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Who Are You?

Do you know your character? I mean, really know them?

Whether you're a writer creating a character, or an actor becoming one, get to know this individual. I mean, really know them. If you don't, then they risk becoming one-dimensional, paper dolls.

Think of the show "Friends." What if the writers, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and actress Jennifer Aniston only saw Rachel Green as "20-something rich girl?" Rachel would be simple. Basic. Uninteresting. But add in the fact that she's been desperate to get out from under her Daddy's money and have a life of her own, and that she's spoiled, selfish, self-involved, but loving and very insecure, and doesn't know how to do anything herself- now you have a compelling character.

What about Jesse Pinkman from "Breaking Bad?" What if Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul only saw him as "20-something, 2nd rate drug dealer?" Thanks to Gilligan and Paul, Pinkman wants a friend in Walt, has compassion for him, and he's riddled with fear and loneliness.

And what about Chris Washington, Daniel Kaluuya's character, in "Get Out?" What if Kaluuya and writer Jordan Peele decided to leave him at "20-something black photographer with a white girlfriend?" Chris wouldn't have massive guilt for his mother's death that he was pushing deep inside himself. He wouldn't be a people-pleaser. He wouldn't be afraid of his own success. All of these nuances are what make your character compelling.

And if they don't need therapy for something, you're not done writing them.

Use my character questionnaire to begin getting to know your character better:

  1. How do they feel about their parents? Siblings?

  2. What was their childhood like? Where did they grow up?

  3. Were they popular in school? Were other kids nice to them?

  4. What kinds of clothes do they wear?

  5. What kind of music do they listen to?

  6. What’s their favorite movie?

  7. Do they speak with good grammar? Do they swear a lot?

  8. Are they religious?

  9. What are their politics?

  10. Are they well educated?

  11. Are they procrastinators? Type A? Lazy? Overachieving?

  12. What is their job? Do they like it? What is their dream job?

  13. Where would they like to go on vacation?

  14. Do they speak any other languages?

  15. Who do they hold a resentment for? (Doesn’t have to be someone in the script.)

  16. What are their flaws? What are their talents?

  17. How do they decorate their home?

  18. How do they handle stressful situations?

  19. If they made a wish on birthday candles, what would they wish for?

  20. Do they have any secrets?

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