No, not really intending on writing a screenplay, but I have found that any class that teaches about writing, structure, characterization can provide a helpful boost! Years ago, I was given Final Draft scriptwriting software and just to practice, adapted The Family Tree when it was still in its early drafts. The exercise really helped to show where I needed to add to or edit the novel, now to broaden the characters to make them more believable, so that’s why I decided to join in this latest Future Lean class.
One of the exercises is to help Develop a Character Outline, and just by doing this I have learned more about one of my main characters and his relationship with his father. . . what makes him tick.
For those interested in the sequel to The Family Tree, or about this particular writing exercise, I include the assignment and rough draft of the results:
Daniel character profile — Major actions, from the end and work back:
- Asks Iris to marry him.
- Recovers from injuries during wildland firefighting, makes decisions about his future.
- Argues with father about some decisions on their shared business.
- Feels stifled by his father’s assumptions that he will want to continue in their business…forever.
- Becomes attracted to Iris, his eyes are opened when he meets her again after not seeing her for over a year. As his Dad seems to be losing focus on the business, Daniel is trying to become more involved in the business decisions, as well as taking on freelance landscaping projects.
- At high school graduation, assumes he will always live in the same place, doing the same work (his father owns a thriving plant nursery and Daniel has worked in it in one way or another since he was about five years old) and living in the same house.
Analyze the list—what does the character want and need?: At the start of the book, Daniel has only recently become aware of how much he does NOT want what both he and his father have expected of him for years. Maybe because it was taken for granted by everyone, maybe because he sees what a struggle the business is now that he is taking on more responsibility, and the more he takes the more his father seems to give to him. Daniel begins to focus more on what he does want, landscaping contracting and the creativity in developing special landscape features and working on his own rather than running the business.
Describe how the character thinks / basic psychology: Daniel is cautious but not fearful, intelligent and a curious sort of person. For example, he doesn’t question that a customer wants a fountain with blood red tiles and hieroglyphical images… but why? He justifies his interest by insisting that understanding will help with the end result of the creation. And maybe it’s true, but he is really just curious and asks why about a lot, which has always annoyed his father who thought he would grow out of it.
Superficial affect by an observer: Handsome, tall with dark hair, that he is smart but easy going, and depending upon who is doing the observing, provincial… in that Daniel was raised in that small town and would not be likely to go anywhere else.
Important physical characteristics… Important depends on who and why… Important to him is that while he has inherited traits from both parents — his father’s dark hair, and the shape of his maternal grandfather’s mouth and chin. But he has something that his father claims is not inherited from either – dark grey eyes. He doesn’t care that they’re grey, but more that they are uniquely his own…and that Iris really likes them.
On to the next assignment!