Build Screenwriting Characters

[found on thescriptlab.com]

“For a truly effective screenplay, you must know your characters backwards and forward. In screenwriting, the moment you begin to imagine character relationships – how your character deals with his parents, his siblings, his coworkers, and all that – you start to explore the world of your story, and suddenly scenes begin to emerge.

As you research your character (context, culture, occupation), creating details (attitudes, values, emotions), developing backstory (physiology, sociology, psychology), and establishing personality and behavior, you start putting the character in different situations in your mind, and you begin to imagine him or her in the most mundane and most exciting moments of his life.

The courage to deal with the trivial and banalities is something you should develop. Because often the best stories in screenwriting, are made from the most commonplace material, and if you don’t know how your character cooks dinner, does laundry, brushes his teeth, or what his little vexations are, his petty likes and dislikes, a dynamic, a full story will never happen.

Frank Daniel, the former chair of the Film Division at Columbia University and past dean of the School of Cinema-Television at USC, echos the point in five simple words: “A story starts with character.”

So if character is the key, and stories are only as good as the characters within them, you better create some damn, fine, outstanding characters.”

For more tips on writing screenplays from , click HERE.

[found on http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting]

Make Your Readers Worry, And They Will Be Loyal

[found on writersdigest.com]

“Predictability

Readers like to worry about characters in crisis. They want to tremble about what’s around the next corner (whether it’s emotional or physical). If a reader knows what’s coming, and then it does in fact come, the worry factor is blown. Your novel no longer conveys a fictive dream but a dull ride down familiar streets.

The fix is simple: Put something unexpected in every scene. Doing this one thing keeps the reader on edge.

So how do you come up with the unexpected? Try making lists. Pause and ask yourself what might happen next, and list the possibilities, centering on three primary areas: description, action and dialogue. For each one, don’t choose the first thing that comes to mind (which usually amounts to cliches). Force yourself to list at least five alternatives.

Description: Dump generic details for ones unique to the character’s perceptions. How might he see a room where someone died? What’s one surprising thing about the wallpaper? The bed? The closet?

Action: Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.

Dialogue: Don’t always use “on-the-nose” exchanges. How might characters say things that put other characters (and thus, readers) off balance? Consider Clarice Starling’s first conversation with Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice begins:

“I think you’ve been destructive. For me it’s the same thing.”

“Evil’s just destructive? Then storms are evil, if it’s just that simple. And we have fire, and then there’s hail. Underwriters lump it all under ‘Acts of God.’”

“Deliberate––”

“I collect church collapses, recreationally. Did you see the recent one in Sicily?”

You can make these lists in your planning stages, just before writing a scene, and/or when you revise. Either way, the unexpected elements that result will perceptibly elevate the quality of your story.”

For more tips on writing from , click here.

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-5-biggest-fiction-writing-mistakes-how-to-fix-them]

Describe In Short

[found on io9.com; by CHARLIE JANE ANDERS]

“World-building should be quick and merciless.

In a novel, you can spend ten pages explaining how the 29th Galactic Congress established a Peacekeeping Force to regulate the use of interstitial jumpgates, and this Peacekeeping Force evolved over the course of a century to include A.I.s in its command structure, etc. etc.

In a short story, you really need to hang your scenery as fast as possible. My friend and mentor d.g.k. goldberg always cited the Heinlein line: “The door dilated,” which tells you a lot about the surroundings in three words. Little oblique references to stuff your characters take for granted can go a long way.

Make us believe there’s a world beyond your characters’ surroundings.

Even though you can’t spend tons of time on world-building, you have to include enough little touches to make us believe there’s stuff we’re not seeing. It’s like the difference between the fake house-fronts in a cowboy movie and actual houses. We should glimpse little bits of your universe, that don’t necessarily relate to your characters’ obsessions.”

For more writing tips from Charlie Jane Anders, click here.

[found on http://io9.com/366707/8-unstoppable-rules-for-writing-killer-short-stories]

Who Are You Talking About?

