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Characterisation

August 1, 2018

The best part about a novel, a movie or a TV show is characterisation. The best shows/books have characters I desperately want to know more about. They have characters who act in a consistent manner. Ones that you, as the reader/watcher, know before they act what they are likely to do. Which is why a plot can then surprise us… because something happens to that forces them to act out of the ordinary to restore the status quo.

The more you know about a character the more realistic they appear on screen or in a book.

A good way to do this is to use a Character Questionnaire – I have been given, seen and used many examples of checklists or interviews or briefs about getting to know your characters. There are plenty to find on the internet. 🙂

All are great, and all help you clarify what you know about your character.

Use whatever helps you to understand your characters better.

I have been using a mix of questions. It helps me to work out WHY my character might think a certain way and therefore act a certain way.

Not only about their appearance (Which obviously you need to figure out and keep consistent – because its no good have a character who’s height changes from scene to scene…)

But also…

  • What do they do when they are bored?
  • What do they prefer to watch on TV/ see at the movies/ read in a book?
  • Who are their friends (and how do they treat each other)?
  • Who are their family (and how do they treat each other)?
  • How do they react to extreme emotion (like excitement, anger, temptation, anxiety, fear)?
  • What are three most memorable moments from their childhood (and why?)
  • If they find money on the street… how do they react?
  • If they lose their job… how do they react?

Yeah, none of these answers may come up in the movie or book. But the writer knows the answers. They help to make a character feel REAL.

So create more questions…

I find, it really helps to get inside the character’s brain and learn how they tick. How do they make decisions? Why do they do what they do when they do it?

 

Activity

Using the above questions/ or questions of your own… Interview a character from a story (or movie) you already know.

OR

Using the above questions/ or questions of your own… Interview a character from a book/play/script you are writing right now. You can imagine you are a late night talk show host, or day time talk show host if it helps 🙂

 

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