Inventing Characters | Kasem Kharsa | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      About the Class


    • 2.



    • 3.

      Project Overview


    • 4.

      Where Do I Start?


    • 5.

      Alternative Starting Points


    • 6.

      Harmony & Dissonance


    • 7.

      Remember The Goal!


    • 8.

      A Stronger Foundation


    • 9.

      The World as a Mirror


    • 10.

      The Iceberg of Character


    • 11.

      Case Studies


    • 12.

      'Batman Begins' Analysis


    • 13.

      '12 Monkeys' Analysis


    • 14.

      'There Will Be Blood' Analysis


    • 15.

      'Jerry Maguire' Analysis


    • 16.



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About This Class

Are you a beginner looking for a stress-free way to start creative writing? Or an advanced student in need of a 'booster class' to help you develop richer characters? Then this class is for you. 

Through a simple exercise, we will invent moments from a character's past, present and future as a way to give weight to them, to make them feel more real. You will begin to explore the connections between your character's memories or aspirations to their present-day psyche and psychology. 

Again, this class is for all experience levels as well as writers of all mediums - short story writers, novelists, non-fiction writers and of course my fellow screenwriters. 

Towards the end we'll discuss case-studies that will cement the class's discussion even more. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Kasem Kharsa



Make sure to sign up for my teaching newsletter. 

I'm a visual artist and filmmaker. My preoccupations are with memory and narrative, the stories we tell ourselves. I've participated in several writing workshops and learning environments so I try to bring that experience into my own teaching.

