Screenwriting : Getting inside the mind of your character by Stephanie Gaudinier

Stephanie Gaudinier

Getting inside the mind of your character

How you get inside the mind of your character? Do you go all method and start dressing and acting in the same ways they would? Do you start talking like them? Do you internalize everything? Or do you have some other way of getting into the mindset of your character and becoming one with them?

Bill Costantini

Who are they? Why are they who they are? Where have they been? Where are they going? Those are good questions to start off with. There are really good character assessment/character profile templates and psychological assessment/Myers-Briggs personality templates online that you can use to develop your characters. Keeping a character "true to character" consistently throughout a screenplay is one of the elements of writing that separates novice/intermediate from experienced/professional. Good luck and Happy Writing, Stephanie!

Linda Hullinger

For me, it depends on the character. If I’m writing about something I’m familiar with, but want a more powerful take on it, I sometimes put myself physically in that position. For example, I have a terrible fear of bridges and heights. And my main character (who was also afraid of heights) was going to have to save someone who was on top of a bridge. So, one day I drove to the highest bridge nearby and parked down below it, but where I could get a good view of it. Then I sat there and imagined myself standing on top of that bridge. The notes I took on that experience were much more powerful than I could’ve imagined sitting at my ground level desk staring at a laptop. :-)

Craig D Griffiths

I try to list a few core values/beliefs for a character. These things will shape their behaviour. Things that if try act in a way not consistent to these values people would say "no.... what the hell is happening". Their persona can be completely different, soccer mum - serial killer. But her serial killer values would be her core and driver her decision.

Stephanie Gaudinier

Thank you all so much for your advice! It is much appreciated :)

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

When writing women, I wear women's clothes. Okay, even when I'm not writing.

Rich Goldstein

I've seen lists of "interview questions" that some use to develop a character. By filling it out the character's persona takes shape, and by referring to it during the writing process it helps keep things on track and consistent.

Ray Crowe

These are great suggestions! I think caricatures are easy enough for most writers to create from the top of their head to serve the plot, myself included. But in order to truly get into the head of a character and discover things that surprise me -- things that might even force me to change certain structural plot elements, but that end up enriching my stories by making them more three-dimensional -- I have to be in a relaxed, open, almost playful state of mind in which my own ego (the need to write a "good" screenplay, my desire to prove a certain point in my story) disappears. The best way I have ever found to do this is to meditate alone in relative silence (outdoors works best for me) with nothing but the characters in my mind and a pen and paper to catch whatever fish I can. About ten minutes of deep, focused breathing is usually enough for me to quiet my own ego and tap into the subconscious "pool" where the deeper motivations, desires, and personal histories of my characters swim. Once I've jotted down a good number of ideas and started forming a pretty good visual image of my characters in my mind's eye, then I compare their aspects -- both those of their ego or surface consciousness and those that lie deeper -- one by one to my own as a personal reference.

Amber Greenlee

When in doubt, when the deadline is a'loomin' I use the M.O.R.E. system outlined by Ken Atchity in his 2005 book Creating Characters. There are Movers, Observers, Relaters, and Energizers and every character can be broken down into one of these types. How they interact with each other can be calculated based on their personality type. When I'm stuck, I pull out that book like a college student and go through the metric, outline their motivations, etc. Often times, it only takes 15-20 minutes of working through the prompts in the book before I have gotten past my block and understand my character more.

Stephen Foster

I do it kind of oddball. I write my characters based on people I actually know so I can hear their voices when I write.

Serafin Soto

If you can challenge your own beliefs and play devils advocate. Then do so to your characters as they're an extension of you. One is Strong, One is Happy, One is grumpy, One is sweet. Now challenge them in dire situations and test there values. Those characters will take on a life of their own and you will know. Make us love them and then, make us suffer for doing so.

Richard "RB" Botto

Nice post, Serafin.

