Many times, the most powerful moment between a character and an audience is also the most simple. Here are a few ways to find those small details in a character that will resonate with us long after a movie has ended.
The Loss of a Loved One
Whether it's a pet or a close friend, we all know what its like to lose someone we care about. Death and loss are some of the most powerful driving forces of a character’s motivation—for good or for bad. Think of all the orphaned characters we’ve come to know and love on the big screen, Disney has nearly patented this kind of character.
As Mufasa once said, “I’m only brave when I have to be.” Everyone gets scared, and in these vulnerable moments, we can see that even heroes and kings aren’t so different from us. Even irrational fears can make a character more likable. Do you think snakes are a logical fear for someone like Indiana Jones to have? Of course, they aren’t. Yet we understand because we hate the slimy buggers just like he does.
Imagine your favorite characters in Game of Thrones without their physical disabilities. If it weren’t for his birth defects, Tyrion Lannister would never have grown to become the clever know-it-all we’ve all fallen in love with. Being denied basic human necessities emits something in all of us—a sense of injustice that we demand to see gratified. It’s a battle within our hearts to not only win over our shortcomings but to accept them and wear it like armor.
No hero ever started their journey in a castle with everything they ever wanted. We all know what mundane life can be like, and escaping from that is what movies are all about. When a character is down on their luck, simply making ends meet, we immediately connect with that feeling of longing—to overcome our humble beginnings to become something more.
There are no words to describe that unique pain we feel when someone we love has done us wrong. Revenge is a slippery slope: take it too far and it makes you feel sick. However, ride the line between justice and lawlessness and you’ll be giddy with excitement every time your hero takes a step towards vengeance.
Something to Fight For
A soldier leaves his pregnant wife to fight for his country. An ambassador leaves his children at home while he tries to prevent foreign invasion. This can be one of the most simple character traits to include in a story, but it really gives a face to what the stakes are for our protagonist.
Fish Out of Water
We’ve all eaten alone before. We’ve all been to a new place, surrounded by new people or new customs. It's frustrating, and it forces you to find a new norm—a new balance in your life. These are some of the most compelling stories ever put to film. Has the phrase “There’s no place like home” ever held more significance than when Dorothy said it in the strange land of Oz?
Save the Cat
It would be wrong not to include this technique in any list like this one. There’s no simpler way to becoming likeable—in a movie or in real life—than by doing something for someone else. In the literal phrase “save the cat,” this often means saving someone’s life, but it can be as simple as sharing a piece of gum with someone. Actions speak louder than words and putting someone before yourself is the most basic form of human empathy.