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11/18/2002 - Care about your characters

I always fall in love with my characters. Maybe that's because I don't have a life. Or maybe that's why I don't have a life. Or maybe the characters are my life. How about all of the above.

It works for me.

Seriously though, it never fails. No matter what script I'm working on, the deeper I get into it, the more I actually care about the characters involved. And the more I care about them, the easier it is for me to figure out how they would react, or act in certain situations.

Sometimes I even dream about my characters as if they were real people in my life. Them my imagination takes over.

That's what you have going for you as a writer - your imagination.

My imagination is so powerful that it actually convinces my subconscious mind that these characters are indeed real people with real problems and real feelings. And who's to say that isn't possible? Who's to say our characters aren't real in another dimension? Can we be so sure that they are not?

Whatever the case, the more you care about your own characters, even the bad guys, the more you will get to know them and the better they will act on the page.

I have never personally done a bio on any of my characters, although most writers recommend it. What I do, however, is spend a great deal of the day thinking about my characters. How do they think? Talk? What do they like? Love? Hate? What do they really want out of life? And then, I come up with little scenarios in my head, situations that have absolutely nothing to do with the screenplay. I put my characters in these scenarios and try to figure out how they'd react.

Little by little, the characters grow and grow, until they are eventually alive in my head, ready to jump out onto the page.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not recommending you turn into the next-door neighbor schizophrenic. But don't be afraid to think about the characters as if they were real people. When a part of you actually starts to believe they are, then the writing becomes more natural and the characters much more realistic.

Give it a shot. Just promise not to blame Johnny B. Good if they take you away to the funny farm.


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