It’s Still About Great Characters


Whether for Reality TV or a longform scripted project, the process of envisioning and fleshing out a great entertaining character will put you in the game.  We had a chance to connect with Julie Gray, story consultant, Huffington Post blogger and the self-described Mistress of Just Effing Entertain Me, her website and blog of over six years, to help explain how creatives can approach developing and really inhabiting their characters, and she’s given us an excerpt from her book Just Effing Entertain Me, here:

“I am” is a powerful declarative. It puts a stake in the ground for what you stand for. Or, what you think you stand for. At the moment you are asked the question. The way you fill in the rest of the statements below can be very revealing of your current mindset, your goals and your fears.  So take a moment and fill in the statements below. Don’t worry whether it’s pretty or flattering, but please, be honest. Remember, that in being willing to reveal yourself to yourself, you are practicing for your characters willingness to reveal themselves to you.

I am…, I want…, I dislike…, I am afraid…I wish…I don’t know if …I am angry that…I think I can…I am scared that …I can’t…I am willing…I can…I love…I know…I am…

Keep this exercise to do whenever you want to check in with yourself. You can do it once a year and watch yourself change over time. You can do it if you have a particular goal in mind or you can do it just because.

Now let’s have you do this exercise for your main character. Don’t think, just close your eyes, become your character for a moment, and write down the answers, rapid fire. Doesn’t have to be pretty, just has to be honest.

But this time, bearing the adventure in mind that your character will be traversing, let’s break the I Am writing exercise down into – you got it – three acts:

Act One

I am…I want…I dislike…I am afraid…I wish

Act Two

I don’t know if ….I am angry that…I think I can…I am scared that …I can’t…I am willing

Act Three

I can…I love….I know…I am

Whoa Nelly! Now we’ve not only got a character being (unwittingly) honest about him or herself, but we can use their answers to chart their journey of change from the beginning of the story to the end.  The “I am” statement at the beginning of Act One should be pretty darn different than the “I am” statement at the end of Act Three. Notice that the “I am” statements in the 2nd act are doubts and fears that lead from fear toward resolve and willingness. Your character is changing, incrementally.

-Julie Gray


1 Comment

  1. You couldn’t pay me to inogre these posts!

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