It was an exciting week!
Here are the steps we discussed:
- Form the intention to discover the 4MQS for your character.
- Answer Question #1: What is the main character’s dream?
- Answer Question #4: Does your main character achieve the dream?
- Answer Question #2: What is your main character’s worst nightmare?
- Answer Question #3: Who or what would your main character “die” for?
- Then identify the 3 levels of conflict, Inner, Outer, Societal (see my book, How to Write A Screenplay in 10 Weeks.
- Create the 5 “W’s” of the story: who, what, when, why and where.
- Give the character a name.
- Write a short synopsis of what you came up with.
To demonstrate how this process works, we did a fun exercise to generate enough material to quickly create a character.
Here’s the exercise:
Your main character’s residence is compromised and they must flee. Why?
They can take four things, people or animals with them. What do they choose?
The choices made during the exercise will later reveal the character’s inner wants, needs and values without having to dredge up a lot of facts, and save a lot of time thinking. This is because we’re able to “watch” the character behaving in a situation. As the great acting teacher Stanislavski remarked, “Action is character.”
Here’s a sample of what depth of character you can build with these tools, and the story that her character suggests could be potentially commercially viable.
Our character could be a thirty-something nurse who must flee her home because of an oncoming hurricane. She’s a first responder, which is why she would have a fully equipped handbag with her at all times. She loves her dog but has mixed feelings about her husband. This is symbolized by the jewelry, which keeps her thinking about the past. She lives in Queens, her husband is a firefighter, and her dog is a Rottweiler, named Frisky.
The conflict that became apparent in my students’ description of what the character would take with her was her mixed feelings about her husband. I’d want the story to revolve around a resolution of the marriage.
Since he’s a fire fighter, and they’re being evacuated because of a hurricane, they’d naturally have to save others, and the adventure would bring them back together. I liked that idea, but where was the Frisky, the dog, in that version? Aha! Another version could be that the dog runs away and they must risk the storm in order to save their beloved pet. And I now know their names: Maggie Sullivan and Frank Brancato. Finally, the jewelry will let us explore what traumatic memories are preventing Maggie from being happy, and this internal conflict and resolution ensures a universal story that people will be interested in. Character and story creation can be simple!
Please also check out the latest episode of Jokeonastick, and subscribe to receive 4 fresh new animated jokes in your mailbox every week. Also check out clips on Instagram-we’re getting over 100,000 views!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz