their deaths are a cause of
inspiration for others.
This hearkens back to the original root of the word from the Greek which means
witness. A martyr has seen or experienced something so profoundly true, at least to
them, they are willing to sacrifice everything on its behalf, including their own lives.
More generally, a martyr can commit an act of self-sacrifice on behalf of someone or
something other than him/herself. The death of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars:
Episode IVA New Hope (1977) is a case in point: Strike me down, and Ill become
more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
There is another narrative possibility whereby a character uses their suffering to
manipulate others into doing the bidding of the martyr or pretends to suffer to garner
sympathy.
What sort of brainstorming can you do with the martyr character type?
What if your Protagonist is a martyr? What cause or belief could they have which would
lead them down a path of suffering and potential death? The belief might prove to be
true or it can be shown to be a lie, forcing the Protagonist to question the very
foundation of their world view.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 47


Perhaps it is someone the Protagonist is willing to suffer for. Who might that someone
be? Why would the Protagonist commit to this course of action? For example, Captain
Miller (Tom Hanks) in Saving Private Ryan (1998) sacrifices his own life to save that of
Private Ryan, not for any great cause, but rather at first merely following orders, then
eventually to pass on the mantle of responsibility with two words: Earn this.
You can apply the martyr type to any of the Primary Character Archetypes: Mentor as
martyr. Attractor as martyr. Trickster as martyr. Even Nemesis as martyr at least their
own self-perception.
As heroes, its hard to imagine any bigger character type than a martyr. If we care about
a character and they suffer grievously, even dying for a cause greater than him/herself,
its pretty hard not to feel a strong emotional connection.
What other movie characters can you think of who are martyr types? What do you see as
some of the strengths of this character type?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 48


Orphan
Some of the most notable movie characters of all time are Orphan types: Huckleberry
Finn, Tarzan, Little Orphan Annie, and one of the most beloved of all, Dorothy Gale.

Why are orphans so popular in movies? Right off the bat, we are dealing with a
character who generates instant sympathy. Abandoned by parents. Or worse, deceased
parents. Each of us has experienced loneliness in our lives. Being an orphan taps into an
existential sense of aloneness. What this does is immediately lock us into the story,
engendering in us a desire to take care of the character in question, such as with the
movie Babe (1995):

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 49


Without parents to help shape the childs sense of self, the Orphan grows into adulthood
with a pronounced need to answer the question at the root of all stories: Who am I?
Is it any wonder that so many superheroes are orphans: Superman, Spider-Man,
Batman, Magneto, as well as science fiction heroes like Luke Skywalker and fantasy
heroes like Harry Potter, carrying with them a need to figure out both how to use their
extraordinary powers and how to understand who they are.

This Orphans quest to determine their self-identity can involve a coming to grips with
deep emotions and psychological dynamics: shame as the child may feel responsible for
being rejected, self-doubt the result of not growing up with parental support and
encouragement of parents, and nightmares as the parents continue to hold sway over the
Orphan long after they are gone, such as with Clarice Starling in The Silence of the
Lambs (1991): Why Clarice left the ranch.
What brainstorming can you do with an Orphan character type? Its almost too easy to
go this route with a Protagonist, surely so if the writer uses it as a cheap device to elicit
sympathy. So dig deeper. What does the Orphan feel about their parents? What coping
skills and defense mechanisms have they developed to manage those feelings? How do
they compensate for the pain they feel? How has the loss of their parents branded them
at their most fundamental level?
Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane (1941) while not technically an orphan, is
abandoned by his mother and sent away from the only home and true happiness he will
know in his life. Almost everything you need to know about his character you can see in
his face as a child when he learns he is being sent away: The Sled Shed and Room
Trashing scene.

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Prostitute
There have been dramas with prostitutes such as Taxi Driver (1976), Midnight Cowboy
(1969) and Leaving Las Vegas (1995).

There have been comedies featuring prostitutes like Irma La Douce (1963), Night Shift
(1982) and Mighty Aphrodite (1995).

