Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More on character development.

Whenever I start a new screenplay, I always go back to Screenwriting 101 by Neill D. Hicks. I recommend it to anyone interested in writing for the screen. He has a lot to say about character development, a great deal of which echoes what Mr. Rochester was saying in his comments here. While this is specific to screenwriting, there's definitely something to be taken from it no matter what form of writing you're pursuing. Here's a snippet:

    The best screenplays are not inhabited by characters that are built. Creative screenwriters recognize that characters are alive and complete the instant you conceive of them. They live within you, and your job is to find ways that will allow them to come out. In this sense, writing is a metaphysical invocation of character. You must become a discoverer of character, not a creator. In a sense, you are like the medium at a seance table, summoning your characters to take part in the drama that's growing in your creative imagination.

He goes on to say that "the writer must listen to the inner voice — not the writer's inner voice, but the voice of the character within the writer." He also says that you have to fall in love with your characters.

Then he gives this "scribble exercise" that's pretty fun to do. Answer these questions without thinking about them — give your immediate, gut reaction to each.

  • When was your main character happiest?

  • What talent would your main character most like to have?

  • If your main character could change one thing about him- or herself, what would it be?

  • What does your main character consider to be his or her greatest achievement?

  • What is your main character's most treasured possession?

  • What is your main character's greatest extravagance?

  • When does your main character lie?

  • What is your main character's greatest regret?

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