Screenwriting : Today's Wish and Creative Tip by Laurie Ashbourne

Laurie Ashbourne

Today's Wish and Creative Tip

Depth of Character Many writing classes offer lists of questions for writers to answer about their characters in order to ‘get to know them.’ These can range from what their favorite things are to what their dream job is. I’m all for understanding things about my characters – things that may never make it to the page, but I find that a lot of these exercises don’t really help the stories I tell and many writers include these details when introducing a character with little regard to how to show them of if they are even important to the scene/story. These are mostly the small minnows on the surface of the pond. For me, I start my stories with character, so I feel I know them by the time I’ve written a logline or at the very latest a synopsis. What I do find useful is to jot down their pain points. Whether it be a song that reminds them of someone they lost or a fear of snakes; by knowing what the worst thing that could happen to them is. If it’s being stuck in a room with a hundred snakes, then I would heighten that to the most emotional thing that could happen… Being stuck in the room with a hundred snakes while the song that reminds them of the death of the love of their life… And then there is one more question, What’s the most genre worthy thing that could happen? Being stuck in a room with a hundred snakes while being forced to listen to the song that reminds them of the death of the love of their life, In a comedy, one of the snakes may take pity and our character may start belly dancing to charm it. In a drama the love of their life may come to them in a vision and calm them enough to move on. In an action adventure, the character would summon the last bit of courage they have, smash the speaker with a snake – terrifying all the rest – and break out. The key is to show your audience that this character isn’t all surface and because they walk around numb, it’s not because they are dumb, it’s because they’ve lost the love of their life. First, don’t do this by having someone comment, “oh poor dear… he hasn’t been the same since Maude passed.” If dialogue is involved it should be via subtext, where there is an underlying intent in the conversation, but the best way to show depth is to SHOW the reason for the numbness. Look at UP, no doubt one of the best opening sequences in film, and all of the pain is revealed without dialogue. The old man is nasty because he is in pain, and he just wants hang onto what he has left of his dear departed wife and go to paradise for her. The worst thing that could happen? The house he built and shared with her is to be destroyed. The most emotional thing to happen? To have to share his pain would mean he has to relive it. The most genre worthy thing? Aside from turning his house into a giant balloon-mobile, a plucky boy scout stows away – messing up his chance at experiencing paradise alone. Take some advice from David Lynch and may you land a BIG FISH! (another great film for characters study BTW)

Richard Gustason

Thanks for this Laurie. Great stuff.

David Levy

Thank you for this today. Came at the right time Laurie!

Laurie Ashbourne

Always a pleasure...

Tom Stohlgren

Nailed it!

Bill Costantini

The more I know about my characters, the easier and more logical it is to write their story and borrow a hundred bucks from them.

John F Tupper

Thanks for these several new facets through which to view my characters. Time to review screenplays again.

CK Love

Thanks for this! :)

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