“Many, perhaps, from so simple a flower,
This little lesson may borrow,
Patient today, through its gloomiest hour,
We come out into the brighter tomorrow.”
~ Emily Dickinson
CHARACTERIZATION TIPS FOR WRITERS & FILMMAKERS
By Elizabeth English
For a successful, sellable story, writers and filmmakers need to flesh out their characters, protagonists, antagonists, and secondary ones, and make them memorable, relatable, and help them stand out from each other as individuals.
- Identifying characteristics: Characters can, of course, and should, have more than one identifying characteristic. Here are some characterization ideas you can incorporate in your stories: A character’s suppositions, reminiscences, dreams, recollections, theories, plans, guesses, ideas, hopes, explanations, stories, past, fears, problems, anecdotes, failures & successes, illusions, decisions, compromises, attitudes, announcements, opinions,…and so on.
- Personality characteristics matter, too, and help the reader identify each character as separate and different from others in the story. Here are some ideas that can set each character apart and make him or her memorable: does the person smoke cigars, chew gum, walk with a limp, have shifty eyes, wear funny hats, have a long beard, wear sexy clothing, walks too fast or slow, is depressed, grieving, shy, fearful, ambitious, suspicious, is secretive, wears cheap, dirty clothes, is overbearing, nosy, is a gossip, wears couture clothing, acts childish, is loud or quiet, is rude, is a comedian, is sad or blue, is always happy, is a joker, drives too fast or too slow, loves sports, is afraid of cats, is from a foreign country, speaks with an accent, is a couch-potato, eats too much, always on a diet, plays video games, loves music, and so on.
- Physical characteristics help the reader identify each character as separate and different from others in the story. The characters can be tall and lanky, short and pudgy, have wild red hair or is bald, is fat, thin, muscled, weak, scrawny, tough-looking, wears a beard, wears glasses, is hearing-impaired, has a big nose or ears, is on crutches or in a wheelchair, is old, young or in-between, different ethnic origins, smiles a lot or never smiles, and more.
- What do your characters do? Everyone has different careers, interests and proclivities, and they can make the character more relatable and differentiate him or her from other characters, and can add unexpected elements to the story, as well: is the character a policeman or policewoman, a spy, a cowboy, a hobo, a chef, an artist, auto-repairman, truck driver, school teacher, astronaut, musician, bum, is homeless, is an artist, singer, showgirl, dancer, lawyer, plumber, carpenter, filmmaker, Buddhist, sailor, fisherman, hunter, waitress, circus performer, writer, tennis pro, housewife, salesperson, pilot, storekeeper, innkeeper, rancher, professor, scientist, short-order cook, train engineer, ship captain, mother or father, uncle or aunt, grandparent, sports figure, private detective, skateboarder, wrestler, boxer, dog trainer, banker, bus driver, taxi-driver, unemployed, landlord or landlady, swimmer, hiker, horseman or horsewoman, criminal, gardener….and etc.
Personalities and quirks, physical descriptions and manner of communicating and moving through the story, interacting with other characters in their individual manner, all create a viable, more interesting and readable script and story and cinematic experience.
“Nobody will believe in you unless you believe in yourself.” ~ Liberace
Photo by Dominique Browning
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