[found on tylerlehmann.wordpress.com; by Tyler Lehmann]

“The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell, together, as quickly as possible.” — Mark Twain

“A good writer knows his characters better than he does his closest friends. Oh, that sounds nuts, you say? Yep, probably.

But the reality is, no one will give a rip about your characters if you don’t make them come alive, as good ol’ Twain points out above. Humans are infinitely complex, and if your characters don’t mimic that complexity, the illusion that is reading is lost.

    1. Gender
    2. Age
    3. Ethnicity
    4. Body type
    5. Hair color and style
    6. Eyewear
    7. Facial hair
    8. Clothing style
    9. Tattoos and piercings
    10. Scars and birthmarks…”

For more tips on writing, and the complete list of traits from Tyler Lehmann, click here.

[found on http://tylerlehmann.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/80-powerful-questions-you-need-to-make-a-character-traits-for-creative-writing]

Prevent the Hatred of the Main Character

[found on jodyhedlund.blogspot.com; by Jody Hedlund]

“How can we know if we’re crossing the line and making our main characters too unlikable?

We hear this writing mantra over and over: Add tension to every page, increase the conflict, and get our main characters (MCs) into trouble. In humble obedience to the rules of fiction, we try to heap mountains of problems upon our MCs.

We do this externally in the form of villains, trauma, or drama. And we do it internally in the form of emotional struggles, character weaknesses, or relationship problems. A story wouldn’t be a page-turner without the conflict to move it forward.

However, at the beginning when we’re trying to establish the problems and the need for character growth, we may tip the scales too far. Yes, our MCs need flaws, things they have to work through as the story progresses (aka character arc). But in the process of making our MCs imperfect, we can’t turn them into bitter, whiny, selfish, angry, mean, cold-hearted jerks.

I’ve learned that in making my MCs have real, everyday, human problems, I have to be careful not to shape them into the kind of people no one wants to hang around for 300 plus pages.”

For more writing tips from Jody Hedlund, click here.

[found on http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-avoid-trap-of-creating-unlikable.html]

Dialogue Your Characters

[found on theguardian.com]

“It’s never too soon to start thinking about what your characters will say and how they’ll say it. Giving each of your characters a distinct voice is key to writing great fiction.

The goal of Worksheet 9 is to encourage you to think about your characters’ individual speech patterns and specific word choices. Your characters will probably reveal these distinctions as your story progresses, but thinking about it early will make you more receptive to such revelations.

For each of your major characters, record information about individual speech patterns and any catchphrases they may use.

With this information in place on a dialogue sheet, you’ll know exactly what a given character will say and how he/she will say it. You can also use this worksheet during the final edit and polish of the manuscript to double-check speech patterns.”

[found on http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/19/researching-your-novel]

Enter, and Resolve Thyself

[found on iuniverse.com]
“Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.”
— Michael Moorcock

To see the rest of the tips from iUniverse, click here.

[found on http://www.iuniverse.com/ExpertAdvice/20WritingTipsfrom12FictionAuthors.aspx]

Name That Face

[found on writersdigest.com; by Elizabeth Sims]

There are many different styles of naming your characters, one is the ironic choice.

“Ironic Names

Large chunks of Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling 44 Scotland Street series concern the difficult life of Bertie Pollock, an Edinburgh schoolboy. Two of his schoolmates are lads named Larch and Tofu. Though minor characters, they’re there for a distinct purpose.

The names interact with a savory irony. Tofu and Larch’s names obviously have been bestowed by parents with finely tuned ideals. Political correctness abounds: One boy’s name is a legume paste, the other a tree. Yet the characters, we learn from their actions and words, are as shallow and phony-hearted as their names are sophisticated.

Smith gives us, by contrast, the simple, direct, honest Bertie. He is worth more than both Tofu and Larch put together. His is an ordinary, unpretentious name; his surname, Pollock, is a common fish. Bertie, then, is the humble everyman who must endure everybody else’s idiotic, self-serving vanities.

