What is your character’s role? Answering this question is the key to creating a successful character – a screenwriting necessity. You must know why a particular character is in your story and what role you intend him or her to play. Is he the hero? She the villain? And if he is the hero, what face does he wear: the savior, the recluse, the warrior, or the fool? And what of our villain? Is she the femme fatale, the narcissist, the psychotic, the traitor?
Understanding character roles is never limited to the protagonist and antagonist. A screenplay needs supporting players as well: friends and rivals. There are symbolic characters, mythic characters, fantasy characters, even nonhuman characters. Sometimes a group all share the same role, and characters often play more than one role at a time. Some are one-string characters, appearing in only a few scenes, and others are intricate to the sub-plot, having their own line of action connected to the main conflict.
Character roles have infinite possibilities, and they can be defined in different ways, but when it comes to designing those roles, there is one absolute: every character has a role to play.