Live, Love, Create!

Ep 8 Who Are You Writing About? Let's Talk Character

August 26, 2021 Stephanie Bourbon Episode 8
Live, Love, Create!
Ep 8 Who Are You Writing About? Let's Talk Character
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Live, Love, Create!
Ep 8 Who Are You Writing About? Let's Talk Character
Aug 26, 2021 Episode 8
Stephanie Bourbon

In this episode, I'm talking about character and why it is so important to know WHO you are writing about, WHAT their "misbelief" about themselves is, WHAT their goals are, AND why you must always come from a place of character to drive the narrative arc.

Stories can fall flat if you don't understand your main characters.
It's important to know who they are before you start writing or you will have to do this in revisions.

LISA CRON ~ WIRED FOR STORY
She talks about the character's misbelief which is why we have character flaws and the flaw is what holds us back.
It's important not to confuse the two.

Understanding character is important no matter the age or genre.

STEVE KAPLAN ~ THE HIDDEN TOOLS OF COMEDY

Everything comes from character. Everything that happens is based on the character and who she is.

Steve talks about comedy telling the truth about character. It's important.

Look to your own family & friends for character reference. Characters are all around us.

ELLEN SANDLER ~ THE TV WRITER'S WORKBOOK

Character charts to discover how your character thinks about herself, how she perceives how others think about her, how they actually feel. This will inform how she acts and reacts in every situation.

I ask my writing clients WHY
WHY is the character telling this story now?
WHY is this story important to start today in the character's life?
WHY this day?

Understand the WHY.

Knowing your characters NEEDS/WANTS/GOALS
External & internal.

You must know these two things.

EXAMPLE of characters from FRIENDS

PHOEBE-secure and easy going
MONICA-insecure and becomes type A

You must have a deeper meaning for your characters.

JENNIE NASH ~ BLUEPRINT FOR A BOOK

When you know who your characters are and understand their motivations it's easier to write the story. The scenes will become clearer because everything your character does comes from who they are.

MARTHA ALDERSON ~ THE PLOT WHISPERER

Do narrative arcs for ALL of your characters. Use the Plot Whisperer workbook for each character.

LEGALLY BLONDE
EXTERNAL PLOT-A sorority girl goes to Harvard after being broken up with to get back her ex-boyfriend
INTERNAL PLOT-is about a girl believing in herself and becoming worthy.

External goals-get a law degree and get her boyfriend back
Internal goals-to feel smart and better about herself.

The stories that work are all about the character's journey not the plot.

Dive deep into your characters.

Check out the books mentioned.

Thank you for listening!

xo Stephanie

This week's blog is all about character too. You can read it here

Please join my FREE FB group for female writers The Female Writers Society HERE

LET'S GET SOCIAL

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

PINTEREST

FACEBOOK

Head over to my website for more about me and what I do 

https:

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/LiveLoveCreate)

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I'm talking about character and why it is so important to know WHO you are writing about, WHAT their "misbelief" about themselves is, WHAT their goals are, AND why you must always come from a place of character to drive the narrative arc.

Stories can fall flat if you don't understand your main characters.
It's important to know who they are before you start writing or you will have to do this in revisions.

LISA CRON ~ WIRED FOR STORY
She talks about the character's misbelief which is why we have character flaws and the flaw is what holds us back.
It's important not to confuse the two.

Understanding character is important no matter the age or genre.

STEVE KAPLAN ~ THE HIDDEN TOOLS OF COMEDY

Everything comes from character. Everything that happens is based on the character and who she is.

Steve talks about comedy telling the truth about character. It's important.

Look to your own family & friends for character reference. Characters are all around us.

ELLEN SANDLER ~ THE TV WRITER'S WORKBOOK

Character charts to discover how your character thinks about herself, how she perceives how others think about her, how they actually feel. This will inform how she acts and reacts in every situation.

I ask my writing clients WHY
WHY is the character telling this story now?
WHY is this story important to start today in the character's life?
WHY this day?

Understand the WHY.

Knowing your characters NEEDS/WANTS/GOALS
External & internal.

You must know these two things.

EXAMPLE of characters from FRIENDS

PHOEBE-secure and easy going
MONICA-insecure and becomes type A

You must have a deeper meaning for your characters.

