Writing for Film, Television and Internet

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Character Writing Tips

More of my wonderful and awe-inspiring interview with David Freeman -- this man knows!

Kenna: Beyond Structure covers 200 proven techniques to create stunning characters, dialogue, plots, and scenes, what is the most valuable aspect of these techniques?

David: The most valuable aspect is that, in two days, I pour out ten years of research into creating practical writing techniques. The result is that in almost no time at all attendees find themselves able to write at a whole new level, and create characters and dialogue and plots that are much more sophisticated than they could even imagine. That's why I offer a full money-back guarantee on the course, which I've never heard of any other screenwriting teacher doing.

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My So Called life

Kenna: Can you give an example of how to create a character that is much more sophisticated?

David: I know about a hundred ways to give a character "depth." Let's say, in high school, a boy invites a girl with low self-esteem to a dance. He's just doing it for the company; he doesn't really care that much about her. But, as part of their date, he buys her some trinket -- maybe a stuffed turtle. Six months later we find that she overly treasures that turtle -- it's a symbol of something that she emotionally desires (in this case, affection from a boy.) That's one of those hundred techniques. In fact, I recently saw a case of this exact technique done while watching a video of an old episode of My So-Called Life.


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Make a Character Appealing

Kenna: What do you feel is the best professions a character can take on to make a story appealing?

David: There are about 50 ways to make a character appealing, and in turn emotionally draw us into a story. If you use these techniques in an artful way, you can make audiences empathize with someone in any job -- even a somewhat trashy woman (Erin Brokovich), a guy with the mental capacity of a yam (Forest Gump), or any other profession. This statement is not meant to offend yams, by the way. I like them, and I liked Forest Gump. And, I'm sure this is the first interview you've done where the interviewee took the time and care to let you know his feelings about underground tuberous vegetables.

Some examples of "rooting interest" techniques (techniques, which make us "root for," or empathize with a character): One technique is to have the character have an artistic side (Bill Pullman in While You Were Sleeping). Another technique is having the character have emotional problems or insecurities we can identify with (Ben Stiller in Something About Mary).

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Read Great Scripts

Kenna: What is it you like about Hollywood?

David: I get paid to write! And, let us not forget the weather. Or the sheer beauty of places like Wilshire Blvd., which is often compared to the Swiss Alps, or The Valley, which of course brings to mind Paris, or Hollywood Blvd., which is hard to think about without thinking of Yosemite.

Kenna: Do you feel that anyone can write a great script and sell it if he/she has a complete commitment to do so -- bar none?

David: I won't minimize the importance of marketing yourself. At the same time, great scripts have a way of catching attention. The biggest mistake most new writers make is that they don't read scripts of great writers. It's a great way of learning, and it also lets you see how good the competition is.

With David's wise words, you need to start reading scripts. Scripts that are really great. There are several websites that offer scripts to read at no charge. All you need to do is google "screenplays" or "TV Scripts" and you will find a plethora of scripts to read.

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