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Level: Beginner

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1. About the Class: Hello. My name is Costume Karsa. I'm a screenwriter as well as a director. I've noticed that a lot of us have a tendency to start writing a story without really knowing who where character is right. That character feels like a stranger to us, and we use that first in that second and third draft. What have you as a way of making decisions about that character psychology and who they are , ultimately what I'm proposing in this class, Is that what we try to do? Some prep work. First, we try to figure out what our characters psychology is, how they're wired and why we're gonna be doing that through a simple exercise called the Russian Doll exercise. And in that exercise, you imagine your characters past, present and future as different Selves as different versions of that character that are in dialogue with one another that are giving rise to your characters. Psyche psychology, what they long for, what they're afraid of, etcetera. This project can be scaled according to how much free time you have, so you can complete it in an afternoon. But if you want to invest more time or energy into it, I think you're going to reap even more diffidence. It is a class that's meant for both the beginning as well as advanced writing students. So as a beginner, if you're really paralyzed over how to start, how to start writing your original story, this is a great stress free exercise to do as an advanced student. This is just another tool at your toolbox. Another way of understanding how to build characters. We are going to be looking at specific case. That is, these case that is, will hopefully make some of the theory feel a little bit more concrete. You'll see how storytellers have employed the idea of multiple self, the idea of sharing a character's history with an audience and the effect that has on how we identify with that main character the classes men for writers of all mediums, formats. So if you're a short story writer, a novelist and nonfiction writer, or if you're a fellow screenwriter, I think that you're gonna benefit from this class because we all deal with issues of how to build rich characters and how to convey that richness to our audience again. We're dealing with a very specific part of the writing process. We're dealing with a very specific tool for understanding character, so we can't cover everything. But I believe after you complete the lessons after you complete the project for yourself, your character will feel more real to they'll feel like less of a stranger and you'll be able to write about them. You bill, to put them into a story of their own with more confidence. So I hope you join us. Thanks. 2. Introduction: We're gonna be spending a lot of time talking about how a character, psychology, their psyche, their behavior today in the present day is connected to their history as well as their aspirations for the future. So we're going to talk. We're gonna be inventing a lot of anecdotes and memories for our characters. And I wanted to start off with an anecdote of my own as a way of explaining the theory behind what we're going to be doing and a way of explaining why I believe in this so strongly as a useful exercise. So I remember when I was about six or seven years old, we had this gigantic tree in our backyard and it was sick. It was falling apart, and it needed to be cut down and taken away. So my parents hired somebody, and I watched this stranger from my bedroom window as he cut down the limbs and then finally cut down the base of this tree. And as he was cleaning up, I I went down the backyard and I joined him and I looked at, you know, kind of this spot where this tree had been and all I saw was this tree stump and I looked down and I saw these concentric rings, and this was the first time I had ever seen this. And this stranger, the man who had cut down the tree. He explained to me that these were called tree rings, and the number of tree rings represented how old the street waas. And if you looked at each individual ring, you could understand something about that tree at that particular age, right? It was a record of the trees, younger self's right, so you would look at a ring and you would. You would see the shape. And it would tell you if if maybe there was too much rain that year or two little or if there had been a nearby fire. All of that information was somehow, um, contained in the quality. The characteristics of each individual ring and the sum total of all these rings had sort of decided the final shape of the tree, the present day tree before he had cut it down. Obviously, so that was, you know, a lot of that went over my head, but the final thing, he said, was like the most cryptic. He said the tree remembers who had once Waas and again I was six or seven. So this very little of this made any sense to me. Years passed, and I eventually got serious into, got into writing more seriously and got writing. Got into writing for myself, right? So outside of school, writing short stories on my own. And I wanted to get better. And whenever I wanted to get better at something, I would always go to my local library and just, you know, just start picking up all the books that I could on the subject. So I would go to a library and I would pull down all the books I could on fiction writing. And I'd start going through these and start trying to make sense of What do we mean by drama? And what is good plot and and how do you build characters and and all of that and a lot of it was, um, was very contradictory, confusing some of the books it really made. Writing seemed like, sort of like you were making you were you were writing based on a recipe almost right. It didn't feel organic to me. I didn't feel like it was coming from my intuition or gut. It just felt like I was making characters in a laboratory. You know, um so I had to take a break from that. I had take a break from that way of thinking about writing, and I started browsing. The rest of the library, started looking at random shelves, and I found a book on trees, and I pulled that down and I opened it, and I opened it, coincidentally or accidentally, to a page of a tree, a cross section of a tree toe to an image of these tree rings. Right? So this image that was very familiar to me because of this childhood memory and I started to remember this This memory I started remember being a boy in this guy telling me about the younger versions of the tree and how the tree remembers itself. And it was somehow this cocktail of thinking about character and thinking about writing and seeing these tree rings again and thinking about history and former Selves and all that. And I began to ask myself, Well, is it possible that we, as people, we as individuals, we grow older in a way that it's similar to trees in the sense that there is some ah, remnant of who we used to be, and that remnant is very much alive and it's active and it's a part of us and it. And it's part of why we are the way we are today. And I don't mean this, obviously in a literal way, like I don't mean that there's a little Children running inside of you, but I mean in the in the terms of psychology or your your psyche in terms of what you long for in terms of what you're afraid of, that that memory is a record of that, that memories a record of that person, that that that child, that younger self that you used to be, and you're able to access those memories, you're able to remember that person and in a way, be that person. So in a sense, we do have, like these rings not literal again, but just psychological that there are these layers that you can kind of unpeeled and get back to the root of someone of why they are the way they are. S O, For example, when I was telling you that story about being a six or seven year old and running down the backyard and looking at the tree stump when I was telling you that story, Um, in my mind's