The 7 Character Types For Writing Screenplays – Part One

In part one of our two part series we reveal more one of our most powerful screenwriting tools, the seven characters. We use these characters to break down and understand the different personality types in human beings as well as characters in movies. We’ll show you how you can use them to write and create fully drawn and believable characters in your screenplays.

For a cheatsheet with descriptions and explanations of the 7 Character Types for Writing Screenplays click here and download your free PDF!

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By KOOGE Kweli

Shakespeare was more than a master of the English language.   His work has stood the test of time because most of all he understood people.  He once observed, “All the world is a stage and all men and woman are merely players…”There are a little over five billion men and women currently ‘playing’ the planet.  How many different types of characters do these people represent? The answer is seven.  In all recorded history (that’s the real stuff), all recorded literature (that’s the good stuff), and all motion pictures have had only seven basic characters in them.  Even the characters with multiple personalities simply repeat the same character multiple times.

               Great writers have been aware of these characters in every culture from ancient times to the present.  We’ve seen them as the Seven Wives for Seven Brothers, The Seven Dwarfs, The Magnificent Seven(based on The Seven Samurai), Stagecoach, and Flight of the Phoenix to name just a few classic.  But, they are also in every TV series and more importantly in your life.  The seven characters have defining characteristics and predictable behavior patterns.  Significantly, by simply identifying a person’s character we know their hot buttons, their fears, their disguises, and the best approach to persuading them to support us.

            If this statement is true how valuable would it be to know these matrix.  How could it be used to help others or you achieve your dreams and goals?

            If you are:

  • a writer, it could help keep your characters authentic, 
  • a manager or a coach it would help to select the right stroke for the right folks, 
  • a negotiator it could assist you in seeking common ground,
  • an actor it could help you to learn and understand your character’s motivation and style,
  • a salesperson it could help you to qualify and close your prospect more effectively,
  • an interviewee it could help you make the most effective pitch,
  • a parent it could help you understand and communicate better with your spouse and children,

Also, if you were trying to get a date it might keep you from shooting yourself in the foot with the wrong approach.  Simply, if there are only seven characters you needed to learn, it should be relatively simple task to identify them and play them correctly.  In short, knowing this paradigm would increase your chances of winning in almost any situation.

            Winning friends and influencing people using character analysis techniques has been in use for centuries.  The techniques have been refined in this century for training negotiators, salespeople, spies and managers.  Even some churches are utilizing this technique to help their congregations choose better mates.

            The most popular character models divide people kind into various four characteristic matrixes.  The problem is they’re not user friendly. Most people who study the model forget it within 30 days.

            The most effective matrix I have ever seen both from the standpoint of predicting and analyzing human behavior is the seven person matrix, I first encountered this at a leadership training program conducted by Capital PerformanceInternational, Inc (CPII), a wall street financial institution with agents around the world.  Their character analysis model is a refinement of a very successful model developed by ITT for its top management and sales executives. For the sake of this article we’ll use this model to help understand,identify and play seven characters. To help you remember them each character is keyed to one of the seven dwarfs:

  1. Sagacious/shrewd, in practical way (DOPEY)
  2. Sanguine (HAPPY)
  3. Charisma (SLEEPY)
  4. Melancholy (SNEEZY)
  5. Pedagogue (DOC)
  6. Reticent (BASHFUL)
  7. Choleric (GRUMPY)

If these characters represent all humankind, we should be able to find and identify them throughout history, literature, sports, biblical history, and current events.  Chart A illustrates how people in selected categories match these seven characters.  However, for this tool to work for you,you must be able to recognize these characters in your circle of family,friends and co-workers.  In the following section you’ll learn to recognize these characters and to play them.

            Be warned, the hardest character to identify is usually yourself because others see the you that shows up to play, while you often see yourself as you think you are or would like to be.  See if you can identify your character, but seek a second opinion for a reality check. 

            Also be alerted that all characters control & manipulate, and all characters hide or lie by pretending to be another character.  It wouldn’t make sense to lie as yourself because people would see through you.  Some characters even lie to themselves. One final note: we’re talking here about style, and to a degree philosophy.  The character analysis does not tell us about a characters integrity, political affiliation, sex, race or morality.  You’ll find style makes for very strange bedfellows.

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