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Notes on Character Development

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  • Notes on Character Development

    I took a class this weekend in NYC on character development. It was a 7 hour lecture and I didn't even think you could talk about making characters for that long. But we did and I figured I could share my notes I took with you guys, maybe someone else would find them helpful.Scan 2 1.pdfScan 2 2.pdfScan 2 3.pdf I also have three attachments of papers I got. They are things to help further develop a character.

    -A character is at the heart of every story.
    -A character always wants something, has a desire or goal they have to reach by the end of the story.
    -A protagonist is the main character and it is always established early in the story what this character wants.
    -The desire the protagonist goes after is what creates the story.
    -A character is always aware of what their goal is, but not always what their actual deeper psychological need is. For example: Dorthy, from the Wizard of Oz, all she wants throughout the movie is to go home. But deeper its about her seeing what she wants inside for herself and doing it. Not allowing others to tell her what to do anymore. It is a coming to age story, growing up.
    -External obstacle: usually someone else wants something that causes conflict with the main character.
    - Interior obstacle: comes from inside the character, two opposing needs within themselves. Example: I want to ask the girl out but I am afraid of being embarrassed. I want to leave the farm and travel, but mom is sick and I can't leave her.
    -As the character meets conflict, obstacles, they are usually successful and solve these problems, but sometimes they are not, or sometimes the solved problem creates another problem.
    -As the protagonist meets obstacles they will try multiple methods to fixing the conflict. This keeps the story interesting when they solve the problem many different ways.
    -Each story has a BIG question that must be answered by the end of the story.
    -Secondary characters also have needs and wants to drive them through the story.
    -Every character must have a reason for being in a scene.
    -When writing, always think about reaching the characters goal.
    -Sometimes it can be subtle and seem like they aren't moving forward, but they actually are.
    -Show the goal early and set up the need early in the story.
    -Ask yourself why we find interest in our characters.
    -The question is not always do we like our characters, we could hate them, but do we find them interesting enough to want to learn more about them.
    -Even with evil characters we still look for that interesting complexity. Example: Hannible Lecture- he is monstrous, criminal, ruthless, but also polite, cultured, and educated.
    -Even small contrast brings depth to the character.
    -Even secondary characters must have contrast.
    -All drama and humor come from conflict.
    -How do we communicate with the reader? Show don't tell.
    -Don't be afraid to have the character TELL, but in an interesting way. But still better, especially in screen writing, to show.
    -Show through action. The character doing things, small and big.
    -EVERYTHING a character does is informing the reader what the character is like.
    -Characters are ultimately revealed through large actions.
    -Part of action is dialog.
    -In dialog, how do they speak? Do they like to talk or not so much? Do they talk fast or slow? Curse or polite?
    -Appearance: When writing don't overly describe. In screenplays it will ultimately depend on who is casted for the role, and in a novel it can get boring to read so much about what a character looks like unless it is important to describe.
    -Give more of the feeling of what they look like.
    -To express what they think screenplays usually do voiceovers.
    -Change: the character arc- how the character is different at the end compared to start.
    -The arc can be small as long as their is a movement with the character.
    -With stories, when characters don't change, they still had the chance to and passed up on it.
    -Secondary characters also have an arc of change.
    -How an audience sees the characters change is the arc of perception.
    -Always start off building a character from a character model.
    -Base the character off yourself.
    -Someone we kinda know. People we usually see daily.
    -You can base your character off of an interesting person you saw once.
    -A public figure or celebrity.
    -Someone you have never met.
    -Base your character off these models and then decide how you want to form them and what you want to change.
    -A character key is a small something that lets you see what and who your character is.
    -Most writers write biographies about their characters before they begin writing.
    -You can look at a horoscope and see if that helps to form your character.
    -You must always have a good balance of characters.
    -Each characters must be doing different things.
    -If you have two characters who basically do the same things and are of the same personality, you should combine them and drop on of the characters.
    - Writing is like math, you must have the right number of characters or else it can become to overwhelming and confusing.
    -To many makes it difficult for the audience to connect.
    -To little makes your audience bored with the characters you are overly showing.
    -Always visualize your characters.
    -Get into your characters shoes and walk in them. See through your characters eyes. Become them.
    -NEVER EVER judge your character. It is not your place to judge them. The audience will make up their opinion of them later.
    -You should love your characters. If you don't how will you expect someone else too!

  • #2
    Wow, these are great. Sounds like an interesting lecture. Thanks for posting!



    • #3
      It was a long one and most I read in books. But it was still cool to go out into the city and take the class. I did learn some stuff so it was a good day. Hope it helps you.


      • #4
        Oh wow! This is gold!

        I fancy myself a decent writer, especially on the technical and visual end, but characters and dialog are always very tough... these notes will go a very long way to helping that process.

        Thanks for sharing!


        • #5
          I see you put a lot of work into writing this for us. Thank you very much for sharing.

          -All drama and humor come from conflict. Is that really true? What about comic relief?
          L A Morgan
          Novels, Screenplays, Short Scripts, and Music


          • #6
            Originally posted by L A Morgan View Post
            I see you put a lot of work into writing this for us. Thank you very much for sharing.

            -All drama and humor come from conflict. Is that really true? What about comic relief?
            Comic relief if you think about it comes from conflict as well. The situations that provide for that comedy come from some type of conflict or issue that the person is usually trying to resolve.
            Red Onyx Productions


            • #7
              I think every story no matter what genera comes from conflict. The conflict is the problem that gets the ball rolling. In comedy its the thing that causes the characters to go out and do a bunch of silly stuff in order to reach the goal of solving the problem. I can't think of any story that isn't structured around a conflict. He said the conflict is the spine of the story.


              • #8
                Yea characters and dialog are difficult because, though the story may be interesting, characters are really the spice that sweetens the pot. Your story might be amazing, but if the characters are dull and boring, and the conversations they have are predictable and basic, that great story could go down hill fast. He said that most writers make up a bio first of their characters, and the attachments I have are amazing at helping do so. I might take a workshop on dialog, so I will post notes after that, but as of now when I do dialog, I just get the basic idea down quick, then go back after and spice it up with personality to make it interesting like it should be.


                • #9
                  Thanks for taking the time to write all this down. It is very much appreciated.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Petemc2490 View Post
                    -Characters are ultimately revealed through large actions.
                    This one jumps out at me as worthy of a closer look, because it doesn't really gel with my experience. Maybe there was a different context to how it was explained, but I feel character is frequently revealed most effectively through very small actions.

                    Ed Norton's character in 'Fight Club' demonstrates a shift in attitude by accepting the cigarette he had earlier declined.
                    In 'The Lobster' Colin Farrell signals a desire for change and adventure simply by pausing when asked about his sexual preference.

                    That kind of thing. Small actions often correspond with large insights, even if they're not registered consciously.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for pulling out this thread Patrick, it's well worth reading.


                      • #12
                        Thank you for this thread, Petemc2490