Notes on Character Creation

Preliminary - decide who should be round characters and who doesn't have to be. Roundness is not for every character. Obviously major characters should be round. Also major minor characters, sometimes minor major characters. And sometimes even the Michael Caine method bit part characters who need to act intensely to develop their momentary presence.

Round vs. stick figures - round = capable of acting outside the channel the writers puts them into (Dharma vs. Crissy from 3's company; Gerry McGuire, Godfather) A round character can do something uncharacteristic which is nonetheless believable.

Real people are not stereotypes. To get to the roundness, take the character beyond the mold she/he was cast in.

1. See your characters (photos, reality-based modelling, after real people)

Watch how they move

Hear how they sound before you listen to what they say

Observe them carefully within their habitats

(Car, home, what they wear and carry in their pockets, what they keep in their drawers and cabinets

2. See through your characters' eyes. Note how they perceive the world in all of its details and nuances. Then look back at them when they don't think you are looking. Then see through their eyes backward into their minds and hearts and spirits. Note what you find there.

3. Find your characters' secrets.

4. Find your characters' foibles.

5. See your characters through the eyes of other characters you trust.

6. See your characters through the eyes of unpleasant, untrustworthy characters and note the bad raps they receive.

7. Introduce yourself to your characters. Tell them your plans. Let them respond.

8. Turn your characters loose without micro-programming them in advance. Follow them and let things happen. Be prepared to be the most surprised person in the process. Get EVERYTHING down. You are the reporter and the stenographer of the dialogue.

9. Take your characters back in the shop for periodic retooling based on the assessment results you get from early outings. Be prepared to discard early outcomes.

10. Subjective. Weep with and for your characters' pains and sorrows. Grieve for your lost characters

11. Vicarious. Be a hero/coward / bad guy / good guy through your characters. Send them where you are afraid to go or where you dream of going. Love your characters. Hate your characters, but do not fear your characters. Do not be overly protective of your cherished characters. And NEVER let your characters take complete charge of a situation. YOU remain the author

12. Situation. Take your characters to where the stories are. The best characters will only be mediocre if you don't give them anything interesting to be involved in. Go to your own fascination. How are your characters tested? How do they fare?

13. Beliefs: What does your character believe? What would they sacrifice? What would they not sacrifice? Is there a line they would never cross? What is their hearts' desire? When did they give up their dreams, if ever??

14. Test Drive - List your characters' mannerisms, gestures, speech patterns. Have your characters ask for something. Write down some combination of words your character says that is different from the way anybody else talks.

Trace something of your character, some uniqueness back to its roots in your character's history, and find out why.

Observe how your characters react to a random intervening event - an unexpected knock at the door, a tea pot boiling, a spilled glass, a tornado.

Follow into your characters' histories whenever you need to.

Always note how your character observes things.

14. Carve-out. Throw away whatever your characters do or say that you don't believe is thoroughly authentic for those characters - predictable from the way you have created your characters.