Character tip: give them an essential nature, something that stays the same, even if everything else is different.

I recently read a horror script where the main character’s only trait was “rape victim (1).” Her only character traits weThe other day I read a horror script where the main character’s only trait was “rape victim (1).” Her only character traits were “suspicious, traumatized, didn’t like being touched.” Had she not been raped, sheContinue reading “Character tip: give them an essential nature, something that stays the same, even if everything else is different.”

Dimensional characters have a true nature, and a false face they present to the world.

Writing characters is a varied art form and there’s a million ways to develop characters that are “great” “dimensional,” “original.” Here’s a simple trick I like to use: Who is this character, really? How do they present themselves to the world? These are also good questions for life. If you want to know how someone wantsContinue reading “Dimensional characters have a true nature, and a false face they present to the world.”

Dark Mirror – Arcs and the advantages of hero and villain sharing the same flaw.

QUESTION:  In Big Hero 6, and I was surprised to see that the protagonist’s flaw (Hiro coping with the loss of his brother) and the antagonist’s flaw (Professor Robert Callaghan coping with the death of his wife) were essentially the same. Are a lot of movies like this? It actually may help to pretend that all moviesContinue reading “Dark Mirror – Arcs and the advantages of hero and villain sharing the same flaw.”

Premise Test – Notes on Type

You’ll often hear me talk about the premise of a movie. When I do, I’m usually talking about the premise test: An <ADJECTIVE> <PROTAGONIST TYPE> must <GOAL> or else <STAKES>. They do this by <DOING> and learns <THEME>. A type boils a character down into one word, an oversimplified conceptual handle so we get a graspContinue reading “Premise Test – Notes on Type”

Almost every character is some kind of archetype. That’s not a bad thing.

I once asked people to name some characters who couldn’t easily fit into archetypal categories.  The answers surprised me. Randal Floyd – Dazed and Confused Jackie Brown – Jackie Brown Max Fischer – Rushmore. Commodus – Gladiator Kirk Lazarus – Tropic Thunder Mark Zuckerberg – The Social Network King Schultz – Django Unchained Freddie Quell –Continue reading “Almost every character is some kind of archetype. That’s not a bad thing.”

Characters are patterns. Every line of dialogue should make that pattern more clear.

Some old screenwriting advice: give characters distinct voices. You should be able to read a line without dialogue attribution and know who said it. Practical example: If I made a list of great George lines, Jerry lines, Elaine lines and Kramer lines, you could probably tell whose was whose. You could tell even if youContinue reading “Characters are patterns. Every line of dialogue should make that pattern more clear.”

Everything in a dream is actually you. The same goes for your characters.

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” ― G.K. Chesterton, Heretics I read this quote when I was a teenager, and I never really got it.  I’m not advocating for characters that are obvious stand-ins for their authors, but it’s very difficultContinue reading “Everything in a dream is actually you. The same goes for your characters.”

CHARACTER TIP: CAST YOUR PROJECT WITH A STAR (IN YOUR HEAD, NOT ON THE PAGE)

I love starting a new project notebook for a new project. I like to make entries for all the characters: protagonist, antagonist, love interest, side kick, etc. And then I do my favorite step of all: I find pictures of the stars I want to play my characters. Like all choices in screenwriting, this approachContinue reading “CHARACTER TIP: CAST YOUR PROJECT WITH A STAR (IN YOUR HEAD, NOT ON THE PAGE)”

CHARACTER ARCS 101

People often talk of “character arcs.”  Arcs a fancy byword for “character change.”  Think of your hero as a work in progress.  Protagonist 1.0 might be cool and handsome, but isn’t in touch with his feminine side/greedy/can’t skateboard.  Odds are that a series of amusing setpieces will turn him into Protagonist v2.0 who’s very inContinue reading “CHARACTER ARCS 101”