Getting a bead on a character

How do you get a bead on a character? When I was writing short fiction I found that the details of a character’s physical appearance didn’t really matter. I liked to give the reader the mental space to create her or his own image and to make the character into anything they wanted to make it.

Since I’ve been writing films (that sounds so grand – I am actually only on my first), I’ve found that, in addition to being quite a different discipline from written stories, screenplays are all about the visual. Now, that sounds like a blinding glimpse of the bloody obvious, but until you attempt it, it’s really hard to understand. For the past six months as I’ve working in extreme slow time on this script (life keeps nibbling away at my quiet time lately), I’ve been finding it really hard to picture one of my characters. I realised eventually that I had the wrong name for my character – once I changed his name (from Alex to Josh), an image burst into my brain (of Josh Holloway, naturally) and the character just clicked into place. I mean, I had his ‘back story’ all sorted, I had his ‘arc’ mapped out and I knew what kind of man he is, but I just couldn’t pin him down. Now I have, I’m really happy. I know it’s an extreme long shot that the film would get made and it’s an even longer shot that we’d get Mr Holloway, but that’s actually irrelevant right now. It’s important, because now I have the second of my two central characters sorted, I can move forward in creating challenges and tension for my main character, Angie. Boy, is she in for a hard road ahead!

So, dear reader, how do you get a bead on your characters?

Josh Holloway

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