Relatable characters are successful when they go through situations that we the audience can project ourselves into. We can ask ourselves “what would I do”? or say“I’d do the same thing”!
One of my all time favorite movies is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” directed by the late great John Hughes
Neal Page(Steve Martin) want’s to make it home to Chicago from New York for Thanksgiving. He has every obstacle imaginable on his way home including the worst one in salesman Del Griffith(John Candy).
Neal is incredibly relatable as all he wants is to go home. With every obstacle Neal faces we experience his emotions on screen.
After some time of getting beat up and a diverted flight to St. Louis Neal has to deal with a flighty rental car attendant (Edie Mclurg) who’s inconveniently on the phone and he’s lost all patience. Neal erupts with so many Eff bombs that it makes you feel 'I wish I can be so bold". But Neal looses this fight.
Just imagine being able to storyboard this kind of eruption. it would be so fun to do.
In the set up of what ever story we are telling I really want to understand what the character is feeling, what they’re thinking and eventually what they’re going to do about it. All on screen!
As an audience member I want spend time with the character to the point that I can understand their choices and support them or go against them. If the time hasn’t been taken to express all this to the audience we’re just not going to feel invested and I’ll check out very easily.
When a character is wronged, what do they think about that? What if they’re insulted? It’s heartbreakingly amazing to see Del react to Neal’s insults in the film and you really want to just hug him as he poorly stands up for himself. I only wish and hope to be able to draw such pathos in my storyboards.
We really get a great moment of hilarity as Neal comes to the realization.
that Del left his large undies on the sink of the hotel they share. Neal thought it was a wash clothe and used it to dry his face after a hot shower. Neal's disgust is Priceless!
One of the craziest, whackiest and brilliant quick cuts in the film shows Del as the Devil. Neal really feels this way at this point in the film and this moment is delivered so clear that it is movie magic.
Either way, the story you tell has got to have a relatable characters experiencing real moments. As Neal and Del go through hell and back trying to get home they’ve bonded so well that I get choked up from this point on in the film. I'm glued with emotion having laughed so much that the tears of humor turn to tears of emotion because we spent the time to understand them and relate.
That wouldn’t have been able to happen without all the real moments and choices that where made on screen. Choices that allowed me to experience emotions that the characters really went through. I feel like it’s me on that trip and me who’s made new memories and friendship.
All this to say,
what are they feeling, thinking, and doing about it?