Characterization PART 1
How many times do you watch film and just plain lose interest. I don’t think it’s the cheesy SFX or the awful sound quality of films these days (you strain to hear the dialogue, yet cover your ears moments later because of loud music or those SFX again)...well okay, maybe that’s part of it! No really, I think it’s because you’re not invested in the character. You don’t care whether s/he wins or loses, lives or dies.
So what can you do to make sure from the first reader (judge, editor, producer) to the final curtain, people care about your characters and love your film? "Duh," you’re saying, "create good characters!"
To which I reply: "Duh, don’t we all TRY to create memorable characters every time we put pen to paper?" Why then do we sometimes fail?
There’s a huge amount of information available on characterization, so periodically I’m going to post some of the techniques I’ve found that have made a difference in my writing and will hopefully make a difference in yours.
Today: Profile Lists, Part 1
I’ve tried profile lists before, and wasn’t impressed until I USED this one during an online class taught by Sally J. Walker, http://members.cox.net/sallyjwalker
Sally, who is President of the Nebraska Writers Guild, www.nebraskawriters.org, asked me to make clear that there are many MANY other character outlining tools available, and so there are. I used this one because I was starting a new script during class and wanted to see if there was any new information in the Universe to help me create a dynamic, multi faceted hero and heroine.
Honest, using this list made my character jump off the page and I was creating a better story because I began to see how they would behave in the story.
I emailed Audra and T with my hero and heroine’s sketched in the profile and they were mightily impressed that a tool could quickly create such depth, and you better believe these ladies are tough to impress.
Comments in CAPS are mine, so here we go:
1. Name: Evokes images, cultures, ancient meanings, as in "A Boy Named Sue" or a recognizable Russian first name and an Irish last name, a child repeatedly being told to live up to his name which means "Warrior."
2. Age: Life stage evokes expectations. AIN’T IT THE TRUTH!
3. Height & Weight: Again cultural expectations, voluptuous versus starvation-thin, tall & muscular versus small & wiry.
4. Hair: Color, style, especially if it characterizes as in U.S. Marine cut or matted & filthy.
5. Eyes: Unusual coloring, telling characteristic, or expressive habits.
6. Scars/Handicaps: History of incident or development creates expectations. I CAME UP WITH SOME INTERESTING THINGS HERE....YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO WATCH THE MOVIE :) AND SEE IF YOU CAN SPOT THEM! I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S RELEASED. HECK, I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S WRITTEN.
7. Birthdate: Era or circumstance can impact or typify social status as in "Far and Away." MANY PEOPLE TRY TO BEHAVE YOUNGER/OLDER THAN THEIR YEARS FOR A MULTITUDE OF REASONS.
8. Birthplace: Again reflective of social status in eyes of audience as in the each of the players in the original "Highlander" movie.
9. Parents & Childhood: Foundation of character’s life expectations either as exemplary or defiance.
10. Education: Forced feeding of information and social interactions, as in royal guard of Montezuma versus contemporary, orphanage-reared U.S. Navy SEAL.
11. Work Experience: Similar to Education category in impacting social and cultural expectations and attitudes. IMAGINE, WHAT IF YOU’D WORKED AT ONE JOB/CAREER YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, THEN IT’S TAKEN AWAY? THAT WOULD INFLUENCE A PERSON’S REACTIONS WOULDN’T IT?
12. Home & its physical environment: A reflection of personal priorities and opportunities.
Out of this basic information, the character begins to take on a personality in your mind. Why? Because you, the writer/creator, begin to understand how that personality developed and what provided the major influences. You consciously choose what internally motivates that character’s choices.
Please come back tomorrow for Part Deux, the list keeps getting better. And please if you have thoughts, share.
List of upcoming classes Sally is teaching:
Brick and Mortar
Moondance International Film Festival
"Romantic Screenplays 101"
Fri, Aug 29th and Sat, Aug 30 1-3pm
Metropolitan Community College
"Research for Fiction"
Sat, Sept 13, 1-4pm
"Writing from the Anxiety Curve"