Getting To Know Your Characters: 1000 Character Development Questions

February 27, 2013 at 1:38 am

Getting To Know Your Characters: 100s of Helpful Questions

How do you create characters?

It all depends on the story and the individual writer.  We all have different methods and techniques when creating characters.  Personally, I like to free write.  I sit down and write as much detail as I possibly can about my new creations.  When I start a screenplay, I’ve usually got a main character in mind but 100% of the time my original idea changes as I get to know them.

Beyond free writing and other techniques, there are many resources out there that provide quizzes, interviews and questionnaires to help you develop your characters.  These lists of questions are designed to help you truly understand who your characters are and what drives them.  Most of the time, I simply read questionnaires like these just to gain a basic understanding of my characters.

What’s in your character’s refrigerator?  It sounds like an odd question but answering it could give you a ton of helpful information.  Even if it gives you one tiny piece of insight it’s worth it.

At the same time, why not seek out questionnaires about getting to know yourself and answer them as one of your characters?  All of these techniques can help you write better in the long run.

The 100 Most Important Things To Know About Your Character

101 Character Development Questions For Writers

100 Character Development Questions For Writers

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind

Top 10 Questions For Creating Believable Characters

Character Questionnaire

30 Questions (Character Questionnaire)

Creating Fictional Characters

Character Development: Getting To Know Your Characters

Character Creation Questionnaire

The Writer’s Character Sheet

Interview Your Character

Character Development Questionnaire

Create-A-Character Exercises

Character Interviews

Character Tutorial

Character Chart

2 Character Questionnaires

Character Survey

These links alone offer hundreds of questions that will challenge your creativity and elevate the quality of your characters.  Try a few of them out.

You’ll never know the level of detail you’re capable of until you give it a shot.

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Inside the Mind of a Movie Reviewer

February 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

Inside the Mind of a Movie Reviewer | Zack Mandell | movieroomreview.com

by Zack Mandell

Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast, writer of movie reviews, and owner of www.movieroomreviews.com which has great information on movies, actors, and films like Snitch. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites like Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.

WHY I WRITE MOVIE REVIEWS

When I was 18 or 19 a good friend of mine was throwing a party and invited me to attend, suggesting I arrive several hours early so we could hang out before it started. I did so to find he had his hands full with party preparation more intense than he’d anticipated. As I couldn’t be of much help he suggested I watch a movie in his room until the party started. This friend had been a film student for a while and had an excellent collection so I was happy to oblige. I liked movies but wasn’t a committed film buff or anything. Remembering a positive endorsement from my mom (who has great taste in movies) I put on Unforgiven, the Clint Eastwood Western and became increasingly engrossed.

William Munny (Eastwood) and his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) are aging ex-gunmen who’ve been hired by a group of prostitutes to kill two men that had slashed up one of their number in a Big Whiskey, WY brothel. Opposing Munny and Logan is Big Whiskey’s protective, brutal ex-gunslinger sheriff- Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Munny, by his own admission, had himself been an incredibly cruel, drunken, sadistic and murderous desperado as a younger man before being reformed by his (since deceased) wife. Much of Munny’s youthful sadism had been inspired by liquor, which he’s sworn off.

[Spoiler Alert] Near the end of the film William Munny is preparing to return home when he finds out that someone very close to him has been been captured and tortured (inadvertently) to death by Daggett. At this revelation Munny takes a bottle of whiskey he’s spurned several times and drinks while learning the details of his friend’s ordeal from a terrified prostitute, who in turn reveals details about Munny’s exceedingly vicious past. As we watch, William Munny the father, loving husband, pig farmer and homesteader is dissolved by the whiskey and William Munny the dangerous, bloodthirsty, ruthless, ice water-cold gunfighter emerges. His transformation precipitates and precedes probably the best sequence ever filmed for a Western.

I was transfixed. Everything about Unforgiven seemed backwards: the good guys are hired assassins and the villain a small town sheriff just trying to protect his little patch of territory. The prostitutes seek revenge for their cut comrade, who is perhaps the only one of them not intent on vengeance. One of the men the assassins were hired to kill is good-hearted, hadn’t done any violence himself and was mostly guilty of running to his partner’s aid on instinct, unaware he (the partner) meant to cut up a woman.

