The Playwright’s (unofficial) Guide: Character

Every story begins differently.

Sometimes it’s an image. Sometimes you’re led by a character.
Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you might already have a plot from start to finish (this is the rarest, so consider it the holographic Charizard of the literary world: not many people have it, and those that do won’t let you look at it bastards).

Home  Truths  |  Character  Plot  |  Dialogue  |  Putting It All Together | Workshopping

So you’re back! Either a character has taken you by the proverbials, or you’ve realised, actually, they’re your a weak spot.
The thing about that last bit:

Everyone has a weak spot.

People are oddly united in their flaws, and with the written word being the more self-deprecating of practices, feeling like a failure is more common than feeling like a success. So own it. Knowing your weak points better informs your practice, your story, and ultimately sets you above the rest. Why? Because it takes a lot to admit you’re not good at everything.

Question everything.

Whether you know them from top to bottom, or the bare minimum, one of the most useful strategies I’ve found is to profile the shit out of your characters. What makes them tick, what do they fear, name one thing they’ve never shared with anyone – there are endless ways to get the most out of your players and turn them into living, breathing characters because you can customise your profile with whatever questions you want the answers to. The more you ask, the more you know!
Try these on for size, and see what happens: a fear, a want, a secret, their antagonist, and a location they feel safe in.

Take them out for a spin.

Now you have more information than you know what to do with, but, if your profile has been thorough enough, it will often conjure up situations or interesting circumstances that you may otherwise have never thought of. Because my work is often led by a character, I explore as many of these scenarios as I can until…well, I can’t. By getting them out of your system, while you may wind up deciding that none of these scenarios are worth incorporating into the eventual piece, what you end up with are fully rounded characters that you know in infinite detail, ready for whatever you throw at them!

Tips of your own?

Share them below!

Disclaimer: I’m a theatremaker and playwright grad, so these tips are a mixture of other people’s advice and my own. This all began because of this post over at CoolBeans4 (and then promptly forgot again until this post last week), so if you don’t like it, blame them (please don’t).

5 thoughts on “The Playwright’s (unofficial) Guide: Character

  1. The Pokemon reference made me giddy about this post. Unreasonably so at that.


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