Character Development: What I’m doing today.

Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA

Image via Wikipedia

Posting this for those of you who have been following my tweets about working this process.

Character Development from The Script Lab

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT ASSIGNMENTS

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.

Schedule: Here, purely as an example, is a template to follow.

DAY 1

Describe your main character. Do it as if you were telling someone about some very interesting people you met, someone that drives you crazy, someone you think the world of… Imagine being asked, “Why should I be interested in this person?” Share your excitement about him/her?

DAY 2

Do CHARACTER EXERCISES. How is he/she different from you? What sort of imaginary body does he or she have? Where is the character’s imaginary center?

DAY 3

Try the body principle with costume, props, or activity. Literally, be the character. Go shopping – at the mall, in the grocery store – as your character. Order a sandwich, not as you would, but as your character would. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant but you end up with a double cheese burger with grilled onions. Go to the Museum of Modern Art as your character. What does your character see or doesn’t see. What did you learn. Take notes after your session.

DAY 4

Read the CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE – slowly. You don’t have to answer everything. Some things you’ll have an answer for immediately. Others will seem irrelevant. But be careful you aren’t just avoiding something challenging. What things would you like to know about your character but can’t answer? Let your imagination go. Take notes on anything that occurs to you, but don’t touch your description.

DAY 5

Three things. Describe your main character again, incorporating anything new you’ve discovered, but don’t revise what you wrote the first time. Start anew. Try different CHARACTER EXERCISES. Have fun. After you’ve finished, ask yourself what your character is after. What does he/she want? What is his/her goal? What would Make it most difficult for him or her to achieve it?

DAY 6

Review the CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE. Have any things occurred to you? Look back at your first descriptions. Is a new person beginning to emerge? Different from those you first saw? What interests you most about him/her now? What is his/her strengths? What do you loathe in him/her? Where is she vulnerable? Remember: your character must have weaknesses. Describe him/her again, incorporating the new knowledge gained from the CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE. Once again, start from scratch.

DAY 7

Review your work. Revise your description (1 PAGE SINGE SPACED).

CHARACTER BIO: UNABLE TO LOVE

Objective: Dig deep with a character, discovering background history, personality, psychology, and current goals.

Exercise: Write a character biography (1 page) of a person who is unable to love. Base this on someone you know. Know everything about this character: looks, family, religion, childhood, etc. Use the details of real life – the life you know. Then select from what you know, and describe the character in dramatic, cinematic terms – that is, in ways that are of use to a screenwriter.

Remember: Most of all, you must know and articulate the reason why this character is unable to love. What is holding him/her back? What does he or she fear will happen if he/she fear will happen if he/she falls in love? Rejection? Certain disappointment, e.g., was there once someone he loved that no one can ever live up to?

Finally, how does he imagine himself at moments when he has a chance to love someone but doesn’t? Fragile? Tired? Protective? Noble? Wise?

Schedule: Use the character seven-day schedule to help you fully develop this character.

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.

SEVEN DAY SCHEDULE: Here, purely as an example, is a seven day template to follow.

DAY 1 – Describe your main character. Do it as if you were telling someone about some very interesting people you met, someone that drives you crazy, someone you think the world of… Imagine being asked, “Why should I be interested in this person?” Share your excitement about him/her?

DAY 2 – Do CHARACTER EXERCISES. How is he/she different from you? What sort of imaginary body does he or she have? Where is the character’s imaginary center?

DAY 3 – Try the body principle with costume, props, or activity. Literally, be the character. Go shopping – at the mall, in the grocery store – as your character. Order a sandwich, not as you would, but as your character would. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant but you end up with a double cheese burger with grilled onions. Go to the Museum of Modern Art as your character. What does your character see or doesn’t see. What did you learn. Take notes after your session.

DAY 4 – Read the CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE – slowly. You don’t have to answer everything. Some things you’ll have an answer for immediately. Others will seem irrelevant. But be careful you aren’t just avoiding something challenging. What things would you like to know about your character but can’t answer? Let your imagination go. Take notes on anything that occurs to you, but don’t touch your description.

DAY 5 – Three things. Describe your main character again, incorporating anything new you’ve discovered, but don’t revise what you wrote the first time. Start anew. Try different CHARACTER EXERCISES. Have fun. After you’ve finished, ask yourself what your character is after. What does he/she want? What is his/her goal? What would Make it most difficult for him or her to achieve it?

DAY 6 – Review the CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE. Have any things occurred to you? Look back at your first descriptions. Is a new person beginning to emerge? Different from those you first saw? What interests you most about him/her now? What is his/her strengths? What do you loathe in him/her? Where is she vulnerable? Remember: your character must have weaknesses. Describe him/her again, incorporating the new knowledge gained from the CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE. Once again, start from scratch.

DAY 7 – Review your work. Revise your description (1 PAGE SINGE SPACED).

Pasted from <http://thescriptlab.com/the-formula/character/creating-characters/21-character-development>

Character Exercises Day 2

1. THE MONOLOGUE

Objective: Learn a character’s insights, thoughts, and feelings.

Exercise: Write a monologue (1 page) that accurately portrays your character. What is he/she feeling at that moment? What is his/her hopes? His/her fears? What does he/she love? Hate?

Remember: The character is speaking to him/herself.

Hints: Use the character’s speech patterns and vocabulary – their voice.

