My favorite Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Permanence is an illusion.” I know what you’re thinking. What a crazy, sexy, kick ass cool broad I must be that I have a favorite Greek philosopher. He also said, “Character is destiny. ” A-ha. Right? You’re welcome. It’s a statement so simple yet insanely profound. Writing a successful screenplay requires understanding your characters so you can design their destiny. The plot and action and dialogue will always suffer without strong three dimensional individuals drawing the audience in. A lot of writers prefer to let their characters develop themselves. Sure, I get that. Some writers only know the basic want/need/goal and the details of the character will sort themselves. That’ll work in the first draft, but when it’s time to submit you have to remember that no actor wants to play a role that does not function on many layers.
You could cobble together a brief character sketch or a short bio which will push you in the right direction for some kind of outer motive or inner emotional journey but why stop there? Keep pushing. Meet these people. They are not just voices in your head. Discover who they are and understand them as you understand yourself. Dig into their psyche. Knowing they are afraid of dogs because they were bitten by a Rottweiler as a child will explain why they cross the street to avoid a dog which becomes the catalyst for the cute meet — or whatever I’m not hijacking your script. But you get where I’m going. No one expects you to write anything profound, but well-developed characters make the writing easier and the scripts a more interesting read.
Here are questions to ask your character to know them better:
1. What is your full name?
2. Do you have a nickname?
3. What do you look like?
4. If your vision isn’t perfect, do you wear contacts or glasses?
5. What is your marital status?
6. Do you have any children?
7. Do/Did you want children?
8. Where were you born?
9. When were you born?
10. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
11. What is your most prized possession?
12. Do you have a lot of friends?
13. What’s in your closet that you wear most?
14. Are you close to your family?
15. Do you have siblings?
16. Where do you live?
17. How would you describe your home?
18. What is your preferred method of transportation?
19. What is your income status?
20. What is your highest education level?
21. How many languages do you speak?
22. Do you play any musical instruments?
23. What kind of music do you like?
24. What’s your favorite song?
25. Can you dance?
26. Do you prefer bars,restaurants, clubs, pubs, private parties or staying home?
27. Who was your best friend during your childhood?
28. Who is your best friend today?
29. Do you have any pets?
30. What word best describes your personality?
31. Where do you work or attend school?
32. Do you enjoy your job?
33. Name a hobby you enjoy.
34. What did you do on your last vacation?
35. What kind of student are/were you?
36. What is your best memory?
37. What is your biggest regret?
38. Describe your ideal mate.
39. Do you have any religious affiliations?
40. What did you want to be when you grew up?
41. Did you achieve your high school goals?
42. Which, if any, clubs did you belong to?
43. Who was your first love? Was it serious?
44. Who are your idols?
45. Do you have or are you a teacher or mentor?
46. Do you prefer TV, Movies or Books?
47. How do you get your information – newspapers, internet, etc?
48. Are you tech savvy?
49. How many hours of television do you watch per week?
50. Are you interested in politics?
51. Who did you vote for in the last election?
52. Do you drink alcohol? What’s your favorite drink?
53. Do you smoke? Do you take drugs?
54. How is your health?
55. Should marijuana be legalized nationwide?
56. Have you ever been arrested?
57. What are your eating habits?
58. If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
59. What is your best talent?
60. How do you feel about yourself?
61. Do you like your life?
62. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
63. What annoys you most?
64. What do you love most?
65. Is it okay to be normal?
66. What is your sexual style?
67. Are you the dominant one in your primary relationship?
68. What is your best sexual position?
69. What are you into sexually?
70. Do you have any special powers?
71. Can you name the event that changed your life?
72. If you could have one wish what would it be?
73. Is the glass half full or half empty?
74. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
75. Have you answered all of these questions honestly?