Larry Brody’s TV Writing Tips & Tricks #5

Characterization – Part Two
by Larry Brody

Once you the writer have given us, the audience, characters with whom we can sympathize, your next job is to give these new people some “tsuris,” which is Yiddish for “Trouble with a Capital T.”

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As Aristotle pointed out a couple of years ago, effective writing comes from building up to a climax, which means that once you’ve established the basic situation for your character – the neec that must be fulfilled – you can start out “small,” with only one unmanageable stress.

And then, even as your character starts to dig out of the crisis, you’ve got to ratchet up the pressure.

That’s right, your job is to turn the screws, to pile more and more crap on your characters’ heads – especially the heads of the hero or heroes.

It’s not bad enough that the daughter of the lead has been kidnapped, his wife has to leave him as well. And then his dog gets run over, and his boss lets him know that if he doesn’t make it to the next PTA meeting and bring the cookies he’s fired.

Now we’re talking stress that even Xanax can’t handle!

With the right set of troubles, the audience