Trainee Writer

Adventures of a screenwriter in training…

[imported lesson] Getting Into Character: How The Internet Can Help Improve Your Writing


Note: The following is an article that originally appeared here in September 2009 but, since I now have my own blog, I felt I should reprint it as the advice contained herein is largely still relevant.

Getting Into Character: How The Internet Can Help Improve Your Writing

By Kriss Sprules

In the 21st century, being a screenwriter is easier than it has ever been. We have limitless choices of software to write with, thousands of production companies to sell to, and tens of thousands of different outlets for those works. But one thing that all the technology in the world can’t do is help you to improve your creativity.

First off, you have a great idea. You know it’s great, you believe in it and you know the format of screenwriting. You’re all set. So you write your script and all is well. You’ve told your story, you have a great three act structure and all your plot points and act breaks work together to tell an exciting story. But something still seems off. What is it?

For a large proportion of screenwriters – and I know this from the sheer number of scripts I read – the ideas and the story are no problem. Where things fall down are when creating characters. I had, and at times have, the same problem. So I’m going to share my dirty little secret with you and tell you how I escape the problem.

To write great characters you need to get inside their heads and in olden times, the only way you could find out what someone was thinking was to read their diary. Impractical and problematic. (Don‘t believe me? Try reading your sister or girlfriend’s sometime). Except nowadays, everyone puts their diary on the internet in the form of the blog. The easiest, fastest way to get to know someone in fact, is usually to read through their blog on MySpace, or their Facebook notes.

So how does knowing this help? Because, just as you can get to know someone by reading their blog… you can get to know your character by writing one for them. Sounds crazy, no? Well, I promise you it works. For my latest project, a TV pilot called ‘Holland Park’, I was struggling to make my characters work. So I decided to take one of them and blog as them. Sophie’s blog, The Fabulous Life Of Sophie Dexter, can be found here: http://sophiedexter.blogspot.com

I plan to blog as her at least once a week, about all the exciting things that happen in her life, in an effort to understand how she thinks. Because, contrary to common belief, you don’t tell your characters how to think. Sure, you come up with the basics, but if the characters won’t take on a life of their own, you don’t have a show.

Now, you may think it’s risky, throwing a character out to the public like that. And it is. But I’m a marketing man by trade. I decided to try and set up an internet following for my characters to help sell the show, so I created a Facebook group, too. You’ll see the fan page box on the blogs. Why do that? Because that’s how people know she’s a character. But also, it helps you to gauge interest in your show.

So it’s a two-fold process. You get to develop your character, the public gets to see your character develop AND you might gain some interest in the project your working from out of it. Plus, if you’re writing for TV, once your show is on the air it’s a nice little Easter egg and point of interactivity for the new fans to find.

Kriss Sprules is a producer and writer from the United Kingdom.

Now, as you’ll probably note, it’s showing signs of age. I mean, I mentioned MySpace and it was written during the creation of Holland Park, but I stand by the advice – if you really want to get inside your character’s head, create a blog for them or you could even go all out and make them an entire Facebook profile. Nobody knows your characters better than you do, but the more you know about them, the stronger and more confidently you can pitch based on them.

That’s two lessons in one day, not a bad start for the new blog.

Keep reading,

Kriss x

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May 13, 2011 - Posted by | Holland Park, lessons, screenwriting | , ,

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