eye, I saw that boy and and I and I was that boy for a moment, and I could feel the world that he the way he felt it. And and, um and, of course, memory. The memory is distorted. It's not accurate, it's not. Pure time has changed it somehow, but that is the closest thing that I have to time travel. That's the closest thing that I have to meeting that boy again. And every time I remember it, I'm able to kind of access that person again. And I'm able to think about how I thought about the world at that time. That's what memory allows us to dio. It allows us to access these former Selves and some of these memories. Some of these anecdotes are so powerful that they leave scars that they leave some riel remnant that you can actually point to either physical scars or emotional psychological scars, right? So, for example, um, when I was five, I I had a lot of time on my hands, so I would do a lot of stupid things. So when I was five, I, uh I tried riding my tricycle down some steps and I landed on my chin and I busted my chin open and I got this scar and that decision, that activity, that thing that I did as a kid, that us that affected my body that affected my physical form. I carry with me, and it continues to sort of affect my physical form, not in a bad way, but it's a scar. It's a pneumonic. It's a reminder of the past. Um, and I would argue, are I believe that many of us either have physical scar or, more likely, some kind of emotional psyche. Psychological, You know, some kind of trauma that's left its impression, and that impression or that scar is not going to go away. It doesn't go away, and we we have to find a way of dealing with it of managing it, um, and it and it manifests itself in the form of trauma in the form of fears in the form of whatever. And we also have on the flip side, We have positive memories that that that help us grow and that help us mature, right? But I think for me what's happening or a way of thinking about a character thinking about a real person or thinking about an imaginary person is that there are all these younger self's within a person, kind of like a nesting goal, and they're all sort of in dialogue with one another. Some of some of that dialogue is positive, and it's like, You know, we're working together, and some of that dialogue is very negative, and the person is sort of being pulled by these different experiences and these these different traumas. That's that's one thing, right? And the other thing is how powerful anecdote or history is in order to sort of understand somebody a little bit better and understand their wiring for them to have a sense of dimension so that they feel real to you. So, for example, you and I have never met. We are we are strangers. But because I have told you two anecdotes from my life, maybe I seem like less of a stranger to you. Maybe I seem like more of, ah, you know I don't know, like we've met somehow. Um, and that's that's the power of anecdote. That's the power of story. That's why we tell stories. That's why we're interested in history, because it it it gives the mentioned to somebody. It makes them feel real. And if what? I'm arguing, what I'm proposing in this class, if you're sort of willing to take a chance on this, is that if you can do the same thing for your characters, if you can invent stories for your characters, both memories as well as who they might become in the future, right. So if you can think in terms of anecdotes and just sort of invent these things, then I think these people will seem more real to you. And I think that that process will force you to start to make decisions about who they are . Why are they the way they are? What are their flaws, where their strength, where their traumas, what they long for? What are they worried about in the future and the great thing? There are no wrong answers. You know, your your compass, your guide is your gut, your instincts. So whatever you invent as long as you feel, it's correct and you feel it's true for your character. It's going toe work. It's it's it's going to be, um, step closer to figuring out your character. Now, Um, that's a lot to digest and now we have to kind of figure out, OK, like, how am I actually going to apply this? How am I going to actually start this exercise? And that's what the next lessons about. 3. Project Overview: The project consists of submitting a document made up of three scenes, three moments from your character's life, a moment from their youth, Ah, moment from their adulthood and a moment from the twilight years. Now you get to decide. You know specifically what age you want to write for each period in their life. So, for example, for their youth, you might decide I want to write a scene when they were six years old, or I want to write a scene for their twilight period when they were seven years old. You get to decide that, and I just want to give a few parameters, just so you better understand what your options are. The first thing is that these scenes, these moments, can be as simple as you want. They can be almost like a portrait o r photographic. In a sense, what I mean by that is that maybe nothing is happening in the scene. Maybe the scene, Maybe the character is by themselves. Maybe there are no other characters, and it's just about capturing the aura of that character at that particular point in their life. On the other side, if you want to scale that up, you could write a scene that's a little bit more cinematic in the sense that there are more moving parts, the characters interacting with other characters. But we're still in a scene. So just imagine, like if you're watching a TV, Siri's or a film, you know and how that's broken up into scenes, that's that's kind of what I'm looking for. I don't want you to write, for example, an entire short story for their youth or entire short story for their twilight years. These air just supposed to be scenes. They could be a short as a paragraph. They could be as long as a page or two. And again, you get to scale, you know, up or down if you want. If you want to focus really on Portrait's for those moments in their lives, you won't want to focus on something that's a little bit more cinematic and more involved. You get to do that. You get to choose if it's short or long, depending on just the time that you have one parameter that I really want to emphasize or one, um, rule, if you will, is that I really want everyone to submit these documents in the same way. So I want everyone to use just regular creative prose that hasn't been formatted a special way. And I'm speaking specifically to the screenwriters because I know some of you are screenwriters. Um, I don't want you write these as screenplays for two reasons. One, I don't want you to be worth thinking about formatting because these are not final documents that you're sharing with the public, These air documents for yourself. This is your brain storming. The second reason is that it just makes your project more accessible to someone who isn't familiar with screenplay formatting. So please, just regular creative pros now for everybody. I've left an example project in the Project gallery. This is something that I've done. I'm putting it up there so that you guys get a sense of options. Like, what do I mean by photographic? What I mean by cinematic? What's a short scene? What's the long seen? What do I mean by the aura of the character? Remember, that's the goal. In each of these three scenes, you're just trying to capture something of the aura of the person. At that moment, what would they be doing or what were they doing? Um, at that particular age and and again, your gut is your compass. So whatever your brain your gut is telling you is right, right, that you can always go back and change it if if it feels wrong later on. 4. Where Do I Start?: So how are you supposed to write these three scenes that capture somehow? The aura of your character? A character that you've never met, a character that you've never written