Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Character Profile

Character Creation Sheets

Character Creation sheets run the gamut from “Name Height Weight Hair Color” to “At what age did your character first drink a soda?”

I’m divided on this myself. Usually when I come up with an idea for a book, I usually can flesh the idea for the book out in 5 minutes, flowchart it, plan it, and have my synopsis created within a day. And start writing it the next. Hence my oft-repeated “It should only take you a month to write an average novel”.

I’ve just never done Character sheets ever. I got started a little on them, but not in depth.

But the other day  I wrote about the Dramatica theory of characters, so I made up character sheets to go in my notebook. Pretty much it’s the standard “Height weight M/F (circle one)”, BUT…

I added in the eight Dramatica characters.  All you have to do is put a checkmark in the space, or write a one word note about how they are that character type.

THEN I added Michael Hauge’s bit. In his book on “Writing Screenplays that sell”, he talked about inner motivation and outer motivation. So I added that, and may revise my sheets to have more stuff in them.

Here’s how the sheets look – you can copy this and paste it into the character profiles in Scrivener.

Name ______________________   M/F (Circle One)

Height______ Weight______ Age______

High School______  College______

Inner Motivation__________________________________________

Outer Motivation__________________________________________

Protagonist ______  Antagonist______ Reflection ______

Personality Type__________________________________________

Character Conflict__________________________________________

Start of Story Situation______________________________________

Changed by Outcome________________________________________

That’s about all I have in it! I don’t get into the “Favorite book in third grade” thing, because it’s like a movie writer once said, you’ve got them in a dilemma, they’ve got conflict and you can’t see the way out of it, and now you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to put in there that they like crunchy peanut butter.

But what I’ve got above really is enough for you to get a feel for your character.

The funny thing is, once I was done with the sheets, I filled out a few, and I saw  that I’d actually neglected to put some of this into my first novel! So I could see right away the value of at least minimal character sheets.

I may update this sheet in the future!

Cotagonist______  Sidekick______ Guardian ______ Skeptic______

Logic______

Writers… write

I bet the average book reader wonders if authors sit around and pontificate upon the motives and back stories of their characters. The answer is, yes… they do.

To make someone like Carpenter believable, he’s got to have back story. Much of the back story of your character never makes it to the books.

Like, Carpenter tried playing chess once and got completely wiped out by someone who wasn’t very literate, and described himself as a Texas redneck. And the humiliation of being beaten so badly made Carpenter never want to play chess again.

That will probably never make it to the books.

And of course, every one of my characters in some point in their lives has had the flu. Why? Almost everyone gets the flu. I’ve only met one or two people who can say they’ve never been sick.

But of course, there’s absolutely no reason to put that in the books. I suppose I could work that in, but who would care?

Recently I read some advice that I should have 5 writer friends. That would be a miracle, because I seem to have had a hundred acquaintances in my life, but precious few friends. The only real friends I have are of course my wife, and a guy I used to work with.

Sinus headaches are terrible. I’m sitting here rambling. It reminds me of the most horrible book I ever read in my life in school, Catcher in the Rye, where the hero character rambles and digresses for 400 pages.

Horrible book. Hated every word of it.

School made me read 1984. I read it, and tore out every page, one by one, and burned it. When they asked me where my book was, I told him, “I burned it. Page by page.” The teacher made me write that out as a book report, and I got an A on the class.

What I need right now is sinus meds.

Rambling!

Archetypes

I haven’t officially made a study of archetypes. What this is, is – heros. Your hero character. Let’s analyze some.

Jack Ryan (Clancy) – unwilling hero. Pushed into it when someone tries to kidnap the Princess of Wales in front of him. He then ends up getting into the CIA… and the world finds itself with a man who finds himself having to take an active role in all kinds of international drama.

The Man with No Name (Grimaldi/spaghetti westerns) – Can’t help but get involved. Tecnically, The Man with No Name has a name – it’s Joe Banco, also known as Blondie. He tends to try to keep to himself, but he cannot stand to see the strong bully the weak.

Frodo Baggins – tragic hero. He’s going to do what’s right, no matter what.

