November 21, 2013

What makes a great character?


By Jesse

As some of you will know we are very driven by great characters here at Wildseed Studios.

As you can imagine we are being sent every kind of idea imaginable – and we have found that at the end of the day, when all is said and done etc, that if we come back to that one central question – “is there a character I want to be or be with at the centre of this?” – then that really helps to clarify our responses in a world where there are a thousand ideas and questions flying around our heads at any one time.

Why are we so obsessed with character?

Well, the reason is that when we look at all the entertainment franchises that have ended up becoming multi platform perennials, there is always a stunning character at their heart – be it James Bond, or Homer, or Borat, or Mickey Mouse – once you see it it’s everywhere – character is king (or queen!). Furthermore, in a world where we increasingly create “transmedia” brands, and are asking audiences to travel between platforms in their consumption of a single story/brand – we believe that character is the bus they will travel on most readily – if you love somebody, you’ll happily meet them in all sorts of locations after all.

So, I guess the question then becomes how on earth does one begin to create a great character from thin air?

As strange as it may seem, I believe you start to ask them questions – and be amazed when they start to answer definitely. How a fictional creation could ever have such strong opinions is beyond me – but they do!

To facilitate this slightly strange moment we often send out a questionnaire to people we are interested in working with in pursuit of this great character question:

1.    What do they most fear?
2.    What do they dream of?
3.    What is their biggest secret?
4.    What did they want to be as a kid?
5.    What do they do now?
6.    Do they like it – why?
7.    Who were their parents?
8.    Where did they grow up?
9.    What is their favourite item of clothing?
10.    What is their favourite Food?
11.    What phrase do they use too much?
12.    Who is their best friend
13.    Who is their worst enemy?
14.    How do other people describe them?
15.    How do they want people to see them?
16.    Who are they deep inside?
17.    Worst Habit?
18.    Why do people like them?
19.    Why do people fear them?
20.    Most admirable trait?
21.    Best Memory.
22.    Worst Memory
23.    Current destiny if no change is made

In  truth it could be totally different questions, or extra ones or whatever – the important thing is to a) know your character’s inner hopes and fear and b) understand the difference between who they want to be seen as, how they are seen and who they really are inside.

Years ago I worked at BBC Fictionlab with the fantastic human being that is Anne Mensah (now Controller of Drama at Sky) and we used to call this:
•    Spin: how the characters want to be perceived
•    Skin: how they are perceived.
•    Spine: Who they really are inside.|

For us – the further apart these three things were – the more interesting that character became on screen…

We are very committed to making the Wildseed community a place where you can all grow and evolve creatively – the money is only part if it! Are we doing this because we are kind loving humans? No! We are doing it because we believe that what is good for all of you as creators is good for Wildseed:  good characters = hits = private Caribbean islands for everyone!

OK – I’ll stop now – if you made it this far – thank you for your time an attention!



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