But for pure triumphal irony, can anything top the Veneering family, of Dickens’ classic Our Mutual Friend? Such a vaguely grand-seeming name for a vaguely grand family. Simultaneously, of course, their name clues us in that they are nothing but surface. And we enjoy watching them try—and fail—to live up to their banal aspirations.

Ironic names are easy to create: Just think of your character’s opposite qualities and brainstorm liberally. Let’s say you’ve got a clumsy guy who lives with his parents and aspires merely to avoid work and download porn. You could give him an ironic name like Thor or Victor or Christian or even Pilgrim. Or you could give him a first name that’s a family surname, like Powers or Strong.

Authors who want to use ironic character names should strictly limit themselves to one per story or novel.”

To see other options of name choice from Writer’s Digest, click here.

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/namedropping-finding-solid-names-for-your-unique-characters]

Want a Great Book?

[found on helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com; by K.M. Weiland]

“Twenty-five ways to write an awesome book:

1. Hook readers with a strong first chapter that doesn’t waste time.

2. Create a sympathetic and/or entertaining character.

3. Give the character a strong goal.

4. Obstruct the character’s goal with equally strong opposition.

5. Create a theme that arises from the character’s inner conflict.

6. Craft a strong plot with proper structure.

7. Do your research and get your facts straight.

8. Expunge unnecessary scenes, settings, and characters.

9. Balance action and character with properly structured scene/sequel pairings.

10. Write realistic, entertaining dialogue.

11. Maintain a consistent POV.

12. Create original and entertaining voices for narrating characters.

13. Tighten descriptions with more strong verbs and nouns and fewer modifiers.

14. Show more than you tell.

15. Dig deep for original ideas and turns of phrase.

16. Properly foreshadow your climax—without giving away any big reveals.

17. Build realistic and engaging settings.

18. Add only meaningful subplots.

19. When you build tension—always fulfill it.

20. Create a dynamic arc of growth for your character.

21. Add interesting minor characters who can power the plot forward.

22. Choose the right tone to enhance your plot and theme.

23. Rock readers with a climax that fulfills all their desires for the story.

24. Don’t tie off all the loose ends in your story’s ending.

25. Proofread, proofread, proofread.”

For more excellent tips from K.M. Weiland, click here.

[found on http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2013/11/top-25-ways-write-awesome-book.html]

Killing Your Characters

[found on writersrelief.com; by Writers Relief Staff]

“If you’re considering killing off your main character, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Be somewhat realistic. It may be hard to swallow if your main character survives what no one should be able to. When a jumbo jet crashes in the desert but your hero, Jack, walks away unscathed thanks to his skill with a nail file and a soda can, you can practically hear your readers groan.
  2. Plot problems. Don’t kill the protagonist if you are having problems with the storyline and simply don’t know what to do next: The heroine finds herself between an enraged grizzly and a cliff—if you can’t figure out a plausible way to extricate her, this shouldn’t be the only reason to kill her off.
  3. Beware morality statements. Perhaps your main character’s death is a natural consequence of his fatal flaw. He is a functioning alcoholic and sometimes drinks and drives. Be very careful not to make this into a morality statement by waving it over your readers’ heads: This is what happens to drunk drivers! You want the story to be powerful, not your personal statement on drunk driving.
  4. Don’t kill the MC off in a trivial or anticlimactic way. In other words, unless it’s tied to the theme or plot in some significant way, Hattie Heroine should not die from an infected paper cut. If we’ve invested in her character, we need some tension building up to her death.
  5. Avoid resurrections. Please don’t be tempted to miraculously bring a main character back to life unless it’s an integral part of your plot or theme (like a medical thriller centered around a miraculous new drug that reverses death). What? It was actually Hattie Heroine’s twin sister who died of infection? Like an ending where the MC wakes up and realizes everything was just a dream, a miraculous resurrection can be a little cheesy—or an easy out.”
[found on http://writersrelief.com/blog/2013/11/main-characters-how-to-kill-your-protagonist-without-killing-your-fanbase]