I’ve been taking a fascinating online course on screenwriting at FutureLearn.
As an exercise, we are to write a character outline for a character from a film or a character of our own. Naturally, I chose Martin from my novel, Cultivating a Fuji.
List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.)
These are actions in Martin’s life. The list doesn’t exactly correspond to events in the novel.
- Second visit to Japan
- Walk to Hengistbury Head
- First visit to Japan
- Move to Bournemouth
- Job acceptance
- Begin university
- Begin school
Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?
- Death: Wants/needs nothing.
- Lecture: Wants to explain social anxiety and remove feelings of guilt in others. (Aware)
- Second visit to Japan: Wants to enjoy and reminisce. (Aware)
- Marriage: Wants to be happy and make someone else happy. (Aware)
- Walk to Hengistbury Head: Wants to make a decision. Needs to change lifepath. (Aware)
- First visit to Japan: Wants to succeed in mission. Needs self-confidence. (Unaware)
- Move to Bournemouth: Wants to succeed in job. (Aware)
Needs company. (Unaware)
- Job application: Wants to be accepted. (Aware)
Needs more confidence. (Unaware)
- Begin university: Wants to do well academically. (Aware)
Needs to socialise. (Unaware)
- Begin school: Wants to do well academically and to be accepted socially. (Aware)
Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious?
He’s intelligent and his job provides intellectual engagement.
At first, he likes people and wants to befriend them. Later, he sees they’re mostly nasty and tries to keep away from them. As adults, they’re mostly nice, but he thinks he’s unable to connect with them.
Over the years, his self-esteem regarding social interactions has plummeted.
He has become too aware of his limitations to be impulsive or even spontaneous.
Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?
Quiet, strange, frightened. Apparently stupid, ignorant of social norms and void of feelings.
List any important physical characteristics
Slim, short hair, blue eyes. Clothes not always suitable. Tension visible in his posture.
2 replies on “A Character Outline”
That sounds like an interesting exercise – and one which would be helpful for a novel too.