Luke Skywalker – wide eyed innocent kid who wants to do something, be something – and he finds himself on the other side, fighting with the Rebellion. He transforms from nerdy kid, to beaten skeptic, to Jedi Warrior.

Matthew Carpenter – (my character) the shorter Clint Eastwood. Former law enforcement, formerly a Karate competitor. Now just cold and trying to make it through the day, not reflecting on how lonely his life is. His assumption is, nobody else is going to do something, so… do something.

Edward Scissorhands – the outsider. He knows he’s a toy, but he wants to love. A tragic character, he loves, and knows he will have to love from afar.

Dirty Harry Callahan – Bitterness personified. He seems to be the only person in the world concerned with the rights of the victims. And his frustration levels with those who prey on the weak and those who keep telling him he can’t do this and that are roughly the same.

So, there’s a group of different heros. The right hero drives a story. I mean, Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey. Both of them react precisely the same – someone breaks the law, someone gets shot. But the essentail difference between Kersey and Dirty Harry drive the story. Both movies came out around the same time, both spawned franchises, both were hugely successful

you could go an entire career writing essentially the same story, and putting a different hero in it. It drives the story.

“Where do you get your characters?”

Years ago, I came up with a concept for a novel where a group of people wake up, and find most of civilization just… gone. You go to bed, everyone’s there, you wake up, most of the people are just… well… dead.

Then I was telling someone about a movie I saw years later, and he dismissed it by saying, “Yeah, well, that’s because 28 Days Later essentially ripped off your book idea.”

Of course, I couldn’t think of what to say about that.

Plots are really simple. “What if…?” And then building them is well, easy.

Characters, though, are essentially your answer.

If I take “The Last Man Alive” and replace Vincent Price’s Character with someone who essentially is a Clint Eastwood type, you suddenly get a different movie. That’s exactly how they created the “Omega Man”, was by taking “The Last Man Alive” and putting Charlton Heston in it. I guess Charlton went through a phase in the 60’s and Seventies where he suddenly was a Charles Bronson-Clint Eastwood type.

Your Characters become essentially the tool box you use. Hero needs impact character, but doesn’t know it. There’s sidekick, who manages to take the pressure off of Hero. Impact Character needs Nero, and you wonder how impact character made it through life previously. Antagonist is trying to ruin everything.

So… where do I get my characters? I write. They do something. That something often defines who they are for me, until more actions and more dialogue pops up.

I don’t put my friends into novels. I don’t put my co-workers into novels. One person who I see at work regularly, I borrowed his description for one character – but not his personality. I just needed something I could hang a hat on that character, and his hair ended up being it.

Nobody in my family ends up in my stories. I want to be able to read my stories and enjoy them, so… nobody in my family will ever be a character.

I just sit down, put fingers on keys, and I write a name. “Sarah”. Okay. “Sarah was reading a novel…”

Believe it or not, I see her now. She’s someone who’s mother was overly domineering, and so Sarah just left home after high school, got a job as a dog groomer at a pet store, and… she sits around at night, watching old classic movies. Her best friend taunts her by asking, “Is anyone in that movie even alive anymore?”

That’s how I create my characters. It’s a visceral, gut feeling. The hero of my stories I created one day, while trying to visualize him driving through traffic. The city I live in has a bizarre phenomenon I’ve never seen anywhere else – people here drive under the speed limit. It’s nothing at all for these people to just take up both lanes, and drive at 30 miles an hour in a 45 zone. And it doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t get around them.

So, my hero developed over a character that would drive at precisely 5 miles an hour over the speed limit. Enough to show he originated in New England, but precisely under control no more, no less than 5 miles an hour over the posted limit.

And I stuck him behind a car driving at precisely 5 miles an hour under the speed limit.

I saw my hero character right away. Fingers tapping at the steering wheel, snorting through his nose (did you know the ancient Hebrew word for Anger is also the same word for nose?). He needs to drive at precisely the right speed, and he’s being frustrated in that.

My impact character… it took me a little bit to see her. Essentially, I think I had her pegged by her questioning not only herself, but the Hero in one scene. “Are you sure we can do this?”

