Notes on Craft – (Part 3 of 6): Character

PART 1: Premise & Concept

PART 2: Structure

PART 3: Character

PART 4: The First 20 Pages

PART 5: Dialogue & Scene

PART 6: Rewriting & Polishing

WALLY WOLODARSKY (Monsters vs Aliens, The Rocker, Seeing Other People)

– “I get character from my friends.”

– “The best films are when the stories are simple and the characters are complex.”

– “If I at least know what the character wants I can write the scene.”

– “The best is when you write dialogue that shows what they want w/out telling exactly what it is.”

– “I like to put ‘wish-fulfillment’ into my characters.  Things from my life.”

– (re: time-management) “I keep a clock by my desk and click it every time I go to the bathroom, or lunch, etc, to monitor how distracted I get.”

– “When I sit down to write, I turn off all electronic devices and keep up the webster’s site.”

– (quoting Mamet) “Research is the writer’s crutch.”

ALINE BROSH McKENNA (The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, Laws of Attraction)

– “Character comes from action.”

– “In film, it’s important to take a character that is relentlessly ‘evil’ and give them a scene that explains why they’re that way.”

– “If you can’t put yourself in the driver’s seat of a character you shouldn’t write them.”

– “Your characters should talk on their own. If they don’t there’s something wrong with the character or the story.”

– “Back-story is great, but if it’s not in the script it’s useless.”

– “You only speak when you want something.”

– “I write scenes with specific actors in mind.”

– “If you write scenes and nothing funny happens then something’s wrong.  But they won’t be funny unless grounded in some sort of universal reality, making the audience go: ‘That’s so true!'”

– “Movies are an ’emotional delivery system’.  If a scene doesn’t evoke emotion it’s failing.”

– “I try to get myself in a state where I can literally laugh or cry as I’m writing.”

– “It’s best to write to a deadline of sorts.”

– “William Goldman describes his characters well: ‘The kind of guy who always drops their ice cream.'”

– “Characters changing is more about them not knowing what they want at the beginning and by the end they do know and finally take up the mantle.”

– “Tone is the whole ball game for a director.”

NANCY OLIVER (Lars and the Real Girl, Six Feet Under)

– You can change character’s voices through rhythm, vocabulary, etc. Do they finish sentences?


– What do you think either character or story is more important than the other?  Or are they apart of the same beast?

– How do you craft your characters?

– Who are some of the best characters in film/TV?