"The How -To Magazine For Screenwriters."


Date: 3/27/04

Character Development

Training Day poster 



BradDaily Screenwriting Tips 

In "Training Day," the protagonist, Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), changes psychologically, starting out as a police officer who is dependent on rules for guidance and becoming an officer who is capable of independent thought.

To obtain a better chance of becoming a police detective and to earn a better income for his wife and child, Jake signs up for the narcotics division of the police force and is assigned to Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), the commanding officer of that division, for a training day.

Alonzo puts Jake through a three-stage process that involves deception and a tragic deed that changes Jake into a different type of policeman--someone who gives control of the justice system back to the citizens.

This process is part of an elaborate plan by Alonzo to frame Jake for the murder of a drug dealer and to steal the dealer's money and use the money to pay off an enormous debt to Russian mobsters.

During the process, Jake is forced to ingest drugs, participate in the illegal search of someone's house, and take part in a drug raid in which he's blamed for killing a drug dealer.

In stage one of the process, loss of innocence, Alonzo stuffs a smoker's pipe with pot and tells Jake: "To be truly effective, a good narcotics agent must know and love narcotics."

When Jake refuses to smoke it, Alonzo points a gun at him and says, "You turn shit down on the street and the chief brings your wife a crisply folded flag."

Reluctantly, Jake smokes the drug and then realizes that it was laced with PCP. He must now rely on Alonzo to avoid being accurately tested by the police department for drugs.

Jake later enters stage two of the process of psychological change by helping Alonzo search a house owned by a woman who is married to Sandman, a drug dealer.

This stage can be referred to as the game. It marks the midpoint of Jake being ensnared in Alonzo's quest for money.

After searching the house of Sandman's wife (Macy Gray) without a search warrant and stealing $40,000 from her bedroom, Alonzo uses her money to buy a search warrant from a judge.

The warrant turns out to be for conducting a search of the house owned by Alonzo's friend, Roger (Scott Glenn).

In stage three, the murder, Jake helps Alonzo and several other narcotics officers serve the search warrant by raiding Roger's house.

Roger has acquired several million dollars from extensive drug-dealing activities.

And, Alonzo needs this money very badly.

He killed a Russian mobster while in Las Vegas and must now pay the mobster's colleagues one million dollars as a form of compensation.

So, Alonzo kills Roger, takes his money, and then claims that Officer Jake Hoyt must take responsibility for the killing.

The killing of Roger is the tragic deed that eventually leads to Alonzo's downfall.

As a result of this deed, Jake abandons the rules of the police department and uses street justice to pursue and punish Alonzo.

Jake does so by traveling into Alonzo's neighborhood without police backup and by doing battle with him there.

Ultimately, Jake takes Roger's million-dollar stash from Alonzo, who is then killed by Russian mobsters for not handing over that money on time.

So, it is the Russian mobsters, the street criminals, who end Alonzo's reign of terror and injustice.

"Street justice" prevails.

And, Jake changes psychologically, starting out as a rookie cop who believes in the justice system and becoming an experienced cop who lets citizens dispense justice at will.

Early in the film, Alonzo tells him: "You gotta decide whether you're a wolf or a sheep."

By the end of the film, Jake has metaphorically become a "wolf"--someone who is willing to abandon the rules to defend himself and all that he loves. That's the change he undergoes.

Define the protagonist of your screenplay according to the change he undergoes:


Find news articles in which a person who regularly defends the innocent is falsely accused of committing a tragic deed.


The incident involving the tragic deed will be part of the subject of your story.


The focus of your story will be the protagonist's attempt at punishing the antagonist (the villain), the person who is responsible for this deed.


Define the characteristics that make your protagonist (the hero) stubborn enough to risk his life to punish the antagonist.


Who does the protagonist view as someone worth protecting? His wife? A stranger? A criminal?


What does he do to protect his family and the family members of strangers from injustice? Does he risk losing his career? Does he break the law? Does he change his view of how justice is defined?


When does he realize that he must risk his life to preserve his way of life? After he sees criminals being injustly punished? After he is forced to take part in a crime?


Where does he realize that he must re-define his idea of what justice is? Is he in a place that reminds him of his family? Is he at the scene of a crime for which he's being blamed?


Why does he seek vengeance against a person who works in his profession--the antagonist? Did the antagonist try to deceive him? Did the antagonist force him into doing something that would fill him with guilt?


Describe the process in which the protagonist learns that he has been deceived and entrapped by the antagonist.


Define this process by:


Showing the protagonist trying to prevent the antagonist from abusing the rights of criminals who have not yet been convicted.


Showing the protagonist refusing to take part in a crime that would harm a known criminal.


Showing the protagonist letting ordinary citizens punish the antagonist instead of using the court system.

Note: This list of questions is a partial screenwriting exercise whose purpose is to help you create a story idea.

To obtain a list of questions that will help you write an entire screenplay, purchase's
"Character Development Exercise."


Character Development Exercises
Would you like to create characters for your screenplay that captivate producers and directors?

Then has the answer. Our screenwriting exercise,
Character Development," will show you how to create characters that seem to have a life of their own.

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