What the heck does your character want?

Simply stated, want produces action.  Think about it…If you suddenly developed a toothache, what would you inevitably end up doing?  You’d call your dentist.

Here’s a good question to ask yourself when your creating a main character.  What is the inciting incident established for the main character?  You know…something that must be gotten or achieved.  Something that the character believes will ultimately make his or her life better.

Here are some examples of (obvious) external goals: money, love, career promotion, the love of a child or family member, etc.

Whatever this goal is, your protagonist must feel that this goal is essential to his or her life, and the audience must see that the character will suffer or loose out “if” he or she does not achieve this goal.  This connection is paramount between the main character and the audience.  If it’s not there, you might lose your audience along the way.  The character won’t be compelling and the audience won’t want to root for him or her.

Milton’s worried about his red stapler…but that’s just the beginning.

–just a little writing tip, in case you’re in the midst!

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ATTENTION SCREENWRITERS:  Hey, if you ever want to listen to a script you’re working on, check out www.ReadThrough.com, where screenplays are performed by real voice actors.  Upload your script on the (SSL) securely protected site, and you can quickly cast your script from 200 actors.  In addition, sound affects and background music are available to help create a real performance that can be (privately) shared with your contacts.  It’s FREE for the first month, and a great tool for writers who want to hear their script read out-loud.

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While in a screenwriting class I…

I was in a screenwriting class this week, and many were workshopping they’re writing.  One lady said, “I’ve never read my writing out loud.  I’ve only read it to myself, and it’s amazing the difference after having it read out loud here last week. I’ve heard that it’s a good thing to do, but never understood how important it is until now.” I agree with her.  It’s a really important part of the process for a screenwriter (or for any writer).

While reading various articles online today about this topic, I came across a great post on the TEXAS A & M University site.  While it’s not specifically speaking about screenwriters, and it is addressing students the message is clear and relevant for any writer in any genre.  I thought I would share it with you.

The article says:

Reading Aloud

A simple, but surprisingly effective strategy for improving student writing is having them read their words aloud.

This technique is so effective, that asking students to read their work out loud is a standard part of most sessions at the UWC. While students are often surprised by the request, most quickly come to realize the value of giving voice to their words.

Why does reading aloud improve writing?

  • Reading out loud gives students a chance to hear the sound of their words. That may seem simple, but it’s significant. Good writing flows. It has a compelling rhythm. Students often fail to understand that—until they hear themselves speaking aloud the words they’ve put on the page.
  • Reading out loud helps students hear what they can’t see. Sometimes students have been looking at a paper so long or writing so fast that they fail to see what they’ve actually written down. When students read out loud, they usually find quite a few errors all on their own. Most are obvious mistakes like misspellings or omitted words, but sometimes students also spot bigger concerns like paragraphs that veer off tangent or evidence that doesn’t say what they thought it did.
  • Reading out loud slows them down. The brain is faster than the mouth, so when students read silently, they tend to zip right along. But when they say their words out loud, they’re forced to read more slowly. That can help them pay attention to things they’ve been speeding past and give them a fresh perspective on their efforts.
  • Reading out loud is multi-sensory. People tend to remember more about a subject—and engage with it more deeply—when they involve more of their senses.  When students see and hear their words, those words resonate more loudly with them.
  • Reading aloud makes students more accountable for their work. When students turn a paper in, the idea that someone—the instructor—is actually going to read it can be pretty remote—and easy to dismiss. But when their reader is right there in front of them, it’s harder to gloss over the fact that they didn’t put much effort into a paper or didn’t bother to proofread.

Five Ways to Use Reading Aloud with Your Students

  1. Encourage students to read aloud when proofreading their papers. If you mention this in class, most students won’t bother with it. If you mention it repeatedly, though, a few of them might at least give it a try. For instance, when you find lots of simple surface errors in a completed paper you might ask in your comments, “Did you read this aloud to yourself?” Eventually, students will get the idea.
  2. Incorporate reading aloud into a peer response session. After you describe the procedures for the peer review, students can break into small groups and read their work aloud to each other before discussing it. (If some students are especially uncomfortable with reading in front of others, you might allow them to let someone else read for them.)
  3. Read examples of professional writing aloud to students in your class. Let them hear the smooth cadence of an effective paragraph and the jarring disconnects of a clunky one. (This activity could also be part of a video or audio podcast you produce for students to access outside of class.)
  4. Assign students the task of finding examples of good writing to read aloud in class. The assignment will encourage them to consider what they believe constitutes good writing and can also be a way to familiarize them with some of the books and journals that are part of your discipline’s canon.
  5. Ask students to read their writing to you when they come in for a conference. It will remind you to listen to what your students are saying and it will encourage students to put more thought into what they’re writing.

As a screenwriter let me say I have found the above to be so true, and encourage writers–especially screenwriters to read their scripts out loud.  Even better, if you can find actors to perform it out loud.  

Here’s a LINK to the article:  http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/for-faculty/teaching-writing/instruction/reading-aloud/

This brings me to READTHROUGH.com, a TERRIFIC site that allows screenwriters to hear their scripts read out loud and online by professional actors!  Check it out!  You’ll be glad you did!