Out of a character’s pain, loneliness, desire, anger, depression, a story – one that will make an audience bleed tears and laughter – is born.
Finally, I get to write this piece! So excited.
This is the first of this series as I take you on the journey of creating my latest character, Alice Eno Henshaw, in the screenplay I am currently developing with the working title: Rules of Engagement.
So, just a little background…
I first dreamed up Alice when a scene flashed in my mind one day. In this scene, I saw palms…two chubby palms – a five-year old’s palms – flattened against a window pane with a melancholic face between both palms. The child was looking out the window, tears frozen in those wide, glassy eyes. I was outside looking in at this child in my mind’s eye and I could see that she (the child) longed for something that was not there, something or someone she hoped would come but would probably never would.
As I watched, those hurt eyes lost their shine and became cold, dead to the world as the little girl turned to face an older woman, whom, of course, I would later identify (or bestow upon her the title) as her mother.
In that moment, Alice was born.
Please note the scene you just read is imaginary, but I felt like I was there with them, as the mother continued chatting happily, trying to get the little girl to become a part of the festivities. At this point, I noticed a cake with several lit candles, forgotten, on the table between them.
[bctt tweet="Out of a character's pain, a story - one that will make an audience bleed - is born." username="shadesofgenius"]
Back to the real body of the screenplay:
Alice, a 30-year old PR and image consultant, quite successful but not there yet, is on the verge of achieving success if only she can get her stubborn latest client – a CEO of an emerging tech company – to follow her rules of engaging with his employees and the media, following a disastrous product launch scandal, of which he is at the centre. She needs to save his reputation and the company’s.
To Alice, at the beginning, it seems an easy enough task, but nothing is ever straightforward in a movie 😊.
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First, her co-lead character and client, Ikenna, like I mentioned earlier is stubborn as hell. Next, he too is struggling with his own pain which he has buried deep in his subconscious such that it is only the erratic way he behaves that is the only manifestation of his pain.
Enough with the deep things.
Rules of Engagement is light hearted and funny. It is a romantic comedy, and like all movies in this genre, my job is to ensure the characters have the pizzazz and extra to deliver the brand promise of making the audience laugh and have those “awwww” moments.
So, how does Alice, a perfectionist, straight-laced, seemingly cold-hearted character, make someone fall over themselves with laughter or make her audience fall in love?
It’s all in what I call the ‘theory of black versus white’ in character development; or ying-yang, more like an oxymoron.
You see, Alice and Ikenna are like day and night, and it is this difference, this battle of wills if you may, and the way they react differently to all the orishishi I will be throwing their way, that will make you watch the film later and hopefully, find true magic.
Alice’s goal is simple: to get Ikenna CEO-ready enough to handle his company’s next biggest product launch. If he messes up like he did at the beginning of the movie (where he lands on the front page of all the gossip blogs 😊), he could get fired from his CEO position by the company’s frustrated board members and lose the very thing he has worked for all his life. But Ikenna is not ready to play fair; in fact, he pretty much makes Alice’s job difficult as hell.
And unfortunately, Ikenna:
- Does not believe he has a problem
- Is too emotionally unstable to handle the CEO role but is too passionate about the company he created from scratch to abdicate the CEO responsibility
- Is a male chauvinist and treats Alice like a little girl who just wants to chop money
- Does not care what his company’s board and the media say about him, though his company is suffering for it
- Has a secret wound from his past he is silently nursing
- Etc, etc
If Alice achieves her goal and is able to thwart Ikenna’s penchant for putting sand-sand in her garri, there is a prize for her – she gets a lot of money to expand her business with referrals to several high-flying clients within the CEO circle plus she gets to tell her romantic mom “I told you so”. It is really a good deal Ikenna’s younger brother, a partner in the business, offers her, and knowing Alice, she will take on the challenge.
But Alice is not without her own problems:
- She is a stickler for rules and is not flexible at all
- Hates anything emotional
- Has trust issues with men, especially relationship polygamists.
- Has a mother who is always trying to match-make even though she has said one thousand times that she is not interested in relationships or getting married ever.
- Is still subconsciously hurt that her father chose another woman and kids over her and her mother when she was just ten.
A few things about character development:
- Have strong characters that have the perfect blend of opposites
- Audience should be able to relate with the character’s inner issues
- Be clear about your character’s Achilles’ heel; this makes each character relatable
- Don’t make it easy for your characters to achieve their goals! Like a wise woman once told me: “chase your character up a tree, and when s/he gets there, chase them up some more”.
Amidst the wahala, we will learn more about Alice’s Rules of Engagement and find out if she succeeds in achieving her goal.
Just for laughs, because life is not that deep, I found this photo below. What do you think? Leave your comments below.
On a generous note :), I am giving away my customised character breakdown template to the first 20 people that indicate by signing up below:[contact-form-7 id="308" title="Giveaways"]