Splitting the Difference in Creating Characters

I think that creating characters with a unique, engaging voice and point of view on the world is the essence of great writing. I've seen some writers with an affinity for plot, who don't have anything to say through their characters, and the stories feel flat. It's sort of like making films--just because a person is technically proficient, it doesn't mean that they have something amazing to say. Teaching film students, I find that the students who take risks conceptually are the ones whose ideas really strike a chord. This is true, I believe, of the professionals, too. So, I've always asked myself, how do I push my characters to the extreme limit, making them as engaging as possible? See, in the beginning, when I was learning to write, I think that sometimes my characters were way over the top and my plots were an absolute mess. A few managers said that I had an interesting voice, and that they would read more of my work, but the plots were simply confusing. Fast forward to a few years later, I've really been studying the craft of plotting and working very hard to understand story flow and logic. But now, I think what's happened is that I've lost some of that voice that used to be in my early scripts. A teacher of mine read one of my recent scripts said, it's all plot, what happened to those amazing characters of yours? If this had been a few years ago, I would have been pretty depressed (he also said it was the worst thing I had ever written, but that's a different story), but I took a couple weeks off and really pondered this question of character. I've been racking my brains a bit, trying to really think about this question of character--what is the essence of a character, and how do I, as a writer really make that shine. Sure, I do a character bio, I spent time figuring out motivation and all of those things. Finally, after some days of thinking about it, and developing some character charts that break down things like inner and outer needs, I sat down to write and I realized something. Creating characters for me is about instinct. I had a teacher of mine who would always say that writing with all instinct is extremely dangerous because when you're stuck, you don't know how to fix things. I get that, but for me, I realize that I have to get to a place where I am thinking through the logic of the plot, and the character's relationship to plot, but then when it come to creating the essence of the characters, I have to use my instinct and deeper understanding of who I think people are and how they work. I've gone back and revised this script, and I realize that I've found the voice of the main character through this process. Sure, I'll go back and revise, revise and revise, but I think this method of creating characters through my own experience is something that works for me.


Film Finance + Revisions

The film, Raspberry Magic, is coming along, slowly but surely... I never really mention details, because yes, I am superstitious about saying too much. We have shooting place, a date and yes, even much of the key cast in place... But I'll let you know once it's all real...

One another tip, I've got a new script which I'm presently revising. I realize in my writing that often I like to cover big concepts like in "V for Vendetta" for example, this idea of freedom--it's tricky because while the characters are compelling, many of the abstract ideas are represented by visuals. Same with "All the President's Men"--a great film, but many of the ideas are abstract concepts, expressed through letters or talking. These kinds of films are not so easy to write, and certainly not always the most commercially viable. And honestly, I don't think that many people get them. But, I have a momentum in my writing that is pushing me to extremes--I must write. It is all that I think about morning, noon and night. It's kind of overpowering, and at this moment, I don't know what it means except that I am getting work done. But I hope that in the scheme of things in means that I am pushing myself toward excellence. Right now, I am good, but in order to make something happen in this business, you have to be excellent in a way that's above and beyond. I want that.


Eve Marie Carson

Last week, I was very saddened by the violent shooting and death of UNC-Chapel Hill's student body president, Eve Marie Carson. Acts of random violence happen every single day in every country, in every town, but her death touched me on a very personal level. Perhaps because I went to UNC-Chapel Hill for my undergraduate education, or perhaps because my sister is still there, in medical school. Or, perhaps because I've always thought of Chapel Hill as the perfect, idyllic place, a place that's far away from Los Angeles and San Francisco, a place that's peaceful enough to lounge in the spring grass on a Tuesday afternoon, and culturally diverse enough to rent an obscure indie flick on a Sunday night. I've always thought that one day, my husband and I could live in a cute colonial on the outskirts of campus, and I could spend my days writing with the cicadas chirping loudly in the background, without having to worry. No, I'm not naive, violence can happen anywhere at any time, but I always thought of Chapel Hill as being far away from such things. I wanted to believe that such a place still existed, but it doesn't. On another level, it just makes me angry that Eve Marie Carson's life could be taken away so quickly, so tragically, in an instance when another person was having a bad moment. It doesn't matter how accomplished she was or all of the great things that she did while she was here, she had a right to exist in peace, without being the victim of another person's crime. What's even more difficult is that there is no explanation for such a thing, no way to really make sense of it. All we can do is offer condolences and wishes of peace for Eve Marie Carson's family.