One of my favorite aspects of storytelling when it comes to character development are the vulnerable moments a character will reveal to the audience, adding a level of complexity to who they are.
When I talk about vulnerable moments, I am talking about the times that characters have shown their struggles and weaknesses to others or to themselves, the times when they express their shame or fear, their sadness and concerns.
I am talking about when a young Bruce Wayne from ‘Batman Begins’ blames himself for the death of his parents and cries in front of his butler, Alfred. When Dr. Robert Kelso from ‘Scrubs’ shows that he is not as heartless as he makes himself out to be to those around him.
Or when the anti-villain General Francis Xavier Hummel from ‘The Rock’ stands before his wife’s grave, telling her that he’s tried all he could to get justice done the right way and asks her not to think less of him for what he is about to do next.
These are the moments where I connected with these characters, where I felt they went from being one-dimensional to compelling and fascinating, where I wanted them to succeed in their goals or, if they’re a villain or antagonist, become redeemed.
Now, even if the character does not show a vulnerable moment, this doesn’t mean that same character can’t be engaging. The Joker is one of the most compelling villains I’ve seen, devoid of empathy and providing a different form of challenge to Batman.
However I’ve found for the most part that allowing an audience to connect with characters by giving them a vulnerable moment can be one of the key factors that turns a good story into a great one.