about? Right. So how are you supposed to go from zero to this? And what I'm imagining is that a lot of you are coming into this class with a faint image of somebody that you want to write about. You have something, you know their age. You know their gender. You know, if they're good or they're bad. Um, so that's that's your starting point, right? Just a very faint image. And hopefully, by the end of the exercise, by the end of all of what we're doing, that image will be a little bit clear. It will be a little bit more dynamic. It will be a little bit more three dimensional for you. So probably the best way of explaining how do you go from 0 to 2? This document is for me to go through an example of my own. So let's imagine. Or let me imagine that in my mind's eye, I have I'm seeing someone. I'm seeing a man whose mid thirties, um, and That's all I really know about him. He might be good. Um um And you know, I There's just something about him. There's something about him that I want I want to learn more about. I feel like he has the potential to be a character in a story for some reason. And I just wanna I just want to see if I can flush this out. Can I give him memories? Cannot give him aspirations. Can I learn more about him through this? So my starting point is a man mid thirties, and that's going to be the first scene that I write. I'm going to write his adulthood seen first, right? Because that's probably if I used the character in the future. That's probably how I'll be using him. I'll be using him as an adult. I won't be using with a child or in his twilight years, so that's really you know. That's his present day. Let's start off with his present day. So that's my anchor point, the the adulthood years, and I try to write a scene and again, I don't have anything. I don't know anything about the guy so and I'm really stuck what to write about. So let me write a very ordinary seen a very ordinary activity that we all do and let me figure out. Let me make decisions about how does he do that activity. So, for example, a very ordinary activity is sitting on a park bench by yourself. Right? So let me put him on the park bench by himself and let me see what he does right. Does he read a newspaper? Does he feed the pigeons? Does he do all these sort of different cliche things that we've seen 100 times in movies? But what specifically does he do, right? And whatever I decide is not wrong, even if it's been done a 1,000,000 times. But I'm inventing his life. I'm inventing what he does, and I'm figuring out how he does those things. Now if I'm more ambitious and I have more time, I can. I can try to take him out of an ordinary situation, and I can put it, put him into something that's quite unique. And then I can figure out what his action, what his behavior is in that situation. But again, because I'm I don't have anything like I'm starting off with this really faint image. Let me just make it easy for myself and let me put him in this ordinary activity and right that seen that scene might only be a paragraph long might only be a page long, whatever it ISS. But I've now got one of my three scenes done might. And that's my anchor scene. Okay, now I'm going to go backwards. I'm gonna go backwards in time, and I'm gonna write a scene from his childhood. Okay? And for whatever reason, um, the age six sounds like something I want to write about. I want to write about a moment from when he was six years old, and I wanna write a scene that somehow captures his aura in this space. And again, it can be very cliche aid. I can have him just doing something that we've seen kids do a 1,000,000 times. Or it could be something quite unique, right? So again, because I'm just starting out. I don't know much about the character. Let me write a kind of cliche aid saying that maybe we've seen a 1,000,000 times, so I'm gonna have him running through a farm chasing his sister or just running after some animal or something that's on the farm, right? It's very ordinary. There aren't any moving parts, are there? Aren't that many moving parts? But again, I'm just, you know, I'm trying to figure out, like, where did he grow up and what did he do? And and how was he? Like as a kid, you know, what was his aura? And then I can begin to see, like, the difference between that adult scene and his youth scene. Right? So I right that you've seen and it's again, maybe only a paragraph long. Maybe it's a page long, and then I move forward. I'm gonna move forward in time to the future. I'm gonna move to his twilight years. I'm going to write a scene. Um, again, I choose a particular age for that period, maybe 60 or 70 years old and whatever makes sense. And I want to write a scene from that age. And the interesting thing is, because it's the future, I have to extrapolate from the president in order to understand kind of where he's going and where he could be going. So it forces me to start to ask questions about the president. It forces me to try to understand his present a little bit better. I have to think about, you know, is he saving for his retirement? Is in love with somebody. Is he capable of love all these kinds of questions? Um, and I have to answer them. I mean, I have toe, I you know, I have to I have to kind of go through the brainstorming and make decisions about now. I can always go back and change my mind, but for now, I need to, uh I need to ask myself these questions about the present, which is the routes for the future. Right? And that, to me, is quite exciting when you have to extrapolate. We're writing about the past for the for the same reason. When we write about the past, we get a better sense of his present and how he got to be where he is now. I wrote my project, this project that I've gone through with you in a very simple, quick way. When I do that, if I'm this satisfied or I feel like you know what I really settled for very little, you know, I didn't really ask myself too many questions. I can always go back and just revise things I can. I can kind of go back and say, You know what? I want to commit a little bit more. I want to write a scene that's a little bit more involved or I can just submit that project And I can just say this is what I have like this is the three scenes. These are the three moments that I think captured or of the person you know. Tell me what you think, so that's one way of starting, assuming that your character is in his or her adulthood and you're kind of working backwards and forwards from there. 5. Alternative Starting Points: you can also start in different places. So, for example, if you're interested in a character that is a child, you that would be your present seen. That would be the first scene that you're right, and you would write the scene that captures the aura of that character at that time. Then you would start to move forward. You would start to move forward in the future, which is kind of difficult if you don't know that much about the character. But again, we're doing this exercise to start to ask yourself these questions like like where could this child end up in 20 or 30 years? You know, what kind of job would they have, or would they be in love all these kinds of questions? And again, there's no wrong answers. You're just making decisions at this point, and you can always go back and change your decisions. But you have to write a new adulthood seen from for that child, and then you also have to write. You have to jump, you know, 60 or whatever. How many years in the future and ride that twilight seen that twilight years seen, and that's really difficult, right? to figure out where a kid is gonna be in in 60 years are 70 years again. Whatever you just defined as their twilight years, um is really difficult. But it again forces you to kind of look at the roots of who this kid is, Um, where they're going to move to. How are they going to change? You know, all these great what ifs if, on the other hand, your starting point is at the other extreme and you're interested in writing