There have been thrillers like Klute (1971), Angel (1984) and American Gigolo (1980).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 51


What is the appeal of these characters in movies? Obviously there is the allure of sex.
But beyond that, there is an implied question for any movie viewer about a primary
character who is a Prostitute and that is this: Could I do that? Can I imagine myself in a
situation like that? A well-crafted Prostitute character can move the moviegoer
experience beyond voyeurism to vicarious imagination.
One of the most popular iterations of this type is the proverbial Hooker-With-a-Heart-of
-Gold such as Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind (1939) and Vivan Ward in Pretty
Woman (1990). I can do anything I want to, baby. I aint lost.
But there is also prostitution in a metaphorical sense. In The Apartment (1960), Fran
Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is having an affair with her boss Jeff Sheldrake (Fred
MacMurray):

At one point, Sheldrake tosses a hundred dollar bill to Fran in order for her to go buy
herself a Christmas present and she starts taking off her clothes saying, I just thought
as long as it was paid for. At that moment, the stark truth hits her: She has been
prostituting herself. Notably this is what leads to her suicide attempt.
One of the many reasons The Apartment is such a superlative movie is that the theme
of prostitution comes into play with another character: The Protagonist C.C. Baxter (Jack
Lemmon) who by allowing his co-workers, then Sheldrake to use Baxters apartment for
their trysts has sold his soul in an attempt to climb the corporate ladder.
Which brings us back to the question that invites a script reader to participate more
fully in the story: How far would I go to survive or to obtain wealth? Would I be willing
to prostitute myself to achieve my goals?
The Prostitute type almost inevitably raises questions of this type in the subtext of their
presence in a story.
What brainstorming can you do with a Prostitute character type?
A Protagonist as a Prostitute would be interesting. They could get caught up in a scandal

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 52


with The Powers That Be, putting him/her in danger. What about a comedy with a
Prostitute forced to become a nanny (Mary Poppins: Hooker Nanny).
Its pretty easy to imagine a Prostitute as an Attractor character, but what about Mentor?
Certainly life on the streets and meeting all sorts of clientele would lead to a depth of
understanding beyond that of a normal person.
Prostitute as Trickster? Thats a good fit, too, as they are natural born survivors, and can
turn from ally to enemy in a flash like Rosie (Maria Bello) in Payback (1999) or
Bridget Fondas Jessica in the 2001 action thriller Kiss of the Dragon.

And then prostitution as a metaphor:


Ask your characters, How much of their soul have they sold to achieve their end?
What other Prostitute character types can you think of in movies?
Why do you think they make for such compelling figures?

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Rebel
There are conventional thinkers. However those types dont make the most compelling,
let alone entertaining characters in a story. Instead give us someone who has an
unconventional world view. A different way of doing things. Someone who shakes this
up, defies authority, and dares to take on The Powers That Be. In other words, a Rebel.
There are Rebels in political movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939),
Bulworth (1998), and the unforgettable mayhem created by Rufus T. Firefly in Duck
Soup (1932) when he is named leader of Fredonia.

When a Rebel becomes the spokesperson for a movement, they can take on iconic status
in leading a rebellion as in movies like Gandhi (1982), Braveheart (1995), and Joan of
Arc (1948).

Then there are Rebels who defy cultural or aesthetic norms like Amadeus (1984), Pollock
(2000), and Frida (2002).

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There are characters we may not associate with the concept of a Rebel, but consider
these three: Scarlett OHara (Vivian Leigh) in Gone With the Wind (1939), R.P.
McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975), and Andy
Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in The Shawshank Redemption (1994).
Rebels can be charismatic figures which works on multiple levels: Within in the context
of the story universe enabling them to rally people to their side, actors who enjoy playing
these type of roles, and audiences who live vicariously through Rebel figures.
What brainstorming can you do with a Rebel?
Its easy to think of a Rebel as a Protagonist, but Mentors often have a wisdom that cuts
against the grain like John Keating (Robin Williams) in Dead Poets Society (1989).
Seize the day!
Of course, the Shadow dynamic of a Rebel is conformity, so if youre attracted to this
character type, why not explore a society, culture or world where through peer pressure
or governmental control, the masses think one way, but need someone to shake them up,
even if what that entails is dancing as in Footloose (1984).

What are your favorite movie Rebels?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 55


Rookie
The newbie. Wet behind the ears. Had some training, but now its the first day on the
job. Most prominent among Rookie character types are sports figures such as Rookie of
the Year (1993), The Rookie (2002), and Ebby Calvin Nuke Laloosh in the 1988
comedy Bull Durham.

