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The basics of creating a character

Page history last edited by Steve 9 years, 8 months ago



Characters have Wants. Central objectives that define the reason they’re on the show. The more Wants a character has, the more dimensions they have – because those Wants can be placed in opposition with each other. For example, Veronica Mars wants to be accepted, defend her dad, and find out who killed Lily Kane. What if two of those things turn out to be incompatible?



-- historically

-- psychologically

-- emotionally

-- dramatically

-- as characters I'm dying want to write


Things it's  worth brainstorming when you are designing characters:


- Character Traits

- Secrets

- How they respond under pressure

- Trajectory (or Destiny): where a character appears they're going to end up, at the start of a show.


Knowing a character's background helps you figure out their voice.  


That's because the way a person speaks reflects their interests. The metaphors they use, the subjects they talk about, and the grammatical structure of how they talk about them.


Examples ... A journalist who asks incisive questions, likes finding out facts, and enjoys talking about current events. A computer programmer whose sentences are logical and precise. In real-life, I've recently noticed how much I use television shows and script-writing techniques in conversation. I compared a job situation to working on a 'West Wing' election campaign; if I want to know about someone's past, I ask "What's their backstory?" Frankly, it's begun to irritate me.


Conclusion: if a person's focused (or obsessive) about what they're interested in, their speech becomes more one-dimensional. Which is great, because it makes them easier to characterise, ... and not so good if you're a real person.


What else affects speech patterns? Class, education, temperament, ethnicity, friends. There's a whole bunch of continuums that are useful to think about - does this person have high or low self-esteem? How certain or ambivalent are they? Where do they fit on continuums like:


- caring/selfish

- honest/deceitful

- ambitious/contented

- direct/passive-aggressive

- clear thinking/fuzzy thinking

- practical/dreamer?


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