Friday, October 07, 2011

What are your characters doing?

It's been a while since I wrote a blog exclusively on writing, the craft of. And that's what this is.

I've been reading "The Tools of Screenwriting" and finding it a very useful book indeed. I'm not one for formulas (except Aristotle) but I'm always keen on tools for the screenwriting toolbox - they don't necessarily make things easier but help you to incorporate those things that make your writing better.

This isn't a review and I'm not going into depth (you can buy the book) but this afternoon, as I travelled home on the train, I've been working on something that came from just a single sentence in the book:
"Determine the actions that reveal character and move the story forward first."
I'd been working on character background for the web series Winter and applying various other tools (such as Bill Martell's "just come up with scenes, lots of scenes, more than you need") but when I came across this gem I put all those aside.

There are three main characters in Winter and I knew the overall arc of the story (I had roughly plotted the acts and there is an earlier draft), so I sat down with the Protagonist and went "What does she do first?" and wrote it down, then I went through the whole story listing her actions that drive the story forward and reveal character.

The thing I observed was that nailing it down to the specific actions could not help but reveal character - a character is what they do - and character is story. It was a revealing experience to go through and nailed the story so much better than I ever had before.

Then I did the same for the other two characters. After all they are the protagonists in their own stories.

All in all it was a very productive couple of hours - I highly recommend it.

What's on the turntable? "Will you love me tomorrow?" by Carole King from "Tapestry"


Jez Freedman said...

phew :)

Adaddinsane said...

Good call on that book Jez