Film Production

16 Steps for Planning and Writing Your Script: Step 7

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Step 7: Building Character Profiles

Hi, my name is J.O. Booker and I am the producer, screenwriter, director, and editor of the upcoming short film called L.O.V.E.: A Four Letter Word.

This is Day 1 of the 2nd leg of our journey.  Though it is not necessary for you to read this blog weekly, if you have struggled with related issues in the past such as following through, maintaining a journal, finding time to read regularly, or starting that novel or script you’ve had on your mind forever, you should read this and other screenwriting blogs each and every day until writing becomes as natural to you as breathing air. 

By now, you should have gotten some ideas–some more developed than others– out of your journaling.  And you should have also assigned these ideas to its own document in a common folder, which should be labeled “ideas” or the like.

At this time, open that folder and take a look at each of the documents describing each of the ideas you’ve gotten.  If you have only 1 document with a single idea, this is ok!  

Looking at and thinking over this idea, do you see it inside of your head, like a movie?

If you do, can you also hear the soundtrack?

Do you see the characters, hear their voices, yet?  Do you recognize them?  Are they people you know?  Family, a friend, someone random, a face you may have seen on television or in a magazine?

Where are they?  What are they like?  What are they up against?  What do they want?  What’s holding them back?  Where are they from?  Do they have any inner conflicts? 

At this point, select the strongest idea from the ideas you’ve gotten and summarize this idea as clearly as you possibly can.

After you’ve done this, ask yourself “what is the best way to express this idea?  As a novel, a short story, a novella, a feature-length script, or a short film script–any of these options will determine how much (if any) character development or backstory your idea may require.  

After you’ve decided what form you want your finished idea to take, create a folder–a paper folder or a folder on your laptop–and drop this idea into it.  If you’ve decided to write a script, this summary would be the equivalent of a treatment.  Now, for the next 7 steps we will be adding the following documents into this project folder (Don’t worry about a title yet, this will come later): 

  • CHARACTER PROFILE (1 for each character in your story)
  • PLOT



Today, we will begin focused brainstorming, first on the character or characters, we are able to see at this point.  As you brainstorm, today, think about the following details:

  • How do they look? (physical characteristics)
  • What is their backstory? — Where are they from?  What, in their past, has shaped their personalities, their outlook?  What are their internal/external conflicts: (are they alcoholics, are they dealing with a sick loved one, are they dealing with money issues, are they dealing with emotional stress, etc.?)
  • What do they do for a living? 

Make one of these profiles out for each character you come up with.  

As we continue building up the ideas we’ve gotten with these folders more details will come to you and as they do add them to your characters’ profiles.  If the character is someone you know, you may find this step much easier than if you’re starting with only the face of a person in your head.  But even if all you have now is a face or faces by the time we fill up these characters’ profiles and start building our outline you will have added enough details to your characters that they will behave believably within your story.

And remember, you must keep reading and journaling as these will provide the ideas that will build up your story and characters in the coming weeks.

See you next time!


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