Pasted from <http://thescriptlab.com/the-formula/character/creating-characters/20-character-exercises?start=1>

2. THE SPEECH

Objective: Use exposition to learn a character’s past experiences.

Exercise: Write a speech (1 page) in which your character describes, explains, tells, or preaches about a specific event, experience, or idea. Here are some suggestions:

- Explain his/her FIRST LOVE AFFAIR.

- Recall his/her experience of DISCOVERING A DEAD BODY.

- Describe the BIRTH OF HIS/HER FIRST CHILD.

- Lecture on a situation of INTERNATIONAL MILITARY CONFLICT.

- Preach about the PRACTICAL VALUE OF ATHEISM.

Remember: The character is speaking to someone or even to a group of people. Decide who your character is addressing. The specifics of your character’s audience will affect word choice and presentation.

Hints: Use the character’s speech patterns and vocabulary – their voice.

Pasted from <http://thescriptlab.com/the-formula/character/creating-characters/20-character-exercises?start=2>

3. CHARACTER ENVIRONMENT (ROOMMATES)

Objective: Explore the things people surround themselves with that define character.

Exercise: Describe a bedroom where two people live. They can be college roommates, siblings, lovers, husband/wife – it’s up to you. You are to describe the room three times in script form (NO DIALOGUE – TWO PAGES MAXIMUM):

1) The first time the two people live in harmony.

2) The second, there has been a fight between the two roommates.

3) The third, one of the roommates has moved out.

Remember: The tricky part is you are to describe only the room. There are no people in any of these scenes. Use objects, furniture, clothes, etc… to differentiate between the two roommates. Don’t just list objects. Write with a sense of discovery. The way in which you reveal information is important. It affects our understanding as well as our emotions.

Hints: Subtle, but clear, changes should occur to the room as their relationship dissolves. We should know from the descriptions who these people are, what happened, which one started the fight, what the fight was about and who moved out.

Questions that should be answered: Who are these two people? What are their ages? What do they look like? How long have they lived together?  What was the argument about? Who started it? How did they deal with it? Who moved out?

Pasted from <http://thescriptlab.com/the-formula/character/creating-characters/20-character-exercises?start=3>

4. CHARACTER BIO: UNABLE TO LOVE

Objective: Dig deep with a character, discovering background history, personality, psychology, and current goals.

Exercise: Write a character biography (1 page) of a person who is unable to love. Base this on someone you know. Know everything about this character: looks, family, religion, childhood, etc. Use the details of real life – the life you know. Then select from what you know, and describe the character in dramatic, cinematic terms – that is, in ways that are of use to a screenwriter.

Remember: Most of all, you must know and articulate the reason why this character is unable to love. What is holding him/her back? What does he or she fear will happen if he/she fear will happen if he/she falls in love? Rejection? Certain disappointment, e.g., was there once someone he loved that no one can ever live up to?Finally, how does he imagine himself at moments when he has a chance to love someone but doesn’t? Fragile? Tired? Protective? Noble? Wise?

Schedule: Use the character seven-day schedule to help you fully develop this character.

Pasted from <http://thescriptlab.com/the-formula/character/creating-characters/20-character-exercises?start=4>

5. CHARACTER INTRODUCTION

Objective: Make your character stand out.

Exercise: Write a scene (1-3 pages) that introduces your character. Use description, props, wardrobe and dialogue that give your character a unique voice.

Remember: Introduction scenes are often scenes of the “status quo” – the character living his or her everyday life before the inciting incident propels the character into a new conflict.

Hints: Action speak louder than words. If your character is in a group, have them do something specific and unique that makes them memorable and interesting.

Example: COOL HAND LUKE (1967) – The opening scene to the screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson originally had two sections of dialogue of Luke talking to himself as he cut off the parking meters. What you will read here is the way we see the final edit of the film. Clearly, dialogue was unnecessary to illustrate Luke’s tragic flaw: defiance.

FADE IN:

EXT. SOUTHERN CITY STREET EXTREME CLOSEUP PARKING METER (NIGHT)

Its irritating head opens a glaring red eye: the red flag pops across the entire screen:

VIOLATION

INSERT: PARKING METER SUPPORT (NIGHT)

CLOSEUP of a pipe cutter attached to the meter neck, metal slivers curling out.

CLOSEUP PARKING METER (NIGHT)

as the meter head falls out of FRAME.

NEW ANGLE ON METER (NIGHT)

as it falls to the ground amidst a forest of meter stands and Luke’s hand comes into the FRAME to pick it up and we see LUCAS JACKSON in CLOSEUP for the first time. He is cheerful, drunk, wearing a faded GI Field jacket. A bottle opener hangs on a silver chain around his neck.

Suddenly the beam of headlights crashes in, FLARING the SCREEN.

ANGLE ON PROWL CAR (NIGHT)

sliding up to us, headlights glaring, red toplight revolving menacingly. TWO OFFICERS, black shapes, get out and start warily toward Luke.

ON LUKE (NIGHT)

illuminated by the headlights. He grins as the Officers approach, lifts a bottle of beer, opens it and drinks, smiling. On his smile, FREEZE FRAME. ON THE FRAME SUPER-IMPOSE MAIN TITLE.

Pasted from <http://thescriptlab.com/the-formula/character/creating-characters/20-character-exercises?start=5>

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