Timothy Wurtz - Developing a Character

posted Feb 21, 2012, 4:36 PM by Michael Wood   [ updated Feb 21, 2012, 4:45 PM ]

First a big thank you to Mr. Wurtz for coming all the way from LA to share his writing tips with our veteran writing group. We are so grateful for our supportive mentors helping us progress in our writing journey, no matter were it leads us.

Arguably the most important aspect of any writing is the character. On Saturday we learned more about character development, dimensions, emotional beats, and movement.
                                                                                                                                                    (photo: Serena Reid)
We captured some great instructional video footage from Mr. Wurtz but also some of our stories from the group.  keep checking back as we will have members stories and instructional videos on-line.  

Here are a few of the notes and checklist from Saturdays meeting. 

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DEVELOPING A CHARACTER
BIOGRAPHICAL CHECKLIST

  • Name, age
  • Physical appearance
  • Emotional relationships with others in family
  • Birth position in family (oldest, youngest, only)
  • Social position of family (wealth, rank, occupation, etc.)
  • Occupation of character
  • Education of character
  • Where the family lived/lives
  • What the character believes, or is interested in. 
  • Hobbies
  • Primary emotional traits
  • Feeling about other characters: history with other characters
  • Ambition or desires
  • Chronology of important events in character's life
  • Is the character going to change/develop in the screenplay?
  • How would the character furnish a house?
  • What kind of car would he/she use?
  • What kind of clothes would he/she wear?
  • Use all the character's manner of speech? Fast, Slow, accented, etc.
  • What are his/her mannerisms?
  • What would Your feeling be if you met this person at a party?

  • To get a feeling for the character you may want to ask yourself a number of questions.

  • What's his/her favorite color? Food? Season? Composer, etc.
  • Does he/she like animals? What kind? Do they like him/her?
  • Does the character like children? Do they like him?her?
  • Is he/she happier indoors or out?
  • Does he/she enjoy physical labor? Mental gymnastics?
  • Does he/she like own name?
  • Does he/she like own body
  • What would he/she admire in another man? Woman?
  • Is he/she faithful? Does he/she flirt?
  • Does he/she read? If so, what?
  • What is he/she ashamed of in him/herself?
  • Does he/she have any secrets?
  • What are his/her weaknesses? Strengths?

  • Did he/she feel closer to mother or father?
  • What holds him/her back from realizing his ambitions?
  • Does he/she set trends or follow them? Is he/she conventional?
  • What are his/her political leanings? 
  • Does the character rely most on thinking? Or feeling? Intuition? Or physical sensation? 
  • which does he/she trust the least?

  • You may also want to use your favorite methods of self-exploration on your character, including religious beliefs or forms of analysis not covered here. 

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THREE DIMENSIONS OF CHARACTER

PHYSICAL 

1. Gender
2. Age
3. Hight and weight
4. Color of hair, eyes, skin
5. Posture
6. Appearance- Good-looking, over or under-weight, clean, neat pleasant, untidy, etc. Shape of head, face, limbs
7. Defects- deformities, abnormalities, birthmarks, diseases
8. Heredity

SOCIAL

1. Class - lower, middle, upper
2. Occupation - type of work, income, condition of work, union or non - union, attitude towards organization, suitability for work.
3. Education - amount, kind of schools, grades, favorite subjects, poorest subjects, aptitudes.
4. Home life - parents living or dead, earning power, orphan, parents separated or divorced, parents' habits, mental development and vices. Neglect by parents or attention. Character's marital status.
5. Religion
6. Race/ethnicity, nationality (which means county of citizenship) 
7. Place/standing in community - leader among friends, clubs, sports. 
8. Political affiliations
9. Amusements, hobbies - books, newspapers, magazines he or she reads.

PSYCHOLOGICAL

1. Sex life, moral standards
2. Personal premise, ambition
3. Frustrations, chief disappoints
4. Temperament - easygoing, pessimistic, optimistic, nasty
5. Attitude towards life - resigned, militant, defeatist,optimist
6. Complexes - obsessions, inhibitions, superstitions, phobias
7. Extrovert, introvert, ambivert
8. Abilities - languages, talents, etc.
9. Qualities - imagination, judgment, taste, poise 
10. I.Q.

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24 BASIC EMOTIONAL BEATS

  1. Dramatic core of story
  2. Protagonist
  3. Secret
  4. Dramatic need
  5. Inciting incident
  6. Antagonist
  7. Dramatic goal
  8. Desire
  9. Departure from ordinary, everyday environment
  10. All / relationship / love interest
  11. Learn new environment
  12. Plan
  13. Training
  14. Joining force - mid point and all its definitions depending on genre. 
  15. Battle
  16. Obsessive drive - moving towards goal
  17. Hero's apparent defeat 
  18. Dissolution of the central relationship of the love interest is lost
  19. All hope is lost 
  20. The last stand 
  21. Self-re-evaluation
  22. Self realization
  23. Final confrontation
  24. Emotional pay-off
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CHARACTER MOVEMENT

FROM - HATE TO LOVE

Insecurity
Humiliation
Resentment
Fury
Hatred (this is probably where the story starts)
Satisfaction
Remorse
Humility
False generosity
Re-evaluation
Real generosity
Sacrifice
Love

FROM - LOVE TO HATE

Possessive love 
Disappointment
Doubt
Questioning
Suspicion (story probably starts here)
Testing
Hurt
Realization
Bitterness
Re-evaluation and failure to adjust
Anger
Fury at Self
Fury at object 
Hate

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