How to Create Characters

Today is “Writing Tip Day” at TVWriter™ for no particular reason other than why not have a Writing Tip Day? And we’re starting off with characterization tips from one of our favorite writer/director/blogger types who has no idea in the world that we exist, the Highly Esteemed Ken Levine (of CHEERS and FRASIER and stuff like that). Don’t forget to read Ken’s blog!

by Ken Levine

jerry_mahoney_controls_02I love when Friday Questions become entire posts.  Here’s one.

Max Davis wonders:

Hi Ken, do you have any techniques or exercises you use when creating sitcom characters? I’m having a bit of trouble breathing life into mine.

First I ask “what is his drive?” What does the character want or need that he can’t just get? You want characters who are active.

Similarly, what is his attitude? What is his worldview?  You want your characters to be opinionated.

And this is very important: Is this a character who I understand enough that I could write him? Will I be able to relate to this character?  Will I be able to get inside his head? I love JUSTIFIED, but there’s no way I could write that show. I have no idea what idiot hillbillies in Kentucky would do or say in any given situation. But I sure enjoy watching them.

It’s the old “write what you know” adage. Why? Because you want to be true to that character. Research often helps. You’d be surprised the gold you will find by simply researching your subject matter.

More factors: How will this character be funny? How will I be able to mine comedy out of this character?

Read it all