10 Tips for Successful Character Biographies
by Susan Kouguell
Who are these people? What do they want? What do they need?
Why do they exist in this story? Why should I care? What time’s lunch?
These are just some of the questions film executives are pondering as they read your script. The latter question – about lunch – is equally important. Why? Because if they’re thinking about something other than your script then it’s time to think more about your characters.
Readers demand a strong understanding of who your characters are. They want your characters to ring true. They want to know why your characters are taking the actions they do in your screenplay. They want to find that winning script. But if you don’t fully develop your characters you increase your chances exponentially of having your script rejected.
Successful characters are multi-dimensional with distinctive physical attributes, emotional traits, appearances, personalities, intelligence, vulnerabilities, emotions, attitudes, idiosyncrasies, and hopes and dreams. Writing successful characters also means digging deep into their past and present.
There are several ways in which to delve into characters, such as writing character biographies in the first person – your character’s voice. (I offer various templates and examples in my book Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays!). Use whichever exercise works best for you and your writing style. Whether you’re writing your first draft or nearing your final polish, continue to dig deep into your characters’ minds and souls.
For me, I find that taking the time to write character bios at each major draft of my screenplay, strengthens both my characters and my plot. I always advise my students and Su-City clients to write character bios — and while they try to hide their rolling eyes or deep sighs (I know what they’re thinking…I just want to write my screenplay) — I have to say, once they write the bios there’s always that big AHA moment, and they agree that it was worth it. Their characters are stronger. They’ve gained more insights into their plots. And the result? A better screenplay.
10 Tips for Your Character Biographies
These tips can be used for each of your main characters and for your significant minor characters:
- Empathy: What elements make my characters likeable and unlikable?
- Character Arcs: How do my characters evolve in the beginning, middle, and end of the script, as they attempt to achieve their goals? What do my characters learn about themselves and others, and what do my characters gain or lose, as the plot unfolds?
– See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/10-tips-successful-character-biographies#sthash.y1LIV8Pk.dpuf