After speaking on the importance and difference in settings and scenes in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on the importance of creating your characters through actions. A character’s actions are essential in setting the tone and pace of a script.
A plot or story cannot move forward without the use of action. Each and every action a character makes helps in obtaining the end goal – a resolution. In some cases, a series of actions can leave the resolution open-ended for the audience to draw their own conclusions. In writing my pilot script, I found myself creating a serialized resolution where a strategic move on social media by my main character carried over to the next episode in the series. This allowed me to give my series a serialized focus not many animated series tend to explore.
A friendly tip from me to you is to create a loose outline of actions will happen in a scene. And I do mean loose outline as sometimes an action might seem okay in the initial stage, but doesn’t work when it comes to plotting out your screenplay.
Actions are all about being visual and timely. With most screenplays taking place in real time, you have to remember that the present tense is your best friend. It will help you keep straight what is going on in your character’s world. Throughout writing my screenplay, I had to keep in mind I was not writing a novel but a project that is meant for the small or big screen. Along with timeliness, action carries the plot visually as your characters exist on a realistic plane (real or fictional). In writing my screenplay, I found myself using various words to illustrate an action like walking – trotting, speeding, creeping. In one scene, I had to write about two characters walking down the hallway in their own ways to show more personality.
Remember actions have their own levels within the script. Some are big and dynamic while others are nuance and subtle. This keeps the screenplay from feeling monotone and uninspiring when someone reads the final product. Throughout my screenplays, I use a character’s actions to play in the relationship and dynamic with others. My main character tends to be affectionate and warm with her best friend while she tends to become timid and nonconfrontational when noticing or interacting with her nemesis.
When creating a character’s actions, you need to think about how they speak to the character’s personality and relationships.
In reading this post, I hope you will be able to craft actions that not only influence your characters but your story as well. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week to read about coping and understanding the creativity stopper – writer’s block.
After speaking on the topic of dialogue, I’ll be tackling the topic of scenes and actions when it comes to creating dynamic and exciting situations for any character.
In this post, I’ll talk about the relationship between scenes and settings when it comes to creating a character’s world. While one might think these concepts are one in the same, a scene involves a series of actions perpetuated by a character(s). A setting deals with the environment where many conflicts and scenes take place within the character’s world. Both are essential in the art of world building as the characters need them to create a visual presentation through words. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a great example of this as her use of descriptions and adjectives helped in creating the world millions of fans witnessed on the big screen.
Creating and envisioning settings are instrumental in creating dynamics between characters along with their dialogue. I think about the old adage “the setting is another character” when it comes to perfecting your screenplay. It must be visually descriptive and vibrant just like the characters. I’ll use my script as an example. I need the cultural shock aspect as my main character is being introduced to a new environment. I describe everything from the pink and white decor in her bedroom to the white walls and blue lockers within her new high school to give the reader a sense of what is going on within this realistic fictional world. For me, the world is just as much a part of the story as the characters moving the plot forward.
A tip I use is creating a series or film bible for your script that way you already have the settings and descriptions in place for reference. As I revise and edit my script, I constantly refer to mine when making sure a setting is true to the vision I have.
A scene from Life of Pi recreated by Morgan Spence
Once the settings are in place, creating scenes are a bit easier. Each scene must carry the plot forward in some way (big or small). When thinking of a scene, you must ask yourself some questions: is this important to the story? Does it move the plot? Does the rapport and actions within the scene come off as natural to the character(s)? If your scene doesn’t answer any of these questions, you might need to lose the scene. I’ve had the experience in my process as an introduction scene between my main character and her neighbor read fine in the initial writing, but once I revisited it, it didn’t make sense in the overall story. I tried changing dialogue and moving it around, but in the end, I ended up rewriting the whole scene. It was the best thing I could have done for the plot.
To save on wasted space, I would suggest creating an outline of how you want your script to flow. This way you can have your scenes laid out for you to refer back to when needed.
Hopefully, this post will aid you in creating the best settings and scenes for your characters to play in. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back later this week to read about creating actions to enhance the reader’s experience and your characters when reading your script.
In continuing with the dialogue theme, I’ll be focusing this post on vernacular and purpose when it comes to creating a unique character within your real or fictional world.
While voice and personality set the foundation for a character, it’s the use of vernacular and purpose that can set one character apart from another. Using these two techniques set the blueprint for their dialogue. Like voice and personality, these two work in tangent to a build a character of their language and outlook, especially when there are multiple characters involved.
Using vernacular can influence the dialogue of character(s). Whether a Southern American, German transplant or U.K. diplomat, vernacular is something as a writer you might want to think of when trying to create a multi-cultural cast. But vernacular can be a tricky beast as you don’t want the dialogue to be stiff, forced or even worse stereotypical. Take my pilot for a spec script as an example. I took a Southern American girl and dropped her in our neighbor of the North, Canada. It features a cast of teenagers from various ethnic backgrounds so my duty as a writer is to mix some Southern terms from my main character while injecting some Canadian phrases in a natural manner. For me, I use vernacular sparingly as not to create caricatures rather than characters. That’s a little tip from me to you.
