I had to break today from developing the Act 2 step outline when I hit scenes that demand development of the five US College-Spring-Break Students and their parents. Without unique personalities, I quickly became bogged down in generalities.
About those “other guys”
In the first act, I was able to get by with only one of the five students named and fleshed out, while simply referring to her traveling mates as “the other well-bred American students.” No problem with that … until now.
I put away the step outline and jumped right into the character sheet, which is where I’m listing all the characters by name and giving each a short description. This morning, I filled in the gaps for these American students and their parents, most of whom need to be socially powerful — monetarily, politically, and such (you’ll see why later).
Apart from this, at least for the primary story characters, I’m also creating detailed character descriptions — a few paragraphs usually, or even a few pages for major or more complicated, dramaturgically pivotal characters. But not this morning.
More on that later. Today, I just honed in on the character sheet, with an eye on…
Connecting the students to the plot line
I already had a general idea of what personalities would need to be represented among the students, and how their parents would later alter the course of the storyline. Now, having reached a point where I could no longer go on until I took the time to make these kids real, I reviewed all the major plot points, looking for opportunities to heighten the drama or strengthened the story’s emotional spine by interjecting the students or their parents. From that, I gave them distinct personalities that would support those plot points, and also endowed them with real names that felt “right” to me.
That’s now done. And, let me tell you, it was both…
A worthwhile diversion, and well-timed!
Had I tried to mold them into dimensional characters earlier, before the storyline was sufficiently formed, it likely would have been a meandering guessing game, based less on how they would each effect the lead characters or the plot, and more on generic assumptions about what I think might be fun for people to watch.
But breaking to do this now, the story was hungry, greedy for their existence. It anxiously reached in to my subconscious and ripped the characters out, effectively forcing them into being.
Don’t worry, it’s not as painful as it sounds. Invigorating, actually. I just kinda’ sat back and watched.
So, who are they?
Going forward, instead of just “Sandy, and the other students,” here’s what I’ve got to work with:
SANDY BROUGHAM — A confident, comely, well-bred American lass on spring break from college. She is graceful and intelligent, and smitten by Sean, who is smitten by her.
JIM BROUGHAM — Sandy’s brother. An athletic and affable young man, lacking in the looks department. Not witty, but laughs easily, enjoying the humors of others.
MRS. VICTORIA BROUGHAM — Sandy and Jim’s loving mother, and also a state supreme court judge. Quick to judge, but, once beyond her initial reaction, she’s able to assess accurately, wisely.
MR. JOHN BROUGHAM — Sandy and Jim’s father. A US senator.
JANICE HOROWITZ — Also well bred and intelligent, but this Spring breaker is sorely lacking in self-confidence and social graces … when sober.
COLLEEN SMITH — Rather attractive American Spring breaker. Not from money or power, and not very studious. An athletic daredevil and wicked prankster. Funny as hell.
MR. JERRY SMITH — Colleen’s father. A widower of limited financial means. Dearly (smotheringly) loves his daughter — his only child.
JOSH KINGSLEY — Another US Spring breaker: a lanky and quick witted poli-sci major. He loves a good political battle, but too likeable to get rankled about it, as he artfully employs humor to defuse and persuade.
MR . CAMERON KINGSLEY — Josh’s “Type A” father. A nationally known American TV political commentator. Loves his son, and dearly loves his work.
MRS. RAMONA KINGSLEY — Josh’s devoted mother. A quiet woman, honest as the day is long; naturally inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.
Much more satisfying! Now, I’m charging back into the step outline with this bevy of clearly formed characters at my side, spurring me on.
It just gets more fun every day. Tally ho….