JENNIE NASH ~ BLUEPRINT FOR A BOOK

When you know who your characters are and understand their motivations it's easier to write the story. The scenes will become clearer because everything your character does comes from who they are.

MARTHA ALDERSON ~ THE PLOT WHISPERER

Do narrative arcs for ALL of your characters. Use the Plot Whisperer workbook for each character.

LEGALLY BLONDE
EXTERNAL PLOT-A sorority girl goes to Harvard after being broken up with to get back her ex-boyfriend
INTERNAL PLOT-is about a girl believing in herself and becoming worthy.

External goals-get a law degree and get her boyfriend back
Internal goals-to feel smart and better about herself.

The stories that work are all about the character's journey not the plot.

Dive deep into your characters.

Check out the books mentioned.

Thank you for listening!

xo Stephanie

This week's blog is all about character too. You can read it here

Please join my FREE FB group for female writers The Female Writers Society HERE

LET'S GET SOCIAL

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

PINTEREST

FACEBOOK

Head over to my website for more about me and what I do 

https:

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/LiveLoveCreate)

Hey, it's Stephanie Bourbon. Welcome back to my podcast. And today I'm going to be talking to you about character, why it's important to know what your character wants her goals, what's holding her back and who she is, and also, why you need to establish that at the very beginning. I'm Stephanie Bourbon. And this is the live love creative podcast for female writers with a focus on fiction, screenwriting and television writing come back every week for new episodes.
This week, I'm talking to you about character. And the reason that I'm doing this is that I find, believe it or not, that this is something that stumps up a lot of writers. Now, I was an actress when I was a kid, and I've been studying character, basically my entire life. And then I went, and I worked in animation for a while in character. So for me, character is everything, I tend to be a character driven writer, I like character driven scripts, I like character driven books, it's just who I am. This does not mean however, that everything I write is perfect. Everybody needs revisions. But what I have found along the way, there are many resources out there to help us but I want to just go over a few points of things that I believe are really, really important when you are developing your characters. The first thing I'm going to say is that you really need to know who your character is. Now, I do first drafts during NaNoWriMo in November. And a lot of times I just have an idea of who the character is. But if I really don't figure things out early on, and I just fly out a draft by the seat of my pants, which I've been known to do, a lot of times the stories fall flat. And that's because I haven't spent the time to understand the character. I'm not talking about doing those exercises, like what's your character's favorite fruit or what's what's in the refrigerator, what's at the top of their closet, those are good, because they will inform to who your characters are. But honestly, the most important thing that you need to do, and I'm going to tell you this is based on Lisa crumbs, book wired for story is to understand your character's misbelief. All of us as human beings have misbeliefs that we believe about ourselves. It's either from something that's happened as a child or something that we've learned, but our misbelief is why we have our character flaws. For example, maybe we believe that we're not good enough that nobody will ever love us. So our character flaw is that we're defensive. Or we tell jokes all the time, we hold people at arm's length, and that flaw is holding us back. Many writers confuse the two and that becomes a problem. So I highly recommend, I almost insist that you get wired for story by Lisa Kron. Because then you will understand characters and developing characters in a strong way. And a lot of people talk about misbeliefs. But she does it in such a way that I find really, really helps. So you need to understand your character. And I don't care if you're writing a comedy, or a drama, historical fiction, or a television show, the better the character is understood by you, the creator of the character, the better it's going to come off in your storytelling. So Steve Kaplan, who wrote the hidden tools of comedy and does comedy workshops all over the world for screenwriters, and television writers. And also, you know, novelists, anybody can go to his workshops, actors, improv people, he talks about how everything comes from character. And what that means is, in every single scene or situation in your story, what happened is based on how the character reacts, and the actions they take based on who they are, who they are, is based on that. misbelief everything is connected, but a lot of people don't think about it, especially in comedy. A lot of people fall back on. Wouldn't it be funny if and I am telling you never ever, ever, for any reason do anything? Because in your head, you think it would be funny if because that does not work. Steve Kaplan talks about how comedy tells the truth, it does tell us the truth about character. But if you don't know who you're writing about, that is not going to come out on the page, as well. The reasons that they choose a specific action aren't going to happen. What's not that they're not going to happen, they're not going to be clear or consistent. For example, if you have a Type A person who is always neat, and she's always on time. And she, she's just super type A. And she's very specific about everything, the way that she acts at Starbucks is going to be different than say, somebody who's loosey goosey, and doesn't care about anything and is more of a free spirit, they're going to act different, they're also going to order very