Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorable Characters Take Memorable Writing

To create memorable characters, I’d like to make a suggestion.

Keep a journal of overheard dialogue. Gasp! ScreenwriterChic, are you telling me to eavesdrop? Yep! I’m not saying stalk anyone, but you can grasp different rhythms, different accents when you eavesdrop. No one wants to hear characters that all sound like you. Each character must have a distinct voice. Each character must be different.

One of my favorite lines from a movie is, “Yeah. You blend.” It’s from MY COUSIN VINNY, written by Dale Launer (whom I have had the privilege of speaking with… but about RUTHLESS PEOPLE). I love this line so much that I posted it as a status on Facebook the other day.

You’d be surprised the reception it had! For three pages, people posted their favorite lines from the movie. Which tells me it was great writing.

When you make your character, each one MUST have their own voice. Lisa didn’t sound a THING like Vinny (of course she was female!) They both had thick New York accents, but her rhythm, her speech pattern was different. Her ideas were different. Her focus was different, which crafted her character. By the time Marisa Tomei got a hold of the part, it was just finishing touches that were needed.

Each character had a distinct voice. You could tell each character was DRAMATICALLY different.

“Are you mockin’ me in that outfit?”

“Mrs. Reilly. And only Mrs. Reilly!”

“A doe eyed little de-uh!”

“I don’t know! I’m a fast cook, I guess!”

“Same make and model tire!”

“Aidin’ and abettin’!”

“Maybe the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits?”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-jury.”

“Seb’n bushes!”

“The two what?”
“Did you say, Utes?”
Oh, excuse me, Your Honor. The two youths.”

Can you see these characters? The diversity adds so much depth to the story, a reality to it, if you will, and every scene becomes memorable. So much so that Marisa Tomei walked away with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Make your characters memorable. They will make or break your script, and ultimately, your movie.

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