Developing your characters can allow for better storytelling and better episodes
You’re down in the depths of a large cavern, it’s dark, dank and smells of death. You hear a rumble from behind and a warm breath on your neck. You run, but the thing seems to follow, keeping up with your every step. You see the path diverge into two, you veer left and hide behind a rock, steps from behind you come closer and closer. As you feel a large presence directly behind you, you leap from your cover, stand your ground and say….what?
What does your character say, what does he do? What drives him? Does he fight or flee?
Narrative podcasts are full of choices and decisions like these, and not only do you have to be ready and reactive to them, you have to understand the repercussions of these actions. You need to be able to get in the mindset of these characters, the question being. How?
What Drives Your Character?
These steps would be similar to when you are writing a novel or some sort of fiction, you have to understand your characters, give them a chance to be flushed out. One dimensional characters normally don’t have as much drive as a character with depth.
What are their likes/dislikes, what makes them happy, angry, sad? What is their favorite food? Little tidbits about the character can help you understand things like who your character is, what they would do under certain situations and what drives them to keep moving forward.
One of the best ways to develop a good role is to put your character in extreme situations. What would happen if a loved one died? What would they do if they had to protect someone they love? Would they sacrifice everything for what they believe in?
Asking hard questions of your character allows you to get in their mindset and helps with deeper understanding of the character
Show Not Tell
This is a standard for any acting/improv professional, telling the audience about these facts your character is never as good as showing them these pieces along the way. Use these tidbits of information about your character to drive the story. Use these details to shape the choices and actions your character does. You can use these as tools for narration, not narration themselves.
For example, if your character had a fear of water, and the challenge was getting across a river or large body of water, would you, as a normal person, blurt out “I’m afraid of water!” No, that’s not a normal reaction to that situation. Traditionally this feels forced and not conducive to good storytelling.
Now if you character was embarrassed by this fact, there are other ways to approach this issue. He would try to convince the rest of the group to find another way, or maybe he stays on the shore. Adding additional levels of fear, insecurity and anxiety can add depth to the story with a emotional payoff that your audience will appreciate.
Don’t Spill the Beans
Think about your favorite movie or video game, does the movie or game show you everything you need to know about the character in the first 5 minutes? No.
They use the course of 1-60 hours to tell a story about this character, watching them slowly adjust and change, showing little pieces of their back-story as they go along. These are great techniques to use while building your story.
Fleshing out a character in the beginning, gives your character no room to grow and if your audience knows everything about the story you are telling, doesn’t give any reason why your audience should stay around.
Giving little hints to your character also adds a level of curiosity about the future of the story, how will these new developments affect the characters, the plot etc.
Take a look at your character, are they fully developed for the story you are telling? Are they ready for the hardships they will face and how will they handle them? Making sure you are answering these questions will improve your storytelling, your characters, and will lead to your audience begging for more.
How do you approach your character development? Where do you go to answer these questions? Let me know @BillLazerman on Facebook and Twitter
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