When the begin the screenwriting process, always ask yourself the why: Why does the character ask to be in a story? What is it I feel about him or about her? Because then you begin to find out why you want to write the whole story, and what the passion of that character is, and why he wants what he wants.
Eventually you reach the moment where you can dream for your character, where you can remember for him or her everything that happened in his or her past. When that happens, then you are safe because the character (not the screenwriter) will find his/her way towards the resolutions of the story.
At this point, the problem is how to hit that character in his most vulnerable spot. How to put him in the worst predicament imaginable. How to strengthen that predicament, and how to increase, at the same time, his desire to achieve his objective.
Once you get that, you’ve got a story growing, and there is no problem what to do next. You just use the rational approach and start asking yourself: What are the sequences in which this character tries to get himself out of the predicament? That's screenwriting!
And you put him in that predicament. Then you have the steps from the set up of the dramatic situation to the culmination. When you can see the sequences and you start asking what event you can put in the center of each sequence, the story begins to unravel and then you have a chance to feel quite safe. You begin to have an outline, and after that, you can begin to write your screenplay.
1. How does your character think of their father? What do they hate and love about him? What influence - literal or imagined - did the father have?
2. Their mother? How do they think of her? What do they hate? Love? What influence - literal or imagined - did the mother have?
CHARACTER BIO: MAIN PROTAGONIST
Objective: Dig deep with a character, discovering background history, personality, psychology, and current goals.
Exercise: Write a detailed description of your main character (1 page only).
Remember: You are describing a dramatic character, so present him/her to us in a way that is cinematically useful.
Hints: We need to understand their drives, fears, goals, and we’ll have to be able to picture them and hear them.
There are a plethora of movie character names that become everlasting brands in American culture: Rocky, Yoda, Forrest Gump, and Shrek to name a few. And when it comes to naming characters, you want to choose wisely, which is no easy task.
Literature: Lennie Small: the mentally disabled but physically strong protagonist in John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella Of Mice and Men.
Drama: Willy Loman: the elderly salesman lost in false hopes and illusions in Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman.
Film: “The Dude”: the unemployed L.A. slacker and avid bowler in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 film The Big Lebowski.
You will create many different types of characters in order to flesh out your story. Obviously, the protagonist - hero or anti-hero - is your main character and deserves the most attention. However, most stories also include an antagonist, hopefully a villain that is complex and layered, and then there's the plethora of supporting characters - friends and rivals, even symbolic and nonhuman characters - that are essential to moving the story forward. When creating characters - main and supporting - it's helpful to explore them through writing exercises. These five character exercises are designed to help you develop and strengthen your characters. Give them a try; you never know what treasures you might discover.
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