Film Production

16 Steps for Planning and Writing Your Script: Step 9

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Step 9: Developing your Main Character

Hi, my name is J.O. Booker and I am the producer, screenwriter, location scout, storyboarder, director, and editor of the upcoming short film called L.O.V.E.: A Four Letter Word.  Once again, welcome to my writing system, which I’ve designed and refined over the years via my own personal self-taught trials and errors.  But, as in all undertakings, there is still a price to be paid and this price is your COMMITMENT!

This is why, as David Huddle in his great book “The Writing Habit” points out, WE WRITE EVERYDAY!  Now, let’s pick up where we left off.

Yesterday, I asked you to look at your idea from as many perspectives as possible — sociological, psychological, philosophical, metaphorical,etc.–  to help crystalize the idea even more in your head.

Today, let’s go into your characters. These characters and the story are inseparable, which is why we need to think about both simultaneously. Once you have a rough idea of what the story’s going to be about, the characters have to be thought out in a way that they will fit the story’s goal.  

Previously, I asked that you create CHARACTER PROFILES for each character in your story. Here’s how you set that document up:

 

CHARACTER

  • Name:
  • Physical traits
  • Race
  • Age
  • Height
  • Background (backstory)
  • Habits
  • Likes/dislikes
  • Favorite foods
  • Style of dress
  • Tastes in men/women
  • Job/Career
  • Internal and external conflicts
  • Religion
  • Weaknesses 
  • Hobbies

 

Start with the main character and put as much information as you can in his/her profile.  This document is set up to make you think about your character.

Thinking about your story as well will help you to stay focused on creating characters that fit the story.  I’ll use the script of my upcoming film L.O.V.E.; A Four Letter Word as an example.

I got the idea as I thought about  love and how this emotion can sometimes mislead one into using bad judgement.  Then I came up with a situation for this idea about this guy accepting a woman back into his life, no questions asked, after she played him and dumped him for another guy.

The main character, being the guy and the antagonist, and his ex, both complement the story idea, which is how love can sometimes mislead one into using bad judgement.

This is a direct reflection of the way I designed their profiles.  Some of fields in the profile, such as “favorite foods” would not be important in justifying the emotional vulnerability of my script’s main character.  However, other fields in his Character Profile such as the “backstory” may explain how he is unable to see his ex for what she really is.

The backstory–sprinkled in the dialogue–is the fact that she had dumped him months earlier without warning for an old flame whom she hadn’t gotten over.  Without this info in the “backstory” field in his Character Profile, his inability to see his ex as the player she is would seem unrealistic.  

Also, beside the field “Internal and External Conflicts” I put that Johnny’s were:

1) he still loved his ex despite being dumped (internal conflict)
and
2) that he was torn between what he knew in his gut about her and making a choice of forgiving her and accepting her back into his life (external).

So, you can see by this example how creating detailed Character Profiles help you to make alterations in the characters and story so that they both fit together logically and realistically.

By now we should have a daily regimen of (1) journaling (2) brainstorming your characters and (3) refining the idea for your story.

Next time, we will focus on where your story will take place, its location.

 

For some more information on writing great characters, check out these videos:

The Only Thing you Need to know about Writing Strong Female Characters

 

A Common Mistake Screenwriters Make When Developing Characters by Steve Kaplan

 

How to Make the Audience Care About Your Characters
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Watch the 5 Best Character Driven Films [according to IMDb] on Amazon:

Nightcrawler

Barton Fink
Prisoners
The Prestige
Shutter Island

 

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