about a character that is in his or her twilight years, the Nazer starting point and then you're going backwards. So you're gonna first right, that twilight period of their life, you're gonna write that scene and then you're kind of go backwards to their adulthood and go backwards to their child years and write a scene from their youth from their childhood years. Um, and that's all of this is very exciting to me. I mean, like, whether you're kind of focusing on the roots or kind of extrapolating all, you're forcing yourself to ask these questions. You're forcing yourself to build not only a history for the character, but their potential future, and you can. You can play around with it as much as you want to change your mind with it as much as you want. 6. Harmony & Dissonance: as you create these scenes as they, you know, as you get to kind of like a document that you want to submit. I do want you to look at the phenomenon of you know, how similar these different versions of the character are, how different they are. Are there connections between these different versions of Of, of Your character? Right? So look at the issue of harmony and dissonance. Look at the issue of Is it? It has their life just sort of been a straight line where everything's adding up in a perfect way and everything's kind of seamless, and their childhood dovetails perfectly with their adult years. And there's no trauma and all of that. Or is there a sense of dissonance where character is constantly reinventing themselves and becoming someone else? And there is no similarity between these different versions of themselves? It's almost a Ziff. They're different people entirely. That's also a very interesting option. But when you're getting close to like, you know, you have your three scenes, I really want you to kind of take a step back, and I almost almost look at them like their paintings or something and just see kind of what kind of contrast have you created between the three? Maybe there's no contrast. Maybe the contrast is really great. There's no right or wrong answer. I just want you to take that step back and kind of reflect on. Are there? What of the connections? Are there connections? What is the dynamic between the three? Because, um, all of that is supposed to be working together to create the present day psyche and behaviour and strength All the great stuff that we've been talking about. All that's supposed to be working together, that that conversation between past and president future to create your character. And so that's that's where it's really useful to be able to take a step back and just to kind of understand what the basis is of why they are the way they are today. 7. Remember The Goal!: please remind yourself that again, this is an exercise for you. The main beneficiary, the main, like the rial audience for this document, is you. It's it's meant to be a tool that helps you with the writing later on. So this is not a document that is supposed to be perfect in anyway. It's it's it's really, um it's a way of work shopping your character. So there there's no wrong decisions. There's no inferior work. My whole intention with this class was to find a way that both beginners and advanced students alike would have a really stress free way of, of writing and brainstorming and not worrying so much about what someone else is going to think. Because we all know what you've done is not finished. It's not a story. It's like you're just putting the building blocks of your characters, psyches, psychology, all that great stuff. You put in the building blocks of that on the table and you're just sharing it with us, you know, So please try to divorce. You know the results and what other people going to think in all of that and just completely, completely exercise and complete a project um, the the irony. Or of course, the contradiction is that you are sharing the work and people are going to read it and people are going to judge it. And, um um, I feel pretty confident in in what I've seen from other sort of students and how they leave feedback and how they're supportive of one another. And the exciting thing is that even though you didn't write a story, even though it's not complete because you're sharing with us three moments from somebody's life, the way, the way, our I don't know if it's called like storytelling, literacy. But the way that we operate, when someone shares moments from someone's life with us, we're automatically looking for the connections were looking for the harmony and dissonance We're looking at the juxtaposition we're looking for. How did this person come about? Like, you know, is there past somehow connected to their future? Is their presence somehow connected to the past? Etcetera were looking to see. Do things echo in time or not? Is this person constant reinventing ourselves themselves? So whenever you have your reader engaged in that way, whenever, whenever they're asking questions like that in a good way, not questions of confusion but questions of like, you know, how did these things add up? Onda mystery of this person. They're trying to solve the mystery of who they are and who they become. Those questions. That kind of engagement is a really good thing. So even though you may have written an exercise of three scenes which doesn't feel complete isn't a complete story but and might be even individually, these things might be boring. There is a sense of kinetic energy because we are engaged, we're trying to put it. We're trying to put these three scenes together. So just know again that even though the basic building blocks that you've put the three scenes that you've put maybe a cliche, maybe you're boring. Maybe whatever. Um, there is a kind of kinetic energy, um, between them, there's something connecting them this energize in some way. No, no, that that's how your readers going to feel. And hopefully, when you start to get some feedback, you get that sense that people are interested, you know, even though your character seems like, you know, like somebody that they have met or whatever. But it's like whenever we get to see people in their private secret moments. There's something there's something exciting about this, and they're very interesting about that way. Want to keep on, you know, sort of peeking and seeing these moments, we feel like something true is being revealed about that person. 8. A Stronger Foundation: the first benefit of the exercise, and what I think is like the main dividend. The thing that I hope that all of you leave with and that you're able to continue with is a sense that your character is more real and less of a stranger to you and that when you actually begin to start to write an original story involving them, you're able to write from a place of confidence. You're able to write from a stronger position, right, because you understand a little bit of a little bit more about their history, and because you understand a little bit of where they came from and what they've seen and what they experienced, you understand their current, their present day wiring and their psychology and their psyche. It's my contention and the whole sort of premise of the class, the whole reason of why I've taught the class this way. It's it's It's my belief that we are the sum total of all of these memories of these experiences of our former Selves, right? And so if if someone can explain to you their history and what they saw, then they're going to seem more real to you and you're going to understand the logic of their choices, even if those choices relative to your personality relative to your history seems illogical . But you're gonna understand kind of their Russian now. And so it's a wonderful way of making someone less strange, less of a stranger and making them more human, being able to empathize with with them and kind of what they've been through. So at the very least, I want you toe leave with that sense of, um, how did your character get toe where they are right now? Like, Why do they have this particular emotional life in psychology? And again, we've only scratched the surface because we've only done three scenes. But by looking at the roots of somebody, you you have a stronger sense of who they are on by looking at how they envision their future. You also have a sense of why they're doing what they're doing today. You know, like, what is it that they're after? What is the vision that they have for themselves? 