But it was the scene where you are introduced to her that defined her. I wrote a scene of her in the Realty office, where she’s struggling to figure out why her sales leads are always disappearing. And there’s a too-loud woman in the same office, who drives a Jaguar the Realty firm bought her, and she wears fur coats inside, just to show she’s made a lot of money.

The reader grasps it right away – Miss High Sales has been stealing Impact Character’s sales leads and made herself rich doing it. So, the impact character later on quite simply takes her address book home with her, and her portfolio. And suddenly she makes a million dollars in real estate sales in one three-week period.

I just was resolved, this woman was going to achieve every idle dream she’d had before the main part of the novel kicked in.

When you’ve got a 10-volume novel series, essentially you’re playing with the same characters. Every now and then, take one out, put a new one in. It changes up the mix, and essentially, the characters change as well. So, give them their needs in one book, deprive them in another.

So, that’s how I get my characters.

Meet A Character – Rolf Offenstath

From my first book…

Rolf.

Rolf Offenstath sat down wearily in the wreckage of what used to be a house, he guessed. He’d never lived in Berlin, but had attended one or two May Day celebrations in his time with the Hitler Youth. Rolf shivered, his breath visible as he exhaled with a shaky sound.. It was cold and wet for May. He saw Scharführer Esserholtz, the equivalent rank of a Sergeant moving towards him. “Esserholtz.” He called. The older man sat with him, shivering in the cold. “What’s the news?” Rolf asked. Eseerholtz glanced over at Rolf, his eyes taking in the SS insignia on his collar, the single pip on his epaulet, designating him as a First Lieutenant. The gleaming black pistol holster that held the Luger. The older man reflected he’d been in the army almost as many years as this boy had been alive. And here this boy was in charge of a Company in the ReichsKrieg, the German army.

“Herr Obersturmführer, the word is that The Fuhrer is dead.” The Sergeant told him. “Admiral Doenitz is in charge of the Reich. Boorman has succeeded the Führer as head of the party.” He knew that would be important to Rolf. He was so dedicated to the idealogy, Esserholts knew. “Goebbels has killed himself and his family.” He cradled his rifle, shrugging. “Alles ist kaput.” All is lost.

All is lost. Rolf looked down at his feet. He’d risen quickly in the 6th SS Panzer division, his Hitler Youth background helping him to Officer Rank. He could recall trading in his brown uniform Youth for the all black Waffen SS uniform, and the feeling of pride. His rank was as a 1st Lieutenant, in the division that would take part in the Battle of the Bulge. It had not been too long ago that Rolf had gotten the news from his Hitler Youth leader that he was being shipped to battle. “You will have the chance you’ve dreamed about, to take up arms against the invading English and Americans.” He’d been told. “You will report to 6th SS Panzer as a First Lieutenant.” The man, Herr Axmann, had looked at him with pity. “Remember, the men you will command have been fighting for years. Be firm, polite, respectful… but remember that you are an officer in the Waffen SS.”

For those of you who read this kind of stuff, you now know i’m ready to play in Forsyth’s playground. I’m all set to link the Third Reich to Odessa to the Vatican… and tie that into the Organization.

Rolf will be the Engineer of the first book, cold calculating, ruthless. He’ll tap into his experience from Bastogne to make him the most effective Engineer the Organization has ever seen.

This book will set the stage that my apocalyptic series will stage in.

Meet… David Lynch

David Lynch is not the villain in my stories, but he’s certainly one of the more colorful evil types. He’s the guy you worry about. When the Antagonist decides someone has embarrassed him or angered him, Lynch is called out.

European Suits, stylish, gray eyes, dark hair that’s a little long. And… he’s ruthless. If when you see him he happens to be smoking a cigar (usually an expensive Cuban)… run. He’s planning someone’s death.

Lynch’s job in the novels is that of an Engineer,  a secret assassin for the Organization, a secret shadow government pulling strings and running the visible governments.

Lynch likes style, and is accomplished at languages, as you start seeing in the 4th book (currently in progress). Lynch understands right from wrong – he just really doesn’t understand how it applies to him.

And that’s a major reason why the Organization has hired him as an Engineer.

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