If you’re producing a fictional web series, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time developing the story arcs. While I don’t personally produce web series, I have written my fair share of fiction, and today I wanted to share with you a character development technique that I learned from a fiction-writing class and that helped me create better characters for my fiction.
The first step of this character development technique is to write up a one-sheet for each main character, starting with your protagonist and expanding to include any character with a recurring role or any character who is important to a single episode. Essentially, if the character is given a name, you probably want to write up a one-sheet profile.
Each one-sheet includes as much information as possible about the character’s background, even when the details aren’t shared in your web series. When was your character born? How did he or she grow up? How does your character react to stressful situations? What does your character like to do on the weekends? Is your character healthy? Fill up the profile with details, details, and more details. Then, when you think you’ve written enough, add more details!
Next, take a look at the one-sheet you wrote and give each character a secret that makes sense.
In life, we all have secrets. Even very innocent people have secrets. Maybe your character shoplifts. Or maybe he or she has a bank account the spouse doesn’t know about. Maybe your character cheats on his or her diet. You can make the secret as big or little as you want. If your character is likely to have several secrets, focus on the secret he or she finds most important and is least likely to tell anyone.
Lastly, you want to write a quick scene where your character spills the beans. What would possibly get your character to tell someone else his or her secret? For a character who is pretty innocent, this might be as easy as admitting it to the person behind them in line for coffee. For someone more secretive, the answer might be that they tell someone while on their deathbed.
Again, this secret and the scene where they tell it do not have to be related to your web series at all (though it might give you some good ideas). You can get as detailed or be as vague with the scene as you want; just make sure you think it through. What would your character really keep secret and why would he or she ever tell someone?
What Have You Learned?
After completing the exercise, think about what you’ve learned about your character. You can incorporate this into the rest of your story to make a more realistic, cohesive character. For example, when I completed this exercise for a character in one of my short stories, my character was a mother who kept very little secret – other than the fact that she often got very bad headaches sometimes and was too afraid to see a doctor. This led me to thinking about how mothers, like the one in my story, often take care of themselves last and although they can seem superhuman at times, they have fears just like the rest of us. I incorporated what I learned into the story and it was much stronger than my first draft.
I hope this exercise helps you with your own character development. If you give it a try, leave a comment below letting me know if it worked for you!