Colorful characters enrich Unforgiven’s universe without conforming to cliché, notably incredible turns by Richard Harris as another hired shooter, “English Bob”, and Saul Rubinek’s W.W. Beauchamp- Bob’s Western-mythology-smitten pulp biographer- both of whom put in amazing performances. The primary players- Munny, Logan, Daggett and English Bob, were all old men who’d long since past their prime. It was like watching the hangover following a John Wayne and/or Gary Cooper Western. The tough cowboys, brave sheriffs and slick gunfighters had grown up and grown old. No one is spared (or spared from) the gritty reality of Western life. I’d never seen a movie like it, particularly a Western. When my host came to fetch me for the party (which started about halfway into the movie) I thanked him but requested time to finish. That viewing of Unforgiven affected my initiation into movie buffness.

Obviously, my description of a great movie is nothing at all like watching one and that’s maybe the best case to be made for reviewing movies. Since even the best review can’t really capture the movie experience, good or bad, reviewing appeals to me as a tool for steering viewers toward something they’ll never forget, or at least enjoy. Just as a well-done review can deliver an innocent from a bomb intent on stealing $10 bucks ($44 if concessions are purchased) and two hours of their time. My advice, such as it is, for anyone interested in writing reviews is to write toward a purpose. If you haven’t been assigned a particular movie to review, write on one that stood out to you or had some feature that stood out, whether good or bad. If a movie employs some tired convention or is representative of some trend that bothers you (or that inspires you), point it out.

Write what you think; not what you think you should.

Beware of prevailing review-trends though and learn to recognize them. The woman who wrote for the art and entertainment page of my college newspaper epitomized trend reviewing. When the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were being released she sang their praises, as did everyone. However, when the backlash that inevitably accompanies any widely-popular entertainment phenomenon struck she immediately began referencing the LOTR films as the embodiment of boredom and filmic pretension.

Also- be aware of your disposition and situation and let a movie sit with you for a little bit before writing about it. More than once I’ve seen bad movies in some strange mood or with an enthusiastic watching buddy that totally colored my consideration of it, and led to some unforgiven recommendations. Likewise, I’ve watched great movies in a bad mood and judged them too harshly. On a number of occasions something I didn’t immediately like, or even actively disliked, nevertheless stuck with me. Despite an initial neutral-to-negative reaction, if I find myself chewing a movie over for several days afterward (if I’m not thinking on how overtly horrible it was) I almost always come around to digging it.

Another trend in reviewing that’s gained popularity is an attempted populist-appeal. A crappy action movie with the requisite inclusion of explosions and shootings will score glowing reviews from columnists intent on proving how absolutely they dismiss film snobbery and embrace regular-Joe cinematic taste. That being said- both the audience and genre should be kept in mind. If you’re writing a review for Best Car Chases Ever! dot com, the terrible Fast and the Furious sequel you just watched should be weighted regarding the content of the chase scenes with less attention given to the ridiculous dialogue. To be at all successful and satisfied, I think a writer of anything has to write from a place of passionate opinion. If you hate a popular movie or love a “terrible” one- I guarantee there are people out there that agree with you. Write what you think; not what you think you should.

Oscar Aspirations: Screenwriting, Passion & Good Ideas

February 21, 2013 at 12:35 am

The 85th Academy Awards on The Athletic Nerd

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

It’s the category I look forward to most each year.

A screenwriter(s) gets an idea and spends countless hours perfecting every moment.  Slowly, the story takes shape and the characters come alive.  The first draft gets sent out to family and friends.  To producers and actors.  The reviews are all positive but the screenwriter is still critical.  Rewrites.  The very measure of the dedication it takes to succeed as a screenwriter.

A new draft makes it’s way into the right hands and hundreds of passionate artists from all corners of the industry make it their own.  A collaboration.  One tiny idea backed by the passion and commitment of many becomes a film.

It’s released to the world and people relate to the story.  Professionals love it.  Critics love it.  Audiences love it.  Fans around the world discuss all the little details so carefully put in place.  Every word counts.  Every ounce of sweat poured into each sentence is on the screen.  A new classic.