From a writing standpoint, one of the major benefits of a Rookie is they are an outsider,
unfamiliar with the rules and codes of behavior now that theyve hit the major leagues.
In this respect, a Rookie character can function as the eyes and ears of the script reader,
also new to the subculture. What the Rookie learns, we learn along with them which can
intensify the connection we make with the character.
A good example of this are Rookie cops, that particular subculture one steeped in all
sorts of arcane practices and secret rules of conduct such as with movies like The Rookie
(1990), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Training Day (2001).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 56


Rookies can exist in all vocations and subcultures: Politics (Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington, 1939), Law (The Firm, 1993), Journalism (The Help, 2011), even
Assassins (Kill Bill: Vol. 2, 2004).

If the underdog dynamic is particularly effective in raising the stakes of a story and
engendering sympathy for a Protagonist figure, then there is perhaps no better
character type to slot into that role than a Rookie. For example, what business does Will
Turner, a simple blacksmith, have taking on bloodthirsty pirates in The Pirates of the
Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 57


But, of course, Will Turner has pirates blood and that is a key to a Rookie: They have
training which can enable them to stumble into the New World, but it is their instinct to
Become Who They Are which enables them to succeed.
Whatever the specifics of the Rookies journey, their path is replete with challenges, not
only discerning the lay of the land into which they plunge, but also coming to grips with
what bubbles up from their own inner psyche. For almost always, the Rookie is a
neophyte at their own self-understanding and need to be helped along to get in touch
with their Authentic Self, and along the way move from Rookie to Veteran.
What brainstorming can you do with a Rookie character type?
My mind immediately goes to Buddy stories. Veteran and a Newbie. Either one could be
a Protagonist. The other could be a Trickster Mentor or Attractor. Perhaps the
grizzled veteran needs to get in touch with his/her lapsed idealism. Perhaps the Rookie
needs to learn the tricks of the trade. Maybe the Rookie has a powerful emotional center
that causes the Protagonist to reawaken their Heart and open him/herself to the world.
On the other hand, what would a Rookie Nemesis look like? Their lack of experience
could make them an even more dangerous figure because they dont know the customs
or rules.
What can you do with a Rookie character?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 58


Visionary
They can see into the future or think they can. They perceive possibilities when others
see only walls. Often the power of their perceptions are matched by their zeal. These are
Visionaries and they represent a character type we see often in movies.
There are actual seers such as Oracle in The Matrix (1999) and Blind Seer in O Brother,
Where Are Thou? (2000) who can peel back the veneer of the present and peer into the
truth of what is to be. The Prophecy Scene.
There are prophets consumed by their fantasy of the future such as Dr. Emett Brown in
Back to the Future (1985) and Howard Beale in Network (1976).

There are the Visionary types in the arena of business like Tucker in Tucker: The Man
and His Dream (1988) and Steve Jobs in Jobs (2013).
There are other business Visionaries who genius and insight is aimed toward financial
gain even to the point of illegality like Henry Gondorff in The Sting (1973) and Jordan
Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (2014).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 59


Then there are Visionaries whose world views are scarred by their psychosis such as
John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Maximillian Cohen in Pi (1998).

The Visionary can be a compelling figure precisely because of what they see and how
they articulate their perception of reality notwithstanding whether that vision is
correct or not. What brainstorming can you do with a Visionary?
Once again its easy to think of this character type slotting into the role of a Protagonist,
however its also a natural fit for a Mentor. But how much fun to be Trickster like Zorba
in Zorba the Greek (1964) or a Nemesis as with Tyler Durden in Fight Club (1999).

What archetypes are your favorite movie Visionaries?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 60


Warrior
Naturally the Warrior character type is about fighting, their stock-in-trade. But for
whom do they fight? How? And most important why? The answer to these questions
define the very nature of the Warrior or perhaps more precisely, their nature provides
the answers to the questions.
There is the lone Warrior who is called upon to fight on behalf of victims such as Mad
Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Road House (1989), and Lon: The Professional
(1994).

There is the retired Warrior who is forced by circumstances to take on one last job as
with Shane (1953), Unforgiven (1992), and Gran Torino (2008).
There is the Warrior who emerges from surprising roots over time unleashing their
power which lies latent within as in movies like Hero (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), and The Matrix (1999).

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 61


There is the Warrior hell-bent on revenge like Death Wish (1974), Gladiator (2000),
and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).

