Welcome to the fourth page on writing a screenplay from the Simple Life Creative Project Idea mentors. This page is focused on the very beginnings of writing a character. Once you have a vague idea of what the screenplay is going to be about, it is then time to find out who the characters are that are going to carry the screenplay. These pages really are just the scratch of the scratch of the entire process.
Now, with regards to the character creation part of writing a screenplay, this is where we start getting down to the actual nuts and bolts of writing. So before we go any further I would like to draw your attention to the power of gestures.
Early in my career as an actor and voice over artist I learnt the power of gestures. The world, and the universe, responds directly to every gesture you make. If you struggle to believe this, find the movie the Secret and watch it at least 7 times.
I found out that if I woke up every day and set aside 30 minutes a day to just warm up my voice, without fail I would be called to do voice over recordings.
However, if I didn’t do the work at home, the work of taking action to demonstrate my intent to do voice recordings, the phone would never ring. The action of doing the voice work was a gesture of commitment to my desire to do voice-overs. No action or gesture = No living the dream.
Neither a wise man nor a brave man
lies down on the tracks of history
to wait for the train of the future
to run over him.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Every time you take ten minutes to just be with yourself. Every time you set time to pamper yourself, and actually do it. You buy a creative lottery ticket that takes you one step closer to being in the creative zone all the time.
Less is More is very, very true when it comes to writing a screenplay . For most people, in the beginning, their writing is over complicated and involves too much information. This demonstrates a belief that the reader / director is stupid. It also demonstrates a lack of confidence in a simple image.
Pablo Picasso said that it took him the first 30 years of his life to learn how to paint perfect complex form. But it took him his entire life to learn how to paint with the power and simplicity of a child.
Trust yourself and trust that the people you are writing for are intelligent and talented enough to recognize that you too are talented.
Jesus said that your light is wondrous and powerful. Knowing this then, why do most people stick there light under a bucket, under a table?
Your responsibility as a creative person is to shine that light out into the world no matter what. Now I am not getting all bible basher on you. No, what I am saying is that that creative voice in you wants to come out. It is your responsibility to allow it out. Even if it means doing some challenging things. It also means being strong enough, and confident enough, in yourself, to not give a fig about what anyone else says or thinks about your work. You want to get down to writing a screenplay with ease don’t you?
When writing a screenplay you are choosing to write about events, people and worlds that most people do not know, dream about or only vaguely guess exist. To do that requires research. And that requires going there as best you can.
Now, by research that might mean spending a lot of time in your imagination and chronicling what you find. But if that world is highly mechanical and scientifically advanced, like in the Matrix, Gattica, Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator, Alien, Johnny Mnemonic, A.I. You will need to do research on things like: quantum engines; super-computers; space and time travel; genetic enhancement etc. that research becomes invaluable later. When you know about these things, it then becomes easier to create new terms, words and worlds based on these highly scientific things.
In terms of pure fantasy, like Lord of the Rings, The Brothers Grim, A Knight’s Tale, The Labyrinth, Highlander, Merlin, Lady Hawk, The Never Ending Story it can be useful to read fantasy novels and ancient Myths to get ideas on characters and environments.
But, for now, we will start with the basics of every day life. This is sometimes even more challenging, especially if you are writing a screenplay about a current event or something in recent history. Like for example: Vietnam; World War 2; the Olympic Games; A great Sporting event. To write a movie like Chariots of Fire, or The Fastest Indian in the World, one has to portray the event as honestly as possible. The best way to do that is to actually interview the people that were involved.
So your first exercise, in basic character creation for writing a screenplay, is to go out and meet 3 complete strangers. And, by talking to them and finding out a little bit about them, to then write a character history using their lives as the basis for what you write.
Now for some of you this could be quite challenging. But do the best to turn it into something fun. I am not asking you to go out and interview George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton. All I am asking you to do is to go out and meet three people. Ask them a few questions about themselves. You will be surprised how positively most people will respond to you. Most people want to make contact with the world around them. And most people like to share their lives with other people. Most people are only too happy to respond to someone who takes a genuine interest in them as a person.
Now you don’t have to go out there and approach the most gorgeous girl in the world or the most gorgeous guy, unless you want to. There are many places where it is easy to strike up a conversation. Places where people won’t get defensive, they will actually answer your questions about their life. An easy one is a person at the shop, especially the person behind the counter manning the till. Another place is in a queue at the bank. Or a person sitting on their own in a restaurant.
The trick for you is to be casual. Also you just want to get a sense of this person. What they like, what they don’t like. Get impressions from them that will stimulate your imagination. Also this is not a task in CIA interrogation. Don’t stand there with a notebook in your hand, barking questions at them.
When you have met your three people go home and take 30 minutes to write a quick character biography about them. This is the fun part of writing a screenplay. It is the formative beginning of creating a script. No one has to see these wild and fun creations. Use the information from the three people you have met as a spring board. Let their lives function as a stimulus for your imagination and see what kind of characters you come up with.
Finbar Kilcoran in association with
the Adventure Learning Researchers
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