9. The World as a Mirror: The final benefit that I wanted to talk about is, um, if you look at a lot of good drama, okay, you'll see that characters I'm not thrown into accidental worlds. Characters are thrown in tow. Worlds that challenge them that call up their strengths, call up their weaknesses, call up their fears. So there's a sense of that world that the character finds themselves and especially the main character, Um, has been designed for them and has been designed with a really sense of like what this character psyche is and what they're good at and what they're bad at and it's almost a Ziff the storyteller, is, is, is forcing the carrot character to confront all those things right and forcing them to confront their fears and for forcing them to confront their demons and all of that, And that's again by designed. It doesn't happen by accident. So in a weird way, by knowing more about your character and knowing their their psyche and psychology due to the fact that you know a lot about their history and their former Selves, um, you can begin to design the world around them with Maura intentionality, and you can begin to think about. Okay, Is this world working with them? Is this world working against them? Are what are the antagonists of this world? And why are they antagonised? You know, by knowing by knowing something about your protagonist by knowing his or her history, strengths, flaws, etcetera. You have a sense of, like the perfect foil, the perfect kind of antagonists to give this person and to really force them to grow or to die. You know, it's it's It's like you've got those two options where I'm gonna I'm gonna stay who I am or I'm going to adapt and I'm going to change. And so this is something that we could have a much longer conversation over, or maybe an entire lesson. But it's just something I want you to think about when you're watching films or you're reading novels. Ah, and and also, when we look at the examples will be looking at soon. Look at not just the character and their psychology and all of that and their history and their different versions of themselves. But look, it also look also at how the world that they appear in has this kind of intentionality ITT's designed in a way that dovetails quite nicely with with who that character is and is , really, you know, shaping that character or trying to shape that character in a sense. 10. The Iceberg of Character: as you move forward. So as you take your exercise and began to think about how to fold it, how to use it in a original story involving your character, um, you're going to have to this work deal with the issue of how much of your characters biography or their history, their their psychology. Are you actually going to reveal in a direct way in your story? And how much are you going to hide? How much are you going to just imply with their dialogue, their behavior? For example, if you imagine a character's history, their biography, that whole, that whole shebang, if you imagine all of that as a kind of iceberg, what we experience in a story as as as an audience member is sort of the tip of the iceberg . In terms of their who they are right, we don't We don't get to see all their memories. We don't get to see or experience all their fears and everything. It's We're just seeing the tip of the iceberg that's relevant to the to the story that we're in, Um, and in other stories, sometimes we are sort of plunging under the surface level and going back in time and and seeing all these scraps of history of the character in order to add that dimensionality to the iceberg that they are. So you have that option. You can kind of imply their history. You can kind of imply their fears, their traumas and all of that. Oh, and keep keep it actually hidden. Keep it, you know, not viewable to the audience. Or you can actually pull the audience and pull the viewer back in time and let them see for themselves where this character came from and what is their biography and really give a sense of of that dimensionality. So we're gonna look at examples where storytellers have opted to either to hide those details or to hide that that biography, that history and just imply it in the character's behaviour and other stories where you actually are as a viewer, being dragged back and forth through time and seeing this character at different stages. So I want you toe look at those examples and think about your own stories. Think about kind of what what approach works for you and think about what the effect is for you when you're when you're when you're watching those stories between, you know, seeing those scenes, seeing those former Selves and or having those former Selves implied. 11. Case Studies: so I've gathered a couple of examples that we're gonna use this case studies toe. Look at all the issues that we've been talking about, the idea of of history and biography and how that's connected to a character's present day psychology. The idea of different self, the idea of what you show what you imply. This interplay between all the different Selves, the future, the present, the past, all of that and for our examples. I've chosen films because I think films are readily accessible. You've probably seen some of the films that I'll be using. And I think because R visual literacy is so strong when it comes to television and film, and we're so used to the idea of, you know, hopping back and forth in time with the character and seeing them at different stages, I think that we have. We all have a very rich experience with that. So I think that as as as a as a case study, this will be a useful place to Teoh understand the theory behind what we're doing a little bit better now for the films. I have chosen a range of films, right so that you know regardless of your taste. Hopefully gonna find something here that appeals to you. And I've chosen Batman begins 12 monkeys. There will be blood and Jerry Maguire And what I want you to think about as we're going through this and I'll keep repeating myself, um is the idea of how much you show, How much do you hide? What is the effect of doing that? The idea of former Selves, the idea of a conversation happening within the character between all these different, um, versions of themselves, you know, and the way that history kind of echoes through time. 12. 'Batman Begins' Analysis: Batman Begins is a really interesting case study, because the 1st 20 or 30 minutes of that film is pretty complex and structure because we're bouncing back and forth in time looking at these different versions of Bruce Wayne, we're looking at Bruce Wayne as a boy. We're looking at Bruce Wayne as a as a young man who hasn't really gone off into the world . And we're looking at Bruce Wayne as someone who begins his training and is learning the skills to defeat criminals. And then we see the Bruce Wayne that is able to kind of put all of that together and comes up with the concept of Batman, right? And then that final identity and all of those versions right, um, are are necessary in order for us to get to Batman. And I think that that's something that you definitely feel in that film, the significance of all these different moments that you witness in his life. So you get to see him as a boy that has a perfect life that has perfect parents, and his parents were murdered in front of him, and he's not able to do anything about it. You get to see him again as a boy, being terrified of the dark and being terrified of bats. You see him as a young man that is so obsessed with his own personal