Shawn Speake

I'm blessed to be in Denver where there's a plethora of top-tier talent. I have actors who help me bring characters to life. A writers' room. Couldn't do it without 'em

Leonard D. Hilley II

Each writer is different. I've written 13 novels and two full length scripts. Characters come to me. Oddly enough, I've never pursued them. It has always been the other way around. The way I explain this to my students: I am the note-taker. Scenes come to me, sometimes bizarre circumstances, and unusual characters. The character will do something that catches my attention. I follow and take notes. I never outline. Outlines (for me) constrict what the characters do. The characters drive the plots, and I watch them interact. I write it all down. This is what happens for me. It's probably different for everyone else.

Robert Rosenbaum

I don't get inside the minds of my characters as much as I allow them inside of my mind. I find out who they are - where did they come from, how did they get here, what do they want - sort of an interview to find out things about them that won't necessarily be in the story but define the character. Ask them and they will tell you. Then I place all the characters in the scene and listen to them. Every character has their own voice. They say you should be able to cover the character names in your script and still tell who's speaking. I find the easiest way to achieve that is to hear your character talking to one another. Watch the movie in your mind and listen to what the characters say. Then just write it down. Simple! LOL

John Michael German

Dear Stephanie Gaudinier:

There is an old movie where a woman sees a murder from a train; From there she connects with a murder writing novelist; While he's describing a scene, another woman writes down what he's writing while he's basically, in a physical sense, acting out what he is saying.

I think how you go about creating your characters can be different for each person; Regardless of how you do it, you basically are that character in some sense, whether that be on the outside or within your own mind. You are acting that character out as you write; Which means you are not only a writer, but also an actor in some sense as you act out that character from your mind to your finger tips. If you want to dress as that person, or in some aspects behave like them, you may get a more deeper feeling for who that character is you have created or how the world around you perceives them.

Regardless of how you go about it, you are that character in some aspect as you are the one that has and are creating that character. It can be a wonderfully rewarding experience not only for people who would end up reading your scripts or potentially watching the end result movie, whether people get the true meanings behind the writing or not, but yourself as well as you immerse yourself within that character that may help you understand things that you never thought about before; That could be for a script or life in general.

Just my 2 cents; All the best with your characters.

Sincerely,

John German

Stephanie Gaudinier

Wow I am amazed with all the feedback and suggestions. Thank you all so much for all your help!

Shawn Speake

The Character's Profile is a great place to start too.

Allen Johnson

I'm pretty anti method- there are characters that make great fiction but you just don't even need to begin to emulate. I don't really think I need to become one with them, just understand them. Give them strong goals and motivation. Have their background coincide with their psychological personality and have that motivate the decision making process. Figure out what purpose they serve in the story, and them make sure all those parts only work to forward the plot. They are mine to control, not the other way around.

Allen Johnson

I get paid mate.

Dan Guardino

C. I don't know who you were referring to but that seemed a little uncalled for.

Stephen Olson

It comes with the dialogue. Once the characters start talking to one another you can get into their mindset. The trick is developing the texture of different voices.

Jorge J Prieto

Wow! Great question. I'm do a lot of what my friend BILL said. I approach it as an actor, since that is my second passion, writing being the first. So, I ask: what am I? Who am I? What do I want? What am I doing here? The four "W's" This after I have spend weeks percolating scenes/dialogue in my head, for I particularly, rarely, outline. BTW, loved everyone responses. I hit the little heart on many excellent ones. What ever works for you, its all that matters.

David Taylor

Talk to them and let them talk back - starting with the dialogue

Erik Grossman

Most of my characters are drunks, so that makes it easy.

Michael L. Burris

Soooo: I'm a bit Schitzo, but at least my characters are real. Too bad my writing normally sucks.

Max Malik

I talk to them. I imagine myself in a conversation with them. Helps out, although it does drive my sister nuts.

Bill Costantini

Just wanted to add some thoughts that Roger Ebert, the great film lover, had to say about The Great Santini:

"Like almost all my favorite films, The Great Santini is about people more than it is about a story. It's a study of several characters, most unforgettably the Great Santini himself, played by Robert Duvall... There are moments so unpredictable and yet so natural they feel just like the spontaneity of life itself."

That to me is one of the highest tributes one can say about a film. I think that the films I have enjoyed the most over the years have those attributes, too.

C Harris Lynn

Make a grocery list. Fill-out a job application.

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