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The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 4 of 21

Creating Your Lead Character


The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 4 of 21

Creating Your Lead Character


Lesson Info

Creating Your Lead Character

Creating your lead character why is this person your lead character? They're relatable I have to be relatable to some degree there intriguing and their unique relatable is those things that everyone can identify with and empathize with intriguing is more along the lines of what is mysterious relatable order of things we can tell about them that we know about them intriguing your things that we don't quite know when we start so that elicits our interest and of course unique you want to make this person is unique is possible and part of that process is being very specific what they do, what they're like um the world they live in so that's the starting point um what is here she want this is both starting the character and the story they have an immediate objective I'm calling it it's the objective of the plot of your story they want this it needs to be clear it doesn't mean it has to be his daughter's kidnapped and he's going to get her back. In fact um a lot of examples that air used whe...

n talking about the three act structure or you know, screenplays in general tend to be action movies because they they sort of have very, very tangible um things to talk about that demonstrate all of these aspects but an immediate objective doesn't have to be something like that it just has to be in your story with this character once to get here she doesn't have subliminable objective I'm calling it that because subliminal is a very pretentious word makes me sound like a writer when I say what that is is sort of like um it's not a tangible objective it's I want redemption or I want respect I want to be better I went to its you know it's what would result if they get their immediate objective and it is a dimension to your person it's sort of what a noble's them it's not just I'm going to get this it's going to get this because there is there is something important to me in my life who I am if I do get it so both of those need to be thought about why you're coming up with character what is the obstacle? Um obviously you're going to have an antagonised antagonist is somebody who wants to stop the protagonist from getting it um for reasons we'll get into later but also their circumstances what that means is it's just hard to get it even without an antagonised life whatever the situation is it's not easy to just get it even if there's no opposition and then there's self people are uh prone to creating their own problems and blocking themselves from getting thing self destructive behavior uh we're going to get into weaknesses but the main thing is is I believe you could have all three of these going in the story doesn't have to be like you choose one of them. Um, so that's starting a zoo, I said before, as your defining your lead character, you're defining your story that that's, how you're there very intertwined, that's, what you're doing, it's, a character with the story struggle, was thinking about thinking about being in the checkout line at a grocery store, so your steps being checked out, you can't do anything, but you see this kind of frail old woman reaching up to the top shelf, she's almost got what she wants, but her finger tips it further back and then it and then she reaches again. It turns it sideways and your love to just go over there and get it for you, she finally gets it, and you're like she got it. Well, you don't even know that person. You don't know what you just witnessed a struggle, and it immediately created empathy with another human being that you know nothing about, right? You bump into her in the parking lot and she cusses you out? Um, struggle, create sympathy, that's one of the great things about the fact that you're going to start a story with a character who wants something and it's going to have to struggle to get it, create sympathy. It also forms the story as I've been saying, what defines the character to finds the story this is who I am this is what I want this is a struggle to get it, um it also transforms the character process of the whole story of your character trying and trying to get what he or she wants is going to transform that person. They're going to be different by the end of the story because of they will risk things they wouldn't have risked before they're gonna lose things that they didn't intend to lose. They're going to see people in different ways than they've ever seen him before. They might be betrayed. They might be pleasantly overwhelmingly surprised that somebody helps them, that they never expected it from a lot of experiences they're goingto happen, they are going to broaden the world view of your lead character and make him or her a different person. Um, weakness is what I'd like to talk about our hero in terms of strength and everything he's got going for him or she has going for her, you need a weakness, you need one major weakness, and this goes back to the self being one of the problems of getting the desired, um, goal a weakness is it, um, somebody who doesn't trust anyone, is it so where you trust everyone is it's somebody who can't stop talking all the time, so he gives away everything he's going to do is it's somebody who has an internal hatred for authority or certain types of authority or somebody who, um, has any kind of ah, so you know, hubris, egotism, um, or maybe inferiority complex, but they need a weakness and that weakness is something that is going to have to at some point in your act too. Um be pushed to the absolute limit of persons breaking point not that they have to break, but this weakness has to be hit hard sometimes a weakness. Yeah, I'm just gonna say sometimes a weakness is a connection to another person, right? It's if my daughter was kidnapped, my weakness would be I am so emotionally connected to her and wrapped up in this it's going to make me make mistakes, uh, or the person isn't that object. The person is just in the story, but when I go after what I'm what I want, I could hurt this person that's a weakness too, in fact that's one that should be in addition to your character flaw because that's always useful to have other people, um, possibly be hurt by what the lead character wants to do that the lead character cares about yes, like you're saying like their agenda they're kind of wanting to save the day might just screw everything that you know, like I'll work with the enemy because I can solve everything you know and then enemy just runs right over you right now but I was just wondering like, something I read is that like new riders may want teo make it really easy for the hero so their problem you know, they just kind of jump right over it really fast so you almost want like like you're saying the big one it needs to be something that they're just constantly getting hit against right jumping in half cocked is that something that I mean it's dependent on the circumstances but it seems like that would be something that people can empathize with andi it could just screw everything up for that person that's a character trades so he does that all the time they jump in half cocked all the time so they may do it in this situation, right? Thank yu are there any other types of character witnesses you would put into ah the lead character, alcoholism, there's something that we see around us I think as a writer it's so nice to be able to pull from my friends and family ana without me oh bob or some like that so much richness around us and in the news and everything like that right, I think the problem I'm having right now with my main character is that I made him charming and his weaknesses that he's in mature but he's really charming and mature can get kind of broad and when you're dealing with all the other characters, right? But in maturity is a good weakness, I mean that's certainly one that you can take him into a transformation by the end when he gets some maturity and losing term. Yeah, it's always good to lose something, too in the struggle um, alright and quirky wins. Yeah, I'm going to mention that making people relatable, um a scientist character? What if a scientist is a genius and there working on something and they've got to solve something scientific and you want to make this relatable to everybody the smaller kind of quirky, quirky weaknesses help with that, for example, where you could do with the scientist is something that's true about me? I have to make a list if I go to the grocery store for one item or I'll forget what I was supposed to go to the grocery store so forgetfulness, but you can put that into a character and it's it's a weakness that's kind of endearing if somebody is just really a dynamo and they've got so much going on, give them something that they can't do I said, everybody watching candy. You can't tie shoes, whatever it is, it's, it's something that just sort of it's. A way to make him human relatable.

