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Character Research

June 20, 2017

Now that you’ve crawled around in your character’s mind and maybe even learned a bit about your own shortcomings and issues, it’s time to learn more about what your characters do. If their job is an integral part of the screenplay, you’d better be able to convince your audience that they know it… even if the integral part is that they don’t know their job. For instance, if the point of your script is that your protagonist knows nothing of how to be a president and is completely inept at it, you would still need to know the details of that position in order to be convincing.

So let’s discuss my character, the female Pakistani special agent. First, I’m not a female, but I have spent a great deal of time with the opposite sex. I can draw on some of my past experiences to help me uncover her personality. I have a long history with brilliant, badass women.

Second, she’s a special agent. I don’t have any background in this area, so I will definitely need to do some research. The fact that she is an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agent makes it a bit more difficult to research. I can devour all that has been published about the ISI, but most of it will be biased. The likelihood of me getting to interview someone in the ISI is pretty slim, so I’ll need to rely mostly on what I find on the Net.

Third, she’s Pakistani. I do have some friends that were born in Pakistan. I can interview them and I’m sure they can provide me more information than what I can dig up from just a Google search. But the Google search will give me some good insight, as well.

Other things I’ll want to research: monks and monasteries in Pakistan. She was raised in that environment. I’ll need to research monk’s living habits, most notably Pakistani monks. This is all stuff that will make my character more believable.

Then we throw in the Indian-born CIA agent. I’m kind of in the same boat with India as I am with Pakistan. As for the CIA part, there’s lots of information on the Internet. The likelihood of interviewing a CIA are better than an ISI agent and what I get from there I can use for my protagonist, too.

As you can see, there’s a ton of research (work) that goes into writing a screenplay. It’s not just sitting down in front of a computer and banging our scene after scene until you’re done. If you want your characters to have depth, you need to put in the work, dig deep, research! Until next week, keep writing!

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