loss and forgets about the world that he's in and that Gotham is also suffering. You see him as someone who enters the criminal world and tries to learn how criminals you know, think and tick and what their logic is and what they're after. And then you see him sort of becoming a vigilante and learning these these skills to be able to inspire fear and and theatricality into his enemies into the criminal world. And then, finally, this this Bruce, wanting that is very sure of himself and is able to put together all these symbols for him from his past, the bats and how they inspired fear. Um, the the importance of saving off them because that's what his parents believe. Then that's what his parents were doing before they were killed. And so all of that, that whole, that whole history of what he went through and and use it and apply it to create Batman to create this new identity. And so I think that's a really interesting case study where the audience gets to see all of that participate in all of that because then in the end, he doesn't feel like a superhero. He feels like a man. He feels like someone that's still very much has that child inside of him that lost his parents and that he's That's partly what he's driven by. That's part of his engine, right? So that's a very interesting film and structure where it feels like all these versions of Bruce Wayne are very much alive and they're still with him. And of course, it helps us just empathize with him and understand where he came from. Understand, from an emotional standpoint as well as just a practical standpoint, how is he able to do what he does? 13. '12 Monkeys' Analysis: 12 Monkeys is interesting film to consider because here you have a man that's literally jumping through time, right? You have three periods in the main character's life. Cool. You have him as a boy, which is portrayed in sort of the memory slash dream You have Cola's a time traveler who is a good observer. He's a good collector, and then you have the final cold, the final coal that is ready to sort of abandoned the mission and be, in a way, an ordinary citizen. You know, he's in love and he just wants to run off. And this is a story where not not only do you have time travel, not only do you have a very convoluted structure, um, but and not only do you have a man that's trying to prevent, you know the world, the world's destruction or the world falling apart, but you have a man that's coming, the terms with who he is, who he was, who he will become. So in a sense, you have a man that's really dealing with a lot of the the issues that we've been discussing about, how sort of history determines where you're going where how, how the past and the present, the future sort of interacting with one another. So in this film, Cool is a time Traveler, is is having this dream, having this memory of being a boy and seeing someone being shot and not not being aware of who that person is until the end of the film. And by the end of the film, in that airport, seeing you again, you you see the context or understand the context of that memory dream. But you realize that it was cold. It was the older self on the other side of that equation, and it was the older coal that was being shot. So you have this moment of awareness where you know the boy is seeing this man being shot, not knowing that's the That's the man who is going to become. And you have the man version that the final version kind of turning around and recognizing , recognizing the complete dream or the complete memory and knowing that that is his boy self , that is who he used to be, and understanding that regardless of of the decisions that he made, he was always going to sort of end in this in this final moment, he was always going to die in this way. So this is a really interesting film where again it's it's fantasy. We're talking about time travel, but we are dealing with the same issues of the past and history in this interaction between the two and the sense that maybe, you know, maybe we're fated to to maybe we're fated to end in the same place and based on our history based on the things that we experienced, you know, maybe that's been written for us. So we're playing with all these kind of philosophical elements, and we're seeing the different versions of coal sort of interacting. And for me, a story that's really about a man learning who he is and learning where he came from and learning where he's going. And that that was, you know, that was, um, something never that was never going to change. It wasn't up to him, And that's what I find so interesting about this film. In the context of of what we've been talking about, 14. 'There Will Be Blood' Analysis: So we've looked at two films that are pretty complicated or pretty ambitious in terms of structure and in terms of just showing you all these multiple self's. And, um, you know, the sense that, um, the pass and the president, you know, those things can get kind of blurry. And I wanted to look at an example that does show you multiple periods in a man's life in a character's life but isn't so complicated. It's It's quite linear and quite simple. In terms of character study, the stakes are not so high. We're not saving the world. We're not jumping off. Buildings were just kind of looking at, um, a man's life. We're looking at kind of where he came from and what his possible futures were like what what opportunities he had that he kind of dismissed and ended up in a very tragic state. So the film would be looking at is there will be blood. So this is a film where again you have three distinct periods in the main character's life . Daniel Plainview. We see him first of the Silver Miner. We then see him as an oil prospector, and then we see his final moments where he got everything that he wanted, everything that his that he was kind of working for. He got so in the first scene or sequence, we have him as a silver miner. We understand through through this very brief or very simple scene, his tenacity. You know how he breaks his leg and is able to crawl back to town and just how he is willing to do everything that it takes in order to make something of himself in order to be independent. He starts off the film alone, and we'll see later on that he ends the film alone. Then, in the second phase of his life, he's parlayed that first job of being a silver miner into being an oil prospector. And he's at the state is a somewhere in the stages of building his oil empire, and he's built a crew of men that he can depend on around him, very ambitious and just just a hustler. You know, he's moving very quickly and accumulating wealth, and then we see him in the final phase where again, he's probably gotten everything that he dreamed of. But there's something very hollow about it because It seems like he was not capable of love . He did not want to love and it was not. It was not interested in being loved by someone else. He's driven everyone away. He is the embodiment of everything That is bad, I guess, about greed and capitalism. But we identify with him because in that middle phase of his life, in that mirror middle period that we got to see, we got to see these fleeting moments where he could have been saved. We see this really poignant moment with him, with the boy that he's adopted, a sense that this boy could save him. This boy could could pull him in a different direction and he pushes that boy aside. Or has that boy sent away? And that fleeting moment is taken away. He continues down this road of greed and all that. There's another fleeting moment where he meets a man that's pretending to be his brother. We find out that he's that he's not that he's taken on this identity, but there's a fleeting moments, really beautiful in in comparison to the rest of the film of him just being a man of smiling, of taking it all in and enjoying it. And, of course, that moment is taken away once. Once he realizes the man is an imposter and is after something wants something from him again. We have the three three versions of him, and we can really understand kind of how he got to the road to the to the destination that he ended up at. And there's a sense of harmony, of harmony and a bad, bad way. But there's a sense of, you know, his ending. It was kind of predicted, like we had a sense that he was going to end up probably in this in this place where he has everything that he wants. But he doesn't have love and he isn't loved. It's not. It's not a surprise ending, but it z tragic. There is something in that final shot for me that is very sad, which is I don't know how aware he is of how tragic his ending is that you know, I'm not sure if he's aware of how hollow his life has become and kind of this final state, this final version of him, I think we the audience are we. We are aware of the fleeting moments we are aware that there was alternatives, but he didn't He didn't choose those doors 15. 