Class Description

Screenwriting classes often either lean too heavily on theory or simply study the technical approach to writing without a greater context for its use, as if the act of screenwriting exists in a vacuum – it does not. In The Screenwriters Toolkit with Jim Uhls, you’ll learn both the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as its relationship to getting your work read and ultimately produced.

Jim’s sceenwriting credits include the modern classic “Fight Club” the feature-film "Jumper" the NBC television film "Semper Fi" and the SyFy miniseries "Spin" In this class, he’ll share lessons from his extensive experience writing for Hollywood and the small screen. He’ll teach you how to develop better scripts, get traction for your projects, and navigate the complex professional landscape of script development.

You’ll learn about screenwriting form and content, including:

  • Vocabulary and formats
  • Dialogue vs silence
  • Adapting existing works for the screen
  • Genre-writing

Jim will also share essential insights on developing a career in screenwriting. 

You’ll learn:

  • The differences between writing for television and features
  • Who to work with: agents vs managers vs lawyers
  • How to obtain and manage projects of various sizes and contexts

The Screenwriters Toolkit is a comprehensive examination of screenwriting form, content, craft, and traffic. You’ll learn how to adapt your content to the size, genre, and desired professional result of the script while also learning about the best on-ramps for aspiring writers.


Karla KL Brady

I would definitely recommend this class for first-time screenwriters and writers in general. I'm a novelist that would like to turn a couple of my stories into screen plays. I was mostly interested in the "dos and don'ts" which he supplied in a generous number. He gave a lot of great examples. I enjoyed the format with the students and he pretty much walks you through the entire process, including and especially the three-act structure which can be applicable to novel writing, too. He gave a lot of great examples. I would have liked a more extensive discussion on loglines and writing the action, but this certainly is enough to get you started. For the price, you can't beat it.


I came to this site by accident and then found some well known internet marketers here, who had already been sending me helpful emails and offers for some time, which I have used. What I like about the video contents is, that it is good old-fashioned skills and crafts development, rather than just formulaic, churn it out in big numbers advice. Whether screen writing, script writing, creative writing, news writing, etc. there is a structure and guideline for contents, order, grammar, etc., but the appeal is towards the development of one's creative side. I am normally involved in non-fiction writing, so this is a nice, creative side-kick, which no doubt will help my other work. As prolific author Isaac Asimow said, "If you want to learn to write, then you must write".


I would certainly recommend it to others, as there are some really great tips throughout the courses, across various aspects of film script writing.. That said, I would like to recommend however: - to have one version that is focused solely on film writing; eliminating the parts about teleplays and series, as those one or two did not relate to the rest of the course. - in its place, I would have loved to observe the coaching and critique on the writers film ideas, loglines, titles and such. I was very interested in knowing the do's and don'ts, what works and doesn't work, and what the proper approach is. Although he made mention of some of them in his overall content, relating them back to the writer's specific work would have been very beneficial.