The next few days’ activities will be aimed towards giving you different ideas for developing characters. It might be helpful to think about characters that you really like in television programmes, films and plays.
Perhaps it’s useful to try and figure out why you like them? Do they do say the unsayable? Do they step outside society’s expectations? Do they stand-up for what they believe? Do you identify with them? Are they complex and defy a singular label?
A Television Character:
The Doctor in Doctor Who – She is principled, fearless but is sometimes too ego-driven.
A Film Character:
Hec in Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Not good at expressing his feelings but is ultimately kind and caring.
A Theatre Character:
Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Lives in society where women can’t be seen to pursue love but does anyway.
The Task: Creating a character from 12 questions
You’re going to invent a character as you go along. Answer the following 12 questions to think about your character’s wants, needs and backstory. There are thoughts after each four questions which may be useful.
- What does your character WANT right now?
- What does your character WANT this week?
- What does your character WANT this year?
- What does your character WANT in their lifetime? (What do they want their life to be like?)
WANT is an important word in drama. All dramatic characters should be driven by a purpose, objective, want or desire. It’s the thing that drives a story forward and keeps our character going throughout. The Avengers WANT to stop Thanos. Shrek WANTS to get his swamp back. Cady Heron WANTS to get revenge on Regina George (Mean Girls).
Try to make this WANT a real, tangible and achievable thing. Something they can actually get. A character walking into a scene seeking acceptance will be wishy-washy and vague. But, a character entering a scene after a invite to a party or an apology will be specific and clear.
- What is STOPPING your character achieving the thing you wrote about in question 1?
- What is STOPPING your character achieving the thing you wrote about in question 2?
- What is STOPPING your character achieving the thing you wrote about in question 3?
- What is STOPPING your character achieving the thing you wrote about in question 4?
OBSTACLES are also very important in drama and storytelling generally. “She wanted to do something and got it” isn’t a very exciting story. The character coming up against obstacles creates drama. All of these obstacles one after another constitute the plot.
- WHY does your character want the thing you wrote about in question 1?
- WHY does your character want the thing you wrote about in question 2?
- WHY does your character want the thing you wrote about in question 3?
- WHY does your character want the thing you wrote about in question 4?
WHY does it matter so much to your character? What has happened in their life that made them want this? Why do they show up to each scene? Why don’t they give up and go home? Why should the audience care? What do they really need?
I sometimes wonder whether the reason we watch so many murder mysteries on television is not because we all love them but because it’s one of clearest objectives for writers to justify:
WANT: To find out Whodunnit
OBSTACLE: People aren’t telling the truth
WHY: It’s their job!
A Further Task
Once you’ve completed that list, you might want to name your character and play. Imagine that it’s being put on and we need some marketing blurb for it. Write an exciting blurb that will give audiences a taste of what is to come and will make them want to see it.
You can see examples of marketing blurbs for plays on our website here: https://www.hulltruck.co.uk/whats-on/