WRITING 101-PART3-CREATING A CHARACTER or WHY DID THE TITANIC SINK?
Answer: BECAUSE OF THE PESKY ICEBERG!
A character in a story is like an ice berg: only 1/5 of it is revealed to the vision of the beholder (the reader). The bigger chunk of it is hidden deep in the water. In the creation of a character, it is deliberately hidden because if everything is reveled all at once, there will be no more challenge to the reader.
However, it is MANDATORY that the writer who is creating this character must know his character inside out, or else, like the Titanic, he will bump against this ice berg and eventually sink.
Look at the image.
Area A is what the reader only sees. This area is the story proper. This is the world of your character where the story is taking place.
Area B is what the reader never sees, but an area that the writer must mandatorily know. Because, if you don't know your character inside out as the author... who will? Not Madame Auring or Rene Mariano for sure.
So what are we supposed to do to build a convincing, creative, authentic character that breathes with life?
A CHARACTER DOSSIER
Have a character sheet. Right down her name, her birthdate, her status in life, her mental capacity. Make sure to indicate her MAIN CHARACTER TRAIT and secondary character trait.
What is her:
• Morals and sexual drive
• Color of eyes, hair, complexion
• Posture, gait
• Eating habits
• Social Class (both in ther [past & the present)
• I.Q. (intelligent or Boba)
• Home Life (When growing up– attitude towards parents, sibblings, relatives, friends, strangers)
• Amusements, hobbies, pleasures
• Faults and weaknesses
• Props in life: Cane? Baseball cap, jewellry. weapons, wheelchair
• Imagination, sense of humor, weirdnes
• Views: environment, race, inequality, politics, issues
• Unusual or habitual gestures, expression, characteristic manner of speaking
• First impression on others
• civil status, sexual preference
and so on.
Do you know someone in real life that stands out? Why? Examine the reasons why. This will help as well. How does she treat herself? Is she too critical about her own personality? Is she over confident? Unsure of herself? Afraid of the world? Can she face and speak before a crowd? Is she shy?
In short, study her from the top of her head to tip of her toes.
Know her physical side, her mental side, her spiritual side if you will.
There is one very useful guide that helps me to create more distinct characters. I use Madame Auring's knowledge of the ZODIAC SIGNS. A pisces is totally different from a Taurus, for instance. A Leo is far from a Cancer. The zodiac opens doors for your characters. It is an open sesame to untold riches.
If you do it this way, every character that you create will be UNIQUE. It will be totally different from another character.
And when you have big scenes where several characters will be present, everyone will be totally distinct from one another. In a play I wrote in 1974 about Male Prostitutes called AMAG SA KARIMLAN, there were 6 call boy characters, 5 badings, and 1 woman. In the scenes where all the call boys appeared, each character is distinct because each one has a totally unique character and diction. Same thing happened with the badings. Though, because there was only one woman in the cast, she became the jewell, so to speak, in the play.
What is so handy with the character dossier is the fact that because you know him too well, whatever he does in the story, you will have all the CONTROL to keep him CONSISTENT within his character make up. In TV, Film & stage writing, distinct characters are a MUST when you have a big scene and all these characters appear in the same scene all together at the same time. If you don't bother to create your character with 3-dimensionality and distinction, I guarantee you that your scene will not survive. It will die a natural death, without a word, without a sigh.
Also, because you know the past of each character, you can suggest facts in the dialogs (in passing), for now, so that later in the story, the reader will be able to tie in all those mysterious dialogs afterwards. This is one good thing about the character dossier. YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL YOUR AUDIENCE EVERYTHING. They will figure it out by themselves. However, if the past of your character is haphazardly written, it will be tragic for him (your character) and for you (the writer).
It is also good to write well-developed characters, well, maybe in komiks or prose, so that when it is time to translate it into a tele[play or screenplay, you already have the background for each character ready. Now, it will be more crucial to have stronger characters because TV and movies are several times much bigger in scope than komiks, but more restrictive in form than komiks. You see, in komiks, you can show and tell, even the minds of your characters are possible to reveal to the readers. Not in Teleplay or movies. You have to show it since you cannot draw think balloons on screen. With well-developed characters, the battle is half-won when the time comes for you to write the screenplay or teleplay.
Therefore, young writers, be smart. Have a character dossier, also known as the ICE BERG PRINCIPLE. It will make a lot of difference.