Thursday, September 29, 2011

Developing great characters, Part 4 – Putting them in front of you

     Continuing my series on character exploration: 

     I find that the more complete a visual picture I can create of my characters, the more they come to life for me.  Although I don't usually write for specific actors, I do try to see real people in my mind's eye, most often totally fictional, but nevertheless real--as people often appear in my dreams. I'm talking here about actual physical appearance--height, weight, hair and eye color, skin tone, posture, grooming, attractiveness, sex appeal, degree of ruggedness or refinement, clothes choices, and so on. 

     Here’s a simple exercise that might help open the floodgates.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Developing great characters, Part 3 – physical characteristics

            Continuing with this series of posts on character development and exploration, I’m going to walk you through the various aspects of what I call the short-form biography, beginning with your characters’ physical characteristics. I acknowledge a debt here to Lajos Egri who first presented this basic approach in his all-time best-selling book The Art of Dramatic Writing, first published way back in 1941 (and still in print).  The short-form biography is adapted from and an expansion of the three-part character breakdown Egri calls "the bone structure" of character.

     I should also mention upfront that as we take a closer look at the various elements making up the short-form bio, keep in mind this early character work is just that:  a starting point.  As you explore your people more fully and get to know them intimately, these initial sketches will most likely have to be adjusted to fit the fuller personalities you uncover.  And as your idea is developed and refined, your people may very well have to change to fit into what your script is becoming.  For now, however, the important thing is to get the exploration started.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Developing great characters, Part 2 – the short-form biography

     Here’s the second installment in a series of posts I’m doing on character development/exploration:

Once you’ve formulated a workable idea for a script—a framework for your story, a point of reference, a strategy for the tale’s telling—it’s time to expand it into a bigger and richer dramatic field, to dig deeper into the possibilities you've sketched out and discover what you really have to work with.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Developing great characters: the heart of scriptwriting, Part I

     One of the most critical phases in the writing of a first-class script is the upfront character exploration work that is done before a draft is tackled. Different writers approach this in different ways.  Some do extensive work and others very little if any at all.  In my next several blog posts I’m going to lay out an approach I’ve developed in my own writing and that I’ve “field tested” and refined with hundreds of scriptwriting students and clients over the years.

     So, starting at the beginning:

     What’s in a name?