Another tip on vernacular is to make sure to examine some terminology through books and websites specializing in certain cultures and nationalities along with consulting people of those backgrounds for more authenticity.
Vernacular is important, but finding purpose in a character’s words is pivotal in displaying a character’s personality. There has to be meaning and intent when creating lines of dialogue or the words will fall flat. Every line in every scene needs to move the plot in some way, but if it doesn’t, a pen or the backspace button is your best friend. Always think about what the character’s mission is in that moment when writing dialogue.
Another trick is keeping your character’s personality and background in mind when using these techniques.
In reading this post, hopefully, you will be able to present your character(s) in a whole new light. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week to read about building a world for your characters through scenes and actions.
As mentioned last week, creating good dialogue is an essential element in setting the tone for your character(s). I’ll go more in-depth on the subject by focusing on the personality and voice.
Voice and personality are key in molding a character into the vision you have in your head. They inform you of what a character will or won’t say in conversation (character-to-character or inner dialogue). These two work in tangent to create an individual of distinction, especially when there are multiple characters involved.
Personality is the first concept that should come to mind when creating dialogue for the character(s). Whether a sadistic control freak, a depressed creative or a paranoid introvert, the dialogue must fit the personality. As a writer, it is your job to know your character(s) inside and outside when crafting dialogue. You don’t want a character with a sunny disposition speaking on some issue like a death in a negative manner. That language wouldn’t fit who the character is.
Along with personality, a character’s voice helps in shaping the dialogue in your script. Tone, language and phrasing can inform a character’s dialogue and their interaction with other characters (major and minor). Voice can be a tricky area if you don’t have a handle on a character’s personality. You don’t want someone whose language is peppered with clever, dry humor to have a line where bathroom humor shows up. It could come off as either not understanding your character or a jarring moment that takes the reader out of the script.
Like in last week’s post, a trick you can use in developing personalities and voices by creating character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. These pieces of the puzzle can inform what the dialogue on the page.
Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating dialogue through characters’ personalities and voices. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back later this week for more on creating the dialogue for your character(s) through phrasing and vernacular.
After looking at developing a character’s personality and character traits, I’ll be focusing on the importance of dialogue and action in shaping how your characters are perceived.
Every line of dialogue and action in your script should be tailor-made for the character you are writing. When writing for a character, remember to ask yourself these question: would he/she say those words? or Does that action go inline with their personality?
A trick I always use is thinking of the character and their voice when writing the script. A bonus for you would be to create character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. Sometimes, things can get a little confusing, and those pieces of the puzzle can be a big help in the process.
Dialogue influences action and vice versa. Dialogue is the way a character expresses themselves either verbally or internally (for my inter-dialogue heads). It dictates the audience’s perception of a character – good or bad, nice or naughty, sardonic or good-natured. A character’s words are their calling card. Action, on the other hand, allows the character to express themselves with a sense of physicality. Your character can be a master manipulator, prankster, klutz, athlete, artist, etc. based on their actions.
Both are forms of expression that inform each other in a way that is realistic to human behavior. An action can set a character’s words into motion as a response to another character or a movement. Dialogue sets precedence for any action as a response to another character’s words or lack thereof. Keep this in mind when writing and rewriting your screenplay.
A book I often refer to when writing dialogue and action:
by Pamela Douglas
Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating your actions and lines of dialogue for your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week as I go more in-depth about creating the best dialogue for your character(s).
This week was a sad one as my time with Paste Magazine came to a close. I found myself covering least news but writing better content as I wanted my last week as an intern to count. Seating in my usual black desk chair typing away on my bronze-colored laptop was both rewarding and heartbreaking as I knew my time with the magazine was about to meet its end. Writing the last article was a poignant moment as I didn’t want it to end. My fellow interns and I have ended on a good note by exchanging numbers and social media to keep in touch. The end of my internship hit me on Friday as I packed up my belongings for the last time and left the Paste office one last time. It was a little anti-climatic as the Shaky Knees Festival stole some of the thunder from my last day.
This week, I reflect on my time with Paste. When I first applied for the internship, self-doubt, lack of preparedness and my questionable writing ability made me think writing for a well-known publication was out of the question. But when I got the call in December to interview for the internship, I was more than surprised – I was flabbergasted that my work was good enough to meet with the news editor. After the meeting, I still felt unsure so in usual pessimistic fashion, I psych myself out of the position. Getting the call back for the internship was one of my best days as a graduate student. But little did I know that I was in for one hell of a ride. Between my regular job, school and personal issues, the internship became both a safe haven and a source of tension as I tried to plan out my time so nothing ever felt neglected. Some days I successfully kept all the balls in the air, and other days not so much. I had my ups and downs dealing with the internship as I went through the growing pains of writing professionally. In the end, I learned a lot of lessons (both easy and hard) when it comes to being a better writer. Through all the tribulations and triumphs, I am very grateful for the opportunity to write for such an amazing publication. Hopefully, my Paste internship was just the beginning of my journey as a published writer.