The most effective, powerful, and interesting characters you can create for a screenplay are often based on real people. If you look back over your life, you will probably begin to remember things that you haven’t thought of for many years, and you will find great fodder to draw from.
You will most certainly find some amazing people to model your characters after. You will also come up with some unforgettable, authentic and interesting scenes by pondering events from your past.
To jog your memory and get the juices flowing, let’s take a stroll down memory lane with these five questions:
- Who was your favorite teacher in grade school? What was something that was a little odd about them? What was the one thing they did that you’ll never forget?
- Who was your least favorite teacher in high school? What did they do that you hated so much? How did they dress?
- Who was your first love? Who was the first person to break your heart?
- You know that time, not too long ago, when you called the service department and needed help and the person was rude? What were they going through that you didn’t know about? What was their attitude?
- Go back to when you were 12 or 13. Remember something that you and your best friend did. Who was in her life or his life that was an enigma to you? What did you think was strange about their family?
One of my memorable characters… My best friend when I was 12-years-old had a step-father who weighed over 300 pounds.
No matter whether they had guests in their house or not, he always sat in his big easy chair in white boxer shorts and a white T-shirt, smoking a cigar.
No matter who came to the house, there he was sitting in that chair, with his big belly, gruff voice, smoking that cigar. He would be a great character to write about…or to have even as a supporting character in your screenplay.
When you access your own past memories of scenes, events, and people, you start to find details that bring your stories to life. The details you remember are uniquely yours and will make your script ring of authenticity.
When you find the interesting characters from your past, you will also open up a world of other possible stories, and at the very least, you will find colorful characters to add into scenes of your story.
And so on and so on.
Drawing from specific details of your past brings great authenticity and creativity to your work.
The best ways to capture these details is not to just think of a general idea, but think in specifics. A specific person. A specific thing they said. A specific day.
Be as specific as you can in creating and recalling these moments, events, and people. The same goes for when you are writing a scene. Think of defining specific elements — the specifics of the elements that make that memory stand out in your mind.
Once you have a first draft of your script, you may want to consider getting a professional critique to see what needs to be done in your rewrite. Melody Jackson was rated a Cream of the Crop Script consultant by top industry magazines three different times. They also acknowledged her for her nurturing approach to working with screenwriters.
Meanwhile, sit back. Relax. And start to recall those fascinating characters from the past…. Good night.