Getting a handle on how your characters think about how other characters think, can give their decisions and actions more unity and credibility.
|I know exactly what you think I'm thinking.|
And it's true.
What Do You Think I Think?
What Do Your Characters Think Other Characters Think?
Similarly, characters in a screenplay have theories about each other’s minds. Of course, these are made up by the screenwriter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to be coherent. When you put a character in a situation in which, for instance, they have to choose between being truthful or lying, their choice is going to be informed by how they expect other characters to behave. And, just as in real life, a scene in a screenplay becomes dramatic or funny, or both, when one character believes something about another character and this turns out to be wrong.
When One Character’s Theory About Another Is Wrong
|I could have sworn he was hot for me.|
I know I’ve been in situations where my theory about someone else’s mind has been upturned. And I’m not just talking about that girl I was convinced was in love with me when I was thirteen, but who turned out to have a crush on my best friend. I’m talking about any time someone’s reaction doesn’t match your expectations, when you realize you had the wrong idea about them. You thought they were better, worse, more clever, stupid, compassionate or cruel than they really are. These are the kinds of moments that great scenes turn on. In terms of screenwriting, understanding and showing how your characters think about each other helps to set up these moments convincingly and effectively.