Then there are the groups of Warriors like The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Avengers
(2012), and Seven Samurai (1954).
Whereas an Advocate will tend to use their logic and intellect to defeat their foes,
Warriors rely on their physical strength. Not to say they are unintelligent. Often they
have to rely on their wits and whatever wisdom they learn along the way of their journey
to defeat a Nemesis contingent that makes the Warrior a decided underdog.
But again, the keys to Warrior characters is to determine who they fight how they
fight and why they fight.
What brainstorming can you do with a Warrior?
The Warrior character type is a natural fit for the role of Protagonist, but think about
Mentor figures who have been trained in the way of fighting like Miyagi in The Karate
Kid (1984).
Need a reference point for an Attractor with mad Warrior skills? How about Trinity
from The Matrix?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 62


And a Trickster Warrior? Look no further than Han Solo in the Star Wars films.

Of course, Warriors make excellent Nemeses as well. Whereas Warriors associated with
the Protagonist and his/her cause are generally going to be fighting for something other
than themselves, a Nemesis Warrior ultimately represents a distortion of ethics and
humanist values, all in pursuit achieving their goal and victory.
What other notable Warrior character types in movies can you suggest?

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 63


Go Into the Story and Find the Animals
This mantra is both the name of my blog, and my wish for you.
It derives from a conversation I had many years ago with my then three year-old son.
It went pretty much like this:

ME
Hey, Luke, Im starting to write a
new script tomorrow. And its funny,
but no matter how many times I start
a new story, I get a bit, uh,
nervous about it. Got any, you know,
advice for your dad?

LUKE
(without hesitation)
Go into the story and find the
animals.

God as my witness, thats what my son said.


Now who knows what Luke was really thinking at the time. Stupidly I didnt follow up with him,
flummoxed as I was at his comment. I remember mulling it over and thinking that the whole idea
of going into a story is precisely what a writer does, immersing themselves in a narrative
universe that they create. That has always seemed just right to me, both in its simplicity and
profundity, which is frankly why I named this blog GoIntoTheStory.
But over time, its the other part in which Ive discovered more and more layers of meaning.
Start with the verb find. Is there any word more appropriate to describe the writing process?
Here are some of its definitions:
to come upon by chance:
Doesnt that sound like brainstorming?
to locate, attain, or obtain by search or effort:
Doesnt that sound like research?
to discover or perceive after consideration:
Doesnt that sound like what happens when we mull over our story?
to feel or perceive:
As we go into the story, we become more emotionally connected to it.
to become aware of, or discover:
The biggie, where as explorers we uncover a storys hidden gems.
Then there is the animals.
Im almost sure what Luke was thinking about was how a childrens story so often is habituated
by animals. Thus in his eyes, my task was probably pretty simple: Go find the animals. They are
your characters.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 64


But what if we think about it more symbolically?
Animals can be both domesticated and wild. So some things we discover as we go into the
story are what we might expect (domesticated). Other times were surprised, even shocked by
ideas and thoughts that spring to mind (wild).
Animals are alive, organic, and intuitive beings. So are our storys characters.
Throughout human history, animals have come to mean something in stories. A fox is sly and
cunning. A crow in many cultures signifies death. An owl is wise. Per Jung and others who study
myth and psychoanalysis, animals can serve as conduits into the mind of the dreamer.
Which reminds me of something I read about a movie director who in prepping to make a movie
gave each of the actors their own animal token as something they could reference in interpreting
their character.
Im sure if you think about it, you could probably come up with other shades of meaning for the
mantra.
I just know that this ones my favorite mantra of all because of its source.
There you have it: My approach to rewriting a screenplay and my wish for you.
I hope that you have resonated with at least one of them. Use them to help you focus your
thoughts and bring clarity to your writing process.
But for now and always, my wish for each of you is the same sentiment as once uttered by a
cherubic youngster with bright blue eyes and a look of deep intention in his face:

Go into the story and find the animals.

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 65


Resources
Go Into The Story: https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/

Screenwriting Master Class: http://screenwritingmasterclass.com/

DePaul School of Cinematic Arts: http://www.cdm.depaul.edu/about/Pages/School-of-Cinematic-


Arts.aspx

Zero Draft Thirty Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/731218807011913/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoIntoTheStory

Email: GITSblog@gmail.com

Special thanks to Franklin Leonard and the entire Black List team. In the 12 years of its
existence, the Black List has evolved into the single most important screenwriting brand in
Hollywood. Their commitment to shining a spotlight on the craft of screenwriting and notable
screenplays, and to create new avenues for outsiders to break into the movie and TV business is a
vision I share. Im proud to contribute to the Black Lists efforts through Go Into The Story and
serve as a mentor at their outstanding screenwriter labs.

For more information about the Black List: https://blcklst.com/

Scott Myers / Screenwriter's Guide to Character Types / 66