|Photo credit: @Doug88888 on Flickr|
“I need someplace to take the characters,” said a successful screenwriter friend when we discussed adapting books for episodic television. “What are the main characters’ dark sides? What are their Achilles’ heels? How do you inspire a writers’ room to find fresh stories to tell about a character’s psyche season after season?”
The answer, of course, is giving your characters layers that a screenwriter can gradually peel away. It doesn’t require an info dump, or even going beyond what most of us do already. Those complex breakdowns many of us write for our characters are the only road map you need. What are their hopes, dreams, and flaws? What do they love, hate, and fear? Dig deep, and give your characters secrets that will subtly or not so subtly influence their dialogue and actions, depending on how far down those secrets are buried.
To illustrate, a character in my current manuscript is a rule follower, one who is driven to always do the honorable thing. That’s not a bad trait in a hero, but he becomes a cartoon character if there is nothing beyond a sense of honor motivating his actions. Only I know of the shame that informs his every move, one that will be slowly revealed. He will never come out and say, “I do X because of Y,” because this isn’t a story of a guy in therapy. But hopefully, if I plant the seeds correctly and compellingly, both my readers and a potential screenwriter will sense the darker dimensions that simmer beneath his shiny exterior.
Kes Trester is a former feature film development executive and television commercial producer. Her (hopefully) soon-to-be published YA thriller 7 DAYS is currently under option for a television series. She is represented by Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary. Check out her website at www.kestrester.com and you can find her on Twitter (@kestrester) as well.
Do your characters have layers? @kestrester discusses why it's so important on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
.@kestrester says "Give your characters secrets that'll...influence their dialogue & actions." Thoughts? (Click to tweet)