I’ve been making up stories since I was a little child. While playing with my toy cars or space ships, my action figures, or just running around in the park with friends – I was happiest creating place, plot and characterizations. It was as normal as changing socks.
I did one more often than the other, but we don’t need to go into that.
Writing the stories down came a little later in my childhood. And spelling and punctuation aside, I was voracious in my efforts to tell the tale from start to finish.
A lot of my tales were simply repeats of things I seen on TV or in films or comics. Some were extensions of those stories – carrying the adventure further than the medium had allowed.
It did not consciously cross my mind to delve deeper into the characters beyond what I knew about them. On some surface level I was satisfied that I knew all I needed to know.
But over the years, and in pursuit of becoming a professional writer and performer I learned differently.
Regurgitating the mannerisms, lines, and actions of previous characters or stories limited the story, me, and of course the audience appeal.
Think of all the movies, TV shows, or books you’ve seen where the characters or their dialog or actions did not ring true. Where they seemed stupid, forced, or predictable to a ridiculous degree. For instance, the never ending parade of horror movie sequels where a typical number of young people arrive at a typical location, and become threaten or stalked by the typical psychopathic serial killer (normal or paranormal), resulting in the expected number of escalated slaughters until the end.
If it’s true that there are “only 7 plots in the world…” is true, then how on earth can a writer create anything that hasn’t been done before?
One way is to make sure your characters are more than 1 or 2 dimensional figures in the script. A jock is not just a jock. A street kid is not just a street kid. A blonde woman is not simply a blonde. An immigrant is not just that.
So create a carefully constructed Character Biography (Character Bio). Ask yourself, Who is this being?
Then think about and write down everything you know about your character.
A careful understanding of the characteristics, mannerisms, and history of your creation offers you a cornucopia of material to layer into the tale. It causes your creations to act and speak with a genuine sense of authenticity. It changes the path they take, which might make their choices different from similar characters that came before them.
Just like we are different from those who might be of the same gender, race, religion, or location, so can characters be different. And well they should be to make your stories stronger and more engaging and entertaining.