Writing Memorable and Authentic Characters

Taught by Sarah J. Cornelius


On Demand Class - For immediate download. Unlimited access for 1 year.

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Stage 32 Next Level Education has a 97% user satisfaction rate.

Class hosted by: Sarah J. Cornelius

Creative & Production Executive at Whitewater Films

Sarah J. Cornelius is a Production and Development Executive at Whitewater Films. Whitewater’s CEO is veteran producer Rick Rosenthal, the Oscar and Emmy-nominated director and Producer whose more than 100 credits include Amazon’s TRANSPARENT, Oscar-nominated documentary feature CARTEL LAND, and BAD BOYS with Sean Penn. Whitewater has produced projects for Paramount Classics, The Orchard, Showtime, CNN Films, Netflix, IFC, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Whitewater’s numerous notable films have won Independent Spirit Awards, the Sundance Directing Award, a Primetime Emmy, and audience awards at SXSW and Tribeca Film Festivals. Whitewater released two features in 2021 including THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR on AMC-owned horror streamer SHUDDER, and SMALL ENGINE REPAIR starring Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham via Universal and Vertical Entertainment. Sarah is currently the lead producer on two feature films in development, both of which she discovered through Stage 32. Full Bio »


Learn how to make your characters stand out from an executive who has worked with Paramount Classics, The Orchard, Showtime, CNN Films, Netflix, IFC, and Samuel Goldwyn Films!

Creating authentic and memorable characters is the key to your next success. And Stage 32 is going to give you the tools and knowledge you need to get the most out of your characters in this in-depth 4-part on-demand class. 

You’ll learn what executives are looking for in great characters as you're guided by Sarah J. Cornelius, a production and development executive at Whitewater Films. Whitewater has produced projects for Paramount Classics, The Orchard, Showtime, CNN Films, Netflix, IFC, and Samuel Goldwyn Films, and received numerous film awards, including Independent Spirit Awards, the Sundance Directing Award, a Primetime Emmy, and audience awards at SXSW and Tribeca Film Festivals.

Whether you have a written screenplay or are setting out to develop your ideas, this in-depth class will show you character-building skills to enrich your story, paying particular attention to what makes a compelling protagonist. When you put in the work to create authentic characters, you create a story with greater odds of nabbing A-list actors and directors who want to tell that story and ensure that your script gets made.

In each session of this course, you’ll receive comprehensive information on how you can develop strong, believable characters. You’ll cover:

  • The foundation of a character
  • The relationship between characters and the world
  • Writing authentic dialogue
  • Understanding motivation vs. wants vs. desires
  • Knowing internal vs. external barriers
  • How to show your character’s physicality and actions
  • Getting clear on how character fits within an arc
  • And so much more

You will work on all of this across four on-demand sessions in this exclusive Stage 32 course as you immerse yourself in character creation and hone your skills. Don’t underestimate the power of believable, dynamic, and complex characters. 


***Although this class is offered on-demand and homework isn't required, we strongly suggest doing the exercises and assignments throughout to get the most out of this course. 


Praise for Sarah's Stage 32 Teaching

"Just a ton of information from someone that is clearly on the 'inside' of the industry." --Kerry B.

"Sarah was spot on about structure, It aligns with everything else i have learned, seen, experienced." -- David G.

"She was informative and great." -- Lauren F.



What You'll Learn

In this beginner-intermediate level and intensive 4-session class, Sarah will comprehensively teach you how to develop strong, believable characters. In Session 1 she will provide an overview of the foundation of character. In Session 2 she will focus on relationships and the character’s “world.” Session 3 will delve into writing authentic dialogue. Finally, Session 4 will look at structuring all of the character elements into a screenplay.

Session 1: The Foundation of Character

  • Determining motivation
  • Identifying the “why”
  • Mapping wants and desires
  • Understanding conscious vs. unconscious

Q&A with Sarah


Session 2: Relationships to Others and The World

  • The key relationships
  • Creating conflict and tension
  • Understanding internal vs. external barriers
  • The importance of physicality
  • Defining actions

Q&A with Sarah


Session 3: Writing Authentic Dialogue

  • What dialogue says about a person
  • When less is more
  • Show don’t tell
  • Using exposition (or not)

Q&A with Sarah


Session 4: Plugging Character into a Screenplay

  • Getting clear on how character fits within an arc
  • What are reversals and how to use them
  • Course wrap-up

Q&A with Sarah



  • This class is designed for beginner and intermediate students looking to learn the elements that go into a writing compelling characters. This is an in-depth, practical, and detailed class with significantly more content than a standard 90-minute webinar.
  • This class will consist of four sessions, each roughly two hours in duration. In addition to the presentation-style lessons where Sarah will be walking you through various elements of character building. 

About Your Instructor

Sarah J. Cornelius is a Production and Development Executive at Whitewater Films. Whitewater’s CEO is veteran producer Rick Rosenthal, the Oscar and Emmy-nominated director and Producer whose more than 100 credits include Amazon’s TRANSPARENT, Oscar-nominated documentary feature CARTEL LAND, and BAD BOYS with Sean Penn. Whitewater has produced projects for Paramount Classics, The Orchard, Showtime, CNN Films, Netflix, IFC, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Whitewater’s numerous notable films have won Independent Spirit Awards, the Sundance Directing Award, a Primetime Emmy, and audience awards at SXSW and Tribeca Film Festivals. Whitewater released two features in 2021 including THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR on AMC-owned horror streamer SHUDDER, and SMALL ENGINE REPAIR starring Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham via Universal and Vertical Entertainment. Sarah is currently the lead producer on two feature films in development, both of which she discovered through Stage 32.


Q: What is the format of a class?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Classes are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the webinar software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The webinar software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live class. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer

Q: Will I have access to the class to rewatch sessions?
A: Yes! After the purchase of the class, you will have on-demand access to the video recording.


If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.

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