different drinks. Now, this is something that is a very small detail, but I'm telling you that this will show who the characters are, the way that they react in every single situation is based on who they are. Look at yourself, look around your own family, I'm sure you have something in your family or someone in your family who always does something. Like maybe you feel like your mother is always nagging at you or your sister or brother is always perfect, because maybe they're always getting straight A's or whatever. Think about that. All that is character and bring that into your writing. I'm not saying to write about your family. But I'm saying you can take people from your real life to really understand character in the way that they would act. Have you ever said like, Oh, I know that my friend would never do whatever, like me, I would never jump out of an airplane, the airplane could be going down in flames, I am not jumping out of it. That's just something that I wouldn't do. I'm not even afraid of heights. But I would not jump out of an airplane. If you know me, you know that about me. You also know that I love cold weather. So if you're writing a story about me, probably setting on a beach is not something that I would actually do. Now, these are external things. But even the way that I might react if somebody is criticizing me or if somebody is mean to me is based on who I was as a child and who I am as a person, and you want it to be the same way with your characters. When I was writing for television and wanting to write for television, I took a lot of classes and one of them was by writer and writing coach Ellen Sandler, and she has a TV writing comedy book that you can find on Amazon, if you just put her name in it in there. And it is really brilliant. One of the things that she talked about her workshop that I still use today is to literally make a chart with squares, like make a graph and on the right side, right from the main character down and on the left side and this or on the top, I'm sorry, in the same order, write those characters. And then in each of the blocks, go from the top to bottom and write how the character feels about every other character and then do the same sheet and do how they believe that the other characters feel about them. Because many times this is different. But the way that your characters will behave a lot of times is based on how they believe that somebody feels about them. Think about your own relationships in your family, you might act some way because you believe that like your mother is always going to be disappointed in you. But that's not true. Your mother might be at work going, Oh my God, my daughter is amazing. She did this, this and this. And in your mind, your mother's at work telling everybody what a screw up you are. And that will inform the way that you behave in a situation, especially if your mother is around but also outside of the home. So that's just a really great way to sort of discover character. But I really want you to be intentional, intentional, and knowing who your characters are before you put pen to paper or before you start typing. Unless the only other thing is if you don't want to do this and you want to let the characters come to you and speak to you plan on doing a lot of revisions. And then you're going to have to go back and do this character work. It is really really important. as well. I often ask my clients Why? And I don't mean why are you writing the story, although that is important. It's a topic for another day, I asked why the character is telling this specific story right now or why the narrator if it's in third person is telling this story right now, why is this story in this particular day of this character's life important? And a lot of people don't understand that. And what I mean by that is the story needs to start at a specific time and point. So why this day and again, this goes back to who the character is. But if you can't answer that, why this is happening or why you are starting there, your your story is going to be a big old mess. So it's really really important to understand the why the other Another thing is knowing your characters wants needs and goals external and internally, maybe your character is going for a huge promotion. Why do they need that huge promotion? You might say on the surface because they want money. But really what's the deep down reason that they want that promotion? Do they believe that they're never going to be good enough? Are they trying to show their parents or their friends or society that they are worthy? Are they trying to get love from people are they are workaholic because they believe that status and money is important because they're maybe they're insecure about themselves. Look at super secure characters like Phoebe from the television show friends. She doesn't care what anybody thinks about her ever. And it's so clear on the way that she acts that that character is 100%. Secure in who she is. She doesn't think about material things. She's not a perfectionist, she just is who she is because she is 100% secure. If you look at Monica, Monica Geller from the same television series, we know immediately that Monica is a little bit more insecure. She has always believed that Ross is her parents favorite, she has always lived in Ross's shadow, no matter what she does, it'll never be good enough. She can't even tell her parents that she's in a serious relationship. She just feels like she's a screw up all the time. And what do we see in Monica? How does she act, she's a perfectionist, every single thing that Monica Geller does is to reach some sort of perfection, and that comes from her misbelief that she's never going to be good enough. So she's looking for love externally, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. If you just write down Well, my character wants to find love, that's fine. But it's gonna be keeping your