- Where It All Begins
Let's make a character. Take a pair of scissors and
paper and cut out a paper doll. Perfectly blank cutout. How many people
do you think this blank paper doll is going to interest? Exactly no one!
That's why many stories fall flat on their face - their characters are
blank as a paper doll.
Let's give the doll a name. His (or her) name is
Chris. What characteristics do you think you would have to give Chris to
make him interesting to yourself?
OK, you're trying to skip the question about characteristics,
so now I'm going to stick you with Chris on a broken down bus in the middle
of the Rocky Mountains. The driver has gone for help. It's cold and all
you have for warmth is a blanket and each other. It's one a.m. and it's
just you and Chris having an intimate conversation. What secrets are in
Are his parents divorced? How does he get along with
his step parent? Is he abused? Is his grandfather his mentor and best friend?
How does he like school? What will he study in college and what influenced
him to go that direction? Who is hot on his list of dates to be? What's
the worst thing he has ever done? The best? How does he feel about those
things? Who does he really admire, and why?
Is your friend mean and vindictive at times? What
made him that way? Is he moral? Immoral? Why? What does he really think
about God? ... Sex? Has he ever seen a UFO or been possessed? What does
your friend really want to happen to him this year? In the next month?
OK, you're being too nice; this guy is coming off
like an angel. This is your big chance to live vicariously - run with it.
Put some dirt on him, smudge his reputation, give him an attitude. He can
flunk out of school (or make straight A's), be on probation with the police
(or work for them), hang out with all the wrong people: politicians,
lawyers, writers. He can even say irreverent things like that! He can be
like you, or not be like you. Make him just unique enough to get attention.
Now that you've created a person, you have to like
him. Or hate him. If he doesn't appeal to you for some reason, set him
aside as a secondary character and make another. You really do have to
care about the character you create. You see, I read a lot of scripts that
spend the first half of the story creating a character. That's how long
it took the writer to really get to know his character and that's when
he finally began to write. Only by then it was too late for the story.
I also see stories where the writer never did care
about his characters. What happens is nothing. The writer walks the paper
doll character through the story, making it do this and that because that's
what the plot calls for. He manipulates the character to make the story
work and finally runs out of energy, so the story falls apart near the
end because he never really worked up any interest in it. The reader doesn't
care. The movie won't get made.
On the other hand, if you give your characters a
past and wants and needs like real people, and care about them, a terrific
thing happens. They take on a life of their own and make the story work.
That doesn't mean you have to get romantically involved and all slobbery.
It just means you should find your characters, and what happens to them,
interesting to you from the start.
Next, put your characters together in a situation.
Examples: a non-school competition, cruising at a fast food restaurant,
an art show, a tractor pull, work, a trip, the hair stylist - you name
it. Before you write much, where were they just prior to this scene and
what are your characters going to do the next day? What event will bring
each of these people into conflict? You now have all the information for
a scene and the basis for a story. Have fun writing it!
1) Good stories often come from:
2) Well developed characters:
a. Severely disturbed people.
b. Overactive imaginations.
c. Characters who have been well developed.
3) Conflict develops when:
a. Have a past.
b. Have interests.
c. Have problems.
d. Want something (motivation).
e. All of the above.
4) If I like my characters:
a. Your character's wants (motivations)
conflict with another characters.'
b. An obstacle (some one, some thing, some situation)
prevents your character from getting what he wants.
c Both "a." and "b." are correct.
d. This is a trick question - you didn't fool me!
a. Others will like them.
b. I will have more interest in them and write a
c. I will fall in love, spend all of my time writing,
and end up in a mental hospital.
d. "a." and "b." are true, while "c." usually is