That acceptability comes through careful planning on the part of the writer thus requiring the development of characters each with a history: that is the characters must be as real to the writer as her own family, friends, acquaintances, etc. In other words, the writer must create characters with a life in progress—characters with a past.
During the next several postings, I will offer some suggestions to help you as a writer to hopefully create believable people to inhabit your stories.
One of the most effective ways of creating a believable fictional character is to create that character from their birth highlighting special events that have shaped their life up to the minute just before the story you will be telling starts. A few questions that will help you get started would be the following: Did the protagonist ever meet the antagonist? What was it between them that led the antagonist to be so antagonistic toward the protagonist? What about other people in the story? How, where, why did the protagonist meet and get to know any of them? Do they meet for the first time in the story?
An excellent example of how this works can be found in the motion picture Raiders of the Lost Ark wherein the protagonist (Indiana Jones) and the antagonist (Belloch) have a rocky past wherein they have had conflicts over ownership of various archeological sites. Also, Jones had a past with the love interest (Marion Ravensbrook). They fell in love when she was barely out of her teenage years. When they meet again, she greets him with a hard right to the jaw.
Characters who mention past experiences, past loves, past hurts, past joys, past relationships, as well as parents, siblings, relatives, and friends are people with whom your audience can identify. They will seem “real” to them during the telling of the story. The way you can do this is literally writing that character’s biography. This does not have to be a blow-by-blow recounting the person’s whole life. All you need to do is create major events such as first auto accident at age seventeen, or an encounter with a bully at age nine, or a serious injury caused by a missed turn on a bicycle or skate board.
There is a serious danger in writing fictional characters; and that is the tendency to create character “types” rather than characters that walk, talk, act, and exist the way real people do. This mistake is often referred to as writing “stereotypes.” These types of characters tend to be cartoonish in nature. They do or say things because they must. But, since characters in a movie bring to the screen experiences and emotions purporting to be from real life, they must originate from an experience in the character’s background and the responses to the events in the script. In other words, the emotions portrayed by the characters in your script must be “true” to real life.
An additional danger is that Hollywood tends to love stereotypes because of the comfort factor. Stereotypes fit into pre-conceived concepts from the movies that have been popular. It appears to me that those screenwriters who truly “make it” in Hollywood have discovered the delicate balance of writing characters that are just like real people yet appear to be like the Uber-Characters of the strong movies of the past such as Indiana Jones, or Moses (The Ten Commandments), or even Elliot (E.T.: The Extraterrestrial). These characters fit the definition of an acceptable Hollywood Hero with an extraordinary creativity behind their creation in the mind of the writers and the techniques of the actors that in turn result in memorable “people” in the minds of the audience members.