Memorable, ground-breaking characters. Hmm, let’s think. Harry Potter, Matilda, Olivia Benson, Meredith Grey, Jack Sparrow, Olivia Pope, Forest Gump….we could go on for hours. Books, Television, Films. Now, before you go off on me for not mentioning an A-list fictional character, I’ll share some thoughts I’ve been contemplating as I wrap up my weekend writing marathon.
I feel as though it is a pretty well-shared opinion that a deep, multi-dimensional character has a WANT. A desire, a goal, a challenging task. A battle, an obstacle, or an enemy is usually what comes next. We as writers establish these fictional realms with these two things in mind: The WANT and the OBSTACLE. But, I then ask, what about the decisions?
I speak mostly for the TV pilot writers out there. I, for one, am new at the craft. Learning more about it every day. As I create my characters, I can without a doubt talk for hours about their goals, their hopes, and what is getting in the way. But then, I realize…I need an Act Two, Three, and Four. This is where the decisions happen. No matter if it is in a pilot, a book, or season 6 of a successful cable series, it is the DECISION that enhances our character. The decision that leads them either closer or farther away from their ultimate goal. How our character acts under pressure, in a bar with friends, at a fork in the road. You see, within the obstacle there are many little ones. We face them every day in real life. But how we decide to deal with these obstacles – the CHOICES we make – the ACTIONS we take – THAT is when our character shines through. It’s not only about what our character wants, but it is also about how he or she decides to act in pursuit of such a want.
As I do in many of my posts, I’ll bridge how I approach writing with how I approach life. My new chapter as a screenwriter has an obvious obstacle: The gates of Hollywood. The doors of a writers’ room. The calendar invite of a network executive. The overflowing inbox of a showrunner. THESE are my obstacles. But again, how will I decide to face them? What decisions will I make in order to get me closer to my goal? This is where my strength, my determination, and my fast-typing fingers will make themselves known.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to continue to pretend that I’m qualified to comment on the techniques of screenwriting. I’ll continue to assume greatness and brilliance at the start of each day. And, most importantly, I’ll act like I belong here typing these thoughts. Because again, what is the alternative? To remain silent?