(according to Arthur Miller, Henry James, Robert McKee, and Aaron Sorkin)
In fiction, characters are not what they say but what they do.
Action defines character. Some even say that action = character.
Let’s check first what a couple of giants of drama had to say about what defines characters.
“A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from. And by those he has walked away from that cause him remorse.”
― Arthur Miller
“What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?”
One of the main screenwriting gurus, Robert McKee, discusses the subject in his book Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting.
“TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure–the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”
If you want to see the whole thing, go here.
More on Screenwriting? Please check Best Screenwriting Books: ESSENTIALS OF SCREENWRITING, How TOY STORY 3 Was Written, How Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT Was Written, How Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT Was Written, Best Screenwriting Books: THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING , How to Identify Script Problems: On Syd Field’s THE SCREENWRITER’S PROBLEM SOLVER, How to Make Film Adaptations, According to Linda Seger and For Screenwriters: Endings, amongst many other posts!