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07.09.2011 20:42    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Elements  Fiction Writing  Screenwriting  Writing Characters  Writing Tips      Tags: characters  writing characters  screenwriting  

Using People You Know

Many scripts have been written with a particular actor (or at least their screen/ stage persona) in mind.

The obvious drawback is that if your character is recognizable as a real person, you leave yourself open to litigation. This might occur because the real person feels you have invaded their privacy or even slandered them. It is worth noting that we never know anyone as well as ourselves, so throughout the course of your story, no matter how well you think you know that person, there will be blanks to fill in. The potential to cause offence is enormous.

If you feel you must use a real person as a template, it is safer to incorporate traits from additional people so that you have a composite.

And above all, make sure real names are changed.


Creating and Developing a Character from Scratch

This is the best option.

Get to know your characters, everything about them. Their pasts, family, occupations, hobbies, upbringing, physical appearance and so forth. You may never use a quarter of the information you have generated but your characters will be more three dimensional and credible for it.



Break them at your peril.

Don't give minor characters names unless it is necessary to the story. This is particularly applicable to short stories, in which there is little enough time to develop the main characters let alone supporting ones.

Short stories should have no more than three main characters. More than this and readers may become confused or fail to develop the emotional response to the characters.

Be clear in your own mind when writing the story of the varying relationships between the main characters. For example, how does a interact with b in c's presence/ absence, b with c in a's presence/ absence and so forth.

Try to ensure each character has a function. Don't be tempted to add one to pad out a story.

Be clear on their roles within the story. If you're confused, it's a safe bet your readers will feel the same.

Make them believable, give them dimension. Readers are willing to suspend their disbelief when it comes to plot, provided the characters are credible. A great plot is nothing if the people within the story are cutouts or caricatures.

Above all, make your characters behave in a consistent fashion whatever happens to them. Characters tend to take on a life of their own some time into a story. You need to know when they say or do something 'out-of-character'. Of course, at certain times you may wish this to happen, in which case make it clear to the reader that they are acting 'out-of-character' for a reason, not simply because you've lost control of them.

The more interesting characters tend to be flawed. Telling a lie is always a useful flaw.

The main characters should develop during the story although this personal growth is necessarily limited with short stories.

Make sure you know which characters you want the readers to like. You must develop an empathy for these characters in the early stages of the story. Equally, ensure your villains are hateful especially if they have a nasty comeuppance in store.

Establish the identity of the hero(ine) of your story. These characters usually undergo the most change.

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