Yes it’s happened again, another summer has flown past and we’re rushing towards the end of the year. My time was divided between nose-to-laptop and a wonderful wedding. Family weddings are joyous things where you share the moment when someone you’ve known and loved all their life begins another life with someone they love. And then the day you’ve prepared for over many months is gone as quickly as the summer that you’re left remembering. But from that day you have a mosaic of memories of faces, glances, laughter, words whispered and declared, silhouettes on the dance floor, speeches you remember so clearly, they’re etched in the air, all of it your own private album, never dimmed by time, coloured by that unique moment, playing on a live, moving screen, unmatched by anything in the world.
You could lift them complete and slot them into your latest screenplay, novel or story and wonder why they don’t work or we could plunder them as writers do, though never the things that are closest to our hearts. But the more you relive and remember, you’ll sift the essence and distilled, it will filter into your writing, though you must be careful with your own emotions, if you want your characters to be as individually pure as they can.
When I first started writing I was given a list of things you should know about your character which included what size shoes and colour socks they would wear and, okay, so maybe it was meant as a guide from which you could build a picture but there was nothing on that list about emotions. Even the most bloodless, boring person has those and the reason they appear so sanguine could be just as valuable to the writer as what lies behind a life and soul of the party person. Our greatest fears influence everything we do and every character has a colossal fear that drives and restricts them. Find that fear and work out what is stopping them from overcoming it. The best piece of advice I ever had from a script editor was “dig deep”. But first dig into yourself and find out what your greatest fear is, and it will hurt, but only if you’re completely honest.
Some resources I’ve found valuable on character: favourite screenplays, The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri and Laurie Hutzler’s Emotional Toolbox Character Map.