In Sunday’s post, I mentioned how I’ve been struggling to get to know the protagonist of my space odyssey pilot. I have nearly every other character worked out, backstories in place, and even a number of future episode ideas plotted, but this one character, the main character, still sort of eludes me.
I decided to find ways of getting to know my character better and found two useful tools. The first is a list of personality traits ranging from positive to negative from MIT. The second is a list of questions to answer that will help you create a fully fleshed out person, not just a character. I found two separate sources:
1) Gotham Writers has two lists.
2) Is a link to a page entitled, The 100 Most Important Things to Know About Your Character. This page incorporates many of the questions from Gotham and then added on.
I have found both tools rather useful. I went through each character and assigned them all a handful of positive, neutral, and negative traits each to encourage diversity and to better understand them individually. Not all characters are all good or bad (I’ve written a bit on this before. Click here.), and this helped me to learn more about them and how they might respond in a given situation.
The questionnaire is a bit more daunting, at 100+ questions, but even just looking over the list allowed me to take other facets of my character’s life into consideration. There are big things to consider, such as what were her biggest fears or her dreams before arriving in this new world? And there are trifling matters, such as did she secretly have a crush on someone? Will she be upset that she’ll never know how Game of Thrones ended? I know I would. Okay, I threw that one in just for giggles, but you can see my train of thought and how these questions will shape your character.
Novel writing and screenwriting vary in a great many aspects, but knowing your characters is not one of them. Although many of those personal aspects will not find themselves on the page of your screenplay or even on the screen, and some of those topics may never be visited within the pages of a novel, but as the writer, understanding your characters will help you determine their actions, their feelings, and their responses – and sometimes it’s with this understanding that they help us write the story. If we know how they will react to a certain situation, it makes the writing that much easier, because we are writing what is in their nature, and not trying to force a situation to work a specific way because it’s what we want.
I hope you find these tools useful, and if you have any other sources or tips, please share!