Thursday, 22 October 2009

If You Want To Make It As A Writer, You've Got To Have Character(s)

Yo! Welcome back! This is part 4 of my notes from the writersroom seminar. Check out the other parts in our last three blogs. :-) Today we're talking about...


One of my favourite TV shows ever is "The Shield", a police drama about a police station that is right in the middle of LA gangland. The main character, Vic Mackey (a corrupt cop), is an incredibly interesting character. Not at all a likeable person, but SO entertaining to watch. You're always wondering what he's going to do next. Here's a scene to show you what I mean, but be warned, it's pretty gross and the language isn't suitable for kids. Mackey is the bald one...

Whenever you're writing a character, you really need to make them compelling on an emotional level. No amount of fiddling with the other details of your script will help if you don't have compelling characters.

There's no real way of being "taught" how to do this, but you can examine the characters you've written and if you can't connect with them, or they seem dry, or stereotypical, or if they all seem to have the same "voice", then you know you need to work on them some more. They need to be somebody that you want to spend time with, not necessarily somebody that you like, but somebody who makes you want to know what they're going to do next and what's going to happen to them.

Part of this is making sure that you take your characters on an "active journey", and by this, I mean that the character is motivated by desires or needs, and that they face obstacles or come up against dilemmas that get in the way of these desires. How they deal with these situations is how you reveal the nature of your characters and make them identifiable.

Another part of it is making sure you don't play into the trap of using stereotypical characters, but instead create them as individuals. The last thing that Paul Ashton (of the writersroom) said about character that really, really struck me was, "what does your character see when they look at the world?" It seems so simple, but if you can get your head into the character, and think about how they view the world/people around them, you can think about how they see it differently from everybody else. This will make it easier to write for them - they will become more "alive", interesting and individual.

That's all for today, peeps. Catch you tomorrow.


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