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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Bourbon

It's All About Character & What That Really Means

Hello Dear Writers!!

Today, I'm talking about CHARACTER.

The concept is simple. You write a story and it's filled with characters. Maybe you have one or two leads and then some sidekicks and potential villains but you know that you need characters.

Sadly at the character level is where so many writers miss the mark because they simply don't go deep enough.

When I was like 5 and going into acting and my teacher mentioned "intention" I was like "what's that mean?" I had no idea. I was five, so sue me. But even as I got older that word kept coming up.

"What's the INTENTION of the scene?" I wanted to pull my hair out.

Why couldn't they just explain what it meant?

Well, it MEANS THIS.

What does the character want in the scene? What is their intention? Or if you really want it broken down, why are they there?

They can not simply be there to support the main character. The main character can't simply be there to show us who he is.

Trust me so many writers get confused about what show don't tell means that I've read a gazillion books with scenes of the main protagonist getting a drink from the fridge-for no other reason than to tell us something about the character. If your protagonist goes to the fridge make sure it serves him/her in some way.

EXAMPLE-Maybe she is avoiding eye contact with her love interest or parent--her intention is to avoid something difficult and most likely get out of there or not spill some secret.


I have a photo of a Funko Pop of Phil Connors from the film GROUNDHOG DAY because every single thing Phil does moves the story forward and in every scene, he has a goal or intention.

At the beginning of the film, his intention is to get through the broadcast as fast as possible so he can get over to cover the groundhog and get back ASAP in order to then interview with a job in a bigger city.

When he is in Punxsutawney he has a similar goal-get through it and get back. His actions reflect this.

When he gets stuck there he has every specific wants in each scene and sequence.

Figure out what's happening. Get help. Get out of there. Sleep with as many women as possible. Steal money. Eat whatever he wants. Kill himself. Win Rita's love. Become a better person.

Watch it, you can thank me later. It's brilliant.

Phil isn't the only character to do this. Rita, Ned, all of them have their own wants and needs in every scene and that's why it works.

Steve Kaplan talks about what wins for him? Because he understands how important this is to make a story strong.

As well, every single thing that your characters do is bases on WHO they are. You, me, your partner, your mom, your best friend, that annoying guy at work, etc.. we will all handle the same situation in a different way based on WHO WE ARE.

Watch my YouTube video on revisions and going deeper into the scene level and character level and I talk a little about this.

For now, your assignment or task is to really think about your characters and ask yourself "what wins for them?" in each scene. Or at the very least "what do they want?"

Once you have that your scenes will start getting stronger.

Another thing you can do is watch TV or film and analyze the scenes in this way.

In MAD ABOUT YOU (from the 90s), in season three Paul, a documentary filmmaker, just wants to film 15 minutes straight through of his and his wife, Jamie's, life. Jamie wants to look good--that's the setup. Things happen that derail it and there is comedy but never in the entire episode do the characters make a joke or do anything just to show us who they are. The way they are reacting to everything shows us that.

Okay, now, it's your turn. Watch, read, listen, write and think about your character's intentions!

Come back next week for more tips for writers!

XO Stephanie

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