The Helpful Reviewer

Character-Driven Stories

Friday, August 16, 2019

Crafting characters is no easy feat. Creating multi-dimensional, realistic, flawed, emotional characters is what every screenwriter wants to achieve. Characters who feel real, that audiences can connect with on a deeper level. Regardless of the type of person they are – or the character archetype they serve (protagonist or antagonist) – we want to understand their motivations and their goals. And those goals are what should drive their actions in the script.

When creating a story, we’re told to focus on structure and turning points. But what’s often forgotten is that those turning points should relate to the characters and their goals. Characters drive story, not the other way around. One shouldn’t just come up with a story and then insert characters into it, no matter how well crafted they are. In order for a script to work and connect with audiences, characters need to drive all of the twists and turns. Their decisions, actions, feelings, goals and dreams should shape the plot of the script. The protagonist in particular should drive all of the events, the turning points should relate to them going after their goal, the obstacles should relate to their flaws, and the conclusion of the story should be the conclusion of their arc. Character-driven stories make audiences connect with the story, and at the end of the day, that should be every writer’s main aim.

Cody Smart

Cody Smart


Cody is an independent writer and script doctor from Santiago, Chile. She attended the prestigious Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where she double majored in English Literature and Linguistics, with a minor in Dramatic Literature. She moved to L.A. and got her MFA in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios location, while at the same time working at Sony Pictures as a reader and story analyst. She also received two Certificates from UCLA, in Development and Producing for Film and TV.

Aside from her years of experience as a studio reader, she’s a judge for multiple script and film competitions, has written some award-winning short films and feature film scripts, she’s been working as a script analyst and doctor for years helping writers take their scripts to the next level, and is currently the head of the coverage department at Story Data.