characters on the surface, there's always a deeper meaning for why we do everything that we do in life. And it has to be the same with our character. So you really need to answer these questions and know these things. Which brings me to my next point, Jenny Nash, who is a writing coach and a writer, and the head of author accelerator, which is a coaching program for writers like myself, who are also book coaches. She has a new book coming out next week, called blueprint for a book, I highly recommend that every single person listening to this podcast, and everybody you know, get this because it'll help you answer all these questions before you start writing. And I'm not talking about spending a year developing your characters, although you can. But I'm just talking about knowing these answers before you start writing. Because when you know who your characters are, and you understand their motivations for everything, whether it's their end goal, on the outside their external goal, whether it's their internal goal to be loved, or to feel loved, or to feel like they belong, or whatever it is, no matter what when you know these questions, the scenes are going to be more clear, because everything your character does is from who they are to get what they want. And that's an every single scene in your story. Don't ever have a Wouldn't it be funny for Wouldn't it be cool for I think it would be great to have this scene, stop that your scenes need to be there for a reason. Everything is based on your character's narrative arc. Now, the last thing I'm going to recommend in this particular episode is Martha Adelson. Our sins I can't I'm sorry, I struggle with her last name Arthur Allison's the plot was we're, it's in the show notes. She talks about plotting out and revising your novels in a very specific way. And there's an arc in there that is so bright, and so well done. And if you do this for each of your characters, including your villains, including your antagonists, now, if you have the kind of story where the antagonist is really, the main character is her own worst enemy, that's fine. There's every other character, her best friend, the teacher, she's up against whoever it is, do the narrative arc, because it'll help you, when you're moving your story forward. It's really important story structure is really important, especially when you're new to follow it. And again, it all goes back to character. Now plotting the story plot is something that is slightly different than the character arc, your story plot is the external things that are happening in the story. For example, in Legally Blonde, the external things are that Elle Woods goes to Harvard. That's the plot, the plot of the story is her boyfriend breaks up with her. Then she moves to Boston, or she takes the L SATs and passes them, she moved to Boston, she goes to Harvard. And she gets into a real case, she you know, she meets somebody who's from Los Angeles, who's up against this car, who's accused of being a murder, and she's got to find a way to help this person and be true to herself as well. She's trying to get this guy back. Those are all the external things. The internal stuff for Elle Woods in Legally Blonde is really about believing in herself and believing that she can be more than what people see on the outside, which is just a pretty blonde from Beverly Hills, which sounds pathetic, but it's not. There's a rare in that particular character's mind. She's nothing. She's not smart, she's not worthy, and she wants to prove herself to the world. And so she's got external goals of, you know, getting her law degree and getting her ex boyfriend. Back in everything, but her internal goals are really to feel better about herself and to prove to the world that she is worthy. And that is what I am talking about. So when you think about plot, think about your characters narrative art more than just what's happening in the story. What's happening in the story is there to tell us to show us the characters narrative art, people don't come to stories, just because of plot. Even in blockbuster movies, the ones that work, the movies that work, it's all about the characters arc and the characters journey. Your characters are everything. So when you get notes back from a book coach, and they say, your characters are living on the surface, or I find that the characters aren't believable, or I feel like your characters wouldn't do these things. I really want you to take those notes to heart and think about it and dive deep into your character's motivations. Because if they're not 30, you they're not going to be clear on the page. Again, I will recommend Lisa crowns books, I recommend Jenny Nash's book, Martha Allison's book and Steve Kaplan as like your base books for understanding character. Steve Kaplan's book is for comedy. So if you're not writing comedy, you might think it doesn't pertain to you. But I'm sure you've watched comedies and I'm sure that you enjoy comedies. And so if you pick up this book, his examples will help you understand character, even if you are writing drama character, his character, there are differences between comedy and drama, but character is character and every single thing that your characters do and their story needs to come from who they are not just the external plot. Okay, I know this is a shorter podcast this week, I hope that it was helpful. I have dropped stuff in the shownotes that will give you the resources that I talked about and also there is a transcript. If you are enjoying my podcast, please share it with friends, please like it on Apple podcasts or Google wherever you listen, Please buy me a coffee. There's a link at the bottom. I love coffee. I'm like the original Laura like Gilmore, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee. You can support me below but just listening is amazing. And thank you so much. Have an amazing rest of your day and happy writing.