'Jerry Maguire' Analysis: So am I suggesting that you have to use a very convoluted structure that you have to show multiple periods in your character's life in order for your audience, your reader, whatever to connect with your character and to understand their psychology and why it's so difficult for them to do what they do. Etcetera. Not at all. You actually can imply the past. You can imply the future without showing it. You just have to find a way of sort of leaving breadcrumbs, implying those things that your audience, your reader, can imagine them. So let's look at this example of Jerry Maguire where we're dealing with just a few months in the main character's life in Jerry's life, and we don't get to see his past, and we don't get to see sort of, ultimately, who he's going to become years, years down the road. But in this film, we do get a sense of sort of who he's been leading up to the film like what his problem has been. We get a sense that he has a problem committing personally in that wedding parties scene where the ex girlfriends have made a tape and they're all sort of saying the same thing. They're repeating one another's lines. They're completing one other sentences, and you get this sense that this man has a real problem committing, and he's sort of he struggled with this for a very long time. This is a man that can't commit personally but also can't commit professionally, right? So in his in his company Mission Statement, he's able to talk about the idea of committing to one or two or three athletes. But when he's actually put in a situation where he has to do that, he has to commit to Cuba Gooding Jr character. Um, it's the most paralyzing is the most difficult thing We get a sense that in his former life , he's always been able to run away. He's always been able to run away when there's nothing left in the relationship where the relationship has just become too difficult, too high maintenance is just is just become too real for him in this film, of course, he's put in a situation where he can't run away from Dorothy, right there is that sense of connection, and there's also that sense of obligation that's forcing him to like, really rethink the way that he's been living his life and really decide. Does he want to continue to be the same person? Is his future going to be simply that he's just older, but still the same person? Or is his future going to be something else? Is he going to choose door to now? Door to is very scary for him, right? Because he doesn't know, sort of what's going to happen he doesn't know, is it is a capable of of being in this new person. But we get a sense by the end of the film that he has chosen door to and there's a sense of hope. There's a sense that even though we don't get to see Jerry and Dorothy, you know, 30 or 40 years from now in the future, we get a sense that everything is going to be okay, that he is going to mature, that he is going to grow, that all the events in the film have forced him to abandon or to modify who he waas in the past. And this man that was unable to commit personally and professionally is now very relaxed, very more comfortable in this in this new sort of version of himself. So this is an example of a film where we really don't get to see much of the iceberg of the character in a direct way. We're not. We're not flashing back. We're not Flushing Ford, but still the past and the future is implied to the audience, and it's up to the audience to imagine those things. And that's another way to engage with an audience, to engage with a viewer, Teoh, to give them the breadcrumbs and force them to imagine those things in their minds. I that's another way of engaging them and kind of pulling them into the story. So you have these really to very extreme options, right? You can kind of go down the road where you're jumping back and forth through time or you go down the road where you're implying things. You just have to decide what you're going to do and why you're going to do it and think about what the effect that's going to be on your audience or viewer or your audience or your readers engagement 16. Conclusion: so thank you so much for your patience and getting through all the material. I hope that somehow I I hope that your character, ah, went from being a very faint person. A very faint image to somebody with a little bit more mass to them. And you can kind of continue down that road and continue to add more elements until you're ready to start to put that character in a real story. Um, I do want up Say that you know, this is one way of looking at character. This is one way of approaching character building. It is not necessarily the best way. It is not the only way. There are other tools at your disposal. There are other teachers and just schools of thought, right? I just wanted to share something that I felt was very visual. That demystified the process a little bit and made it just easier to tackle the blank page . But if ultimately you get through this and you feel like this is really confusing and this is not helped me. You get to decide if you're going to put this tool in your toolbox or not. And that's a point or Ah, lesson that it took me a really long time toe learn in my own sort of career. On my own journey, I would constantly try to apply things that just didn't make sense to me or didn't feel organic. And I really want you to have that freedom to just disregard if something's not working. And if you have, you've tried it and it's just not working for you, just put it aside. You know, you can put on the show if you come back to it. Um, um, if it makes sense at a later time, so I want you to know that you have that option. Ah, the other thing is that I always appreciate feedback. Um, you know, not not only positive feedback, which is great but constructive feedback in ways of ways that I can improve things that I can add or subtract the lessons to make them more clear. So if you've got any kind of suggestions or anything like that, please please leave those things for me. If there are topics that you want covered, if there's something that's something else that's really confusing you about the writing process, you can leave those questions, those suggestions for class topics on the discussion form. And in fact, you can at any time leave questions from in the discussion form, and I'll answer them. I'll get to them. Um, I almost forgot. I like I said, you know, I do teach another class. So if you're interested in screenwriting and if you're interested in that medium and you want to learn Maura about screenwriting in the in the context of short films, then please take a take a look at my introduce screenwriting class. Um, if you found if you found this class helpful and finally, you know, I hope you continue to invest in your characters, you invest in your craft, you invest in your stories and you continue to ask what ifs and you and you play with with raw material that you have, right you you take it seriously and you don't take it seriously at the same time. Um, but I I wish you the best of luck on that journey