Oscar night arrives.  The competition is tough.  The envelope is opened.  The winner is…

To me, this story is less about the award and more about the inspiring feeling I get when I watch The Academy Awards each year.  Best original screenplay.  A screenwriter’s dream.  It’s a worthy goal but I like to focus more on the passion that leads to the accomplishment.

A good idea is one of the most exciting events in the life of any creative individual.  But a good idea is only as good as the passion you summon to fan the flames.  Imagine having the freedom to write anything you want.  Imagine having the ability to hone your craft and make your screenplay great.  You can.  It may not win an Oscar but dedicating yourself to your script certainly doesn’t make things worse.  Everything you need is staring back at you when you look at a blank page.

It’s an inspiring thought isn’t it?

Oscar Aspirations: Screenwriting, Passion & Good Ideas

The Summer of Screenwriting: The Complete 20 Part Series

December 4, 2012 at 7:12 pm

The Summer of Screenwriting: The Complete 20 Part Series | Screenwriting Blog

20 ARTICLES.  1 SCREENPLAY

The Summer of Screenwriting

Screenwriting procrastination & the guilt that follows

I’m intimidated by the big scenes in my screenplay

The two scenes I came up with in an airport lounge

Getting stuck reading your screenplay before it’s finished

Screenwriting Mistakes: Small moments can have a big impact

When FADE OUT is just around the corner

The return to screenwriting: One Month Later

The soundtrack of my new screenplay

The language of my screenplay needs work

My screenplay lacks the all important little details

Have you ever cried writing a screenplay?

I’m not a screenwriting expert.  I just love to write screenplays

Tomorrow I finish the first draft of my screenplay

I finished my new feature length screenplay!

Who will read your screenplay first?

The screenplay is finished but my printer is broken

The first book I read after I finished my screenplay

What will I do with my screenplay now?

The Summer of Screenwriting: The Journey Ends

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The Summer of Screenwriting: The Journey Ends

The Summer of Screenwriting: The Journey Ends

November 28, 2012 at 8:08 am

The Summer of Screenwriting: The Journey Ends

OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES YOU SET FOR YOURSELF

The Summer of Screenwriting ends with this post.  The journey is over.

It began as a simple challenge because I felt guilty.  I felt guilty about the lack of effort I put into my screenwriting.  I couldn’t find time to write.  I thought I had lost the passion.  It turns out, I was whining for no reason.  I hadn’t lost the passion at all.  I just let opportunities to write pass me by.

So I issued a challenge to myself.  Finish a screenplay before Summer’s end.  That gave me 3 months.  In order to leave myself with no excuses, I decided to put this blog on hold and really focus on writing something to be proud of.

The day I finished the first draft of my screenplay was one of my proudest moments.  Shut up, sit down & write screenplays.  That’s all I needed to do.  No more excuses.

Then I felt guilty for a different reason.  Why did I wait so long in the first place?  I’m thankful that I don’t currently write for anyone except myself.  (At this point.) There isn’t any pressure to sell it, impress a producer or score an agent.  I’m wasn’t thinking about those things.  I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

This blog resumed on September 15 and since then, I’ve posted 19 articles detailing my summer of screenwriting.  This is number 20.  The final chapter but it is also my opportunity to issue a new challenge.

Finish a NEW feature length screenplay.

I won’t have to impose any deadlines this time.  I’ve learned my lesson.  I love to write screenplays and I’m still baffled that I let so much time go by without writing.  I feel so much better about myself when I’m creative.  I rediscovered my passion because I dared myself to do better.  I can’t guarantee my last screenplay is any good.  But I CAN guarantee my next screenplay will be better.

The next time you get stuck think about this: You have the complete freedom to travel anywhere your imagination will take you.  You can tell any story you want.  That’s inspiring!  Don’t let the pressure get to you.  Remember how much fun it is to write.  I forgot and I’ll regret the year I lost making excuses.

Never again.

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Stay tuned next week for The Complete Series.

The Summer of Screenwriting: The Journey Ends