Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The ABC's of Character Development

Can't remember where I found this, but it's an interesting tool for building characters.

A - Appearance. What are the character's basic physical descriptors (height, weight, hair, eyes, complexion, grooming and clothing). What does her appearance reveal about her personality?

B - Behavior. What is the character's general manner and bearing? Is he polite or rude? Domineering or deferential? Nervous or calm? Any mental health problems? List some mannerisms uniquely his own.

C - Chronology. What is the character's history? How did she get to where she is now? What sort of childhood did she have? What were the major influences and experiences that shaped her personality?

D - Demographics. What is the character's age? Sex? How much income does he have? What's his marital status? What's his cultural background?

E - Education. How much education does the character have? High school drop-out or Ph.D? What areas has she studied? How good a student was she?

F - Fears. What are the primary fears that drive the character's actions? Does he have any phobias? How does he deal with his fears? Face them head-on or avoid them at all costs?

G - Goals. What are the character's main goals, both in terms of life in general and the story in particular? What will she need to do to accomplish those goals?

H - Hobbies/Habits. Does the character have any favorite pastimes? Does he have any rituals or patterns in his life? What knowledge does he have because of his areas of interest?

I - Idiosyncrasies. Does the character have any unusual and identifying quirks or peculiarities? How about nervous tics? Does she have any catch phrases?

J - Job. What does the character do for a living? Why? What skills does he have because of his job training and experience? What jobs has he held in the past, and what skills did he gain from those?

K - Kinfolk. Who are the character's family and close friends? What type of relationship do they have? How important are they in her day-to-day life? Does she have siblings? What's her birth order?

L - Language. What is the character's voice? Is it unique and consistent enough to identify his dialogue without attributions? What does his body language reveal?

M - Motivation. What is the character's primary motivation in the story? Is it believable? Consistent throughout?

N - Name. What is the character's name? Does it say anything about her? Does she like it? Is it ethnically appropriate? Are all of your character's different enough to avoid reader confusion?

O - Obstacles. What obstacles will the character encounter? How will he overcome them? What skills will he use? How will this dictate his actions and thoughts?

P - Perceptions. How does the character experience her environment? Use all five of her senses to determine her response to each scene. How does her current world look, smell, feel, sound and taste?

Q - Qualities. What are the character's dominant qualities? Is he brave? Kind? Loving? Remember, even evil characters can possess a good quality or two.

R - Religion. What are the character's religious beliefs? How important is religion in her life? How do her beliefs influence her actions and decisions?

S - Strengths. What are the character's main strengths? Are they physical? Mental? Emotional? Intellectual? How will he capitalize on those strengths to reach his goals and overcome obstacles?

T - Temperament. What is the character's usual disposition? Is she a Type A, a Type B, or a mix of both? What might cause her to deviate from her normal temperament?

U - Universals. What universal emotions will the character experience in the story? Love? Hate? Jealousy? Hurt? Fear? How can you make the reader feel those emotions along with the character?

V - Values. List the principles, morals, ideals, standards and ethics the character subscribes to. How do they influence his actions and behavior? Will any of his values change in the course of the story?

W - Weaknesses. What is the character's overall state of health? Does he have any limitations, impairments, injuries or handicaps? How important is health to him, and how does it influence his lifestyle?

X - X-Rays. What is the character's overall state of health? Does he have any limitations, impairments, injuries or handicaps? How important is health to him, and how does it influence his lifestyle?

Y - Yearnings. What longings and desires will the character experience in the course of the story? Will they be basic (hunger, thirst) or superfluous (greed, recognition)? Will she obtain them?

Z - Zip code. Where does the character live? Why does he live there? How did he come to be there? What does his home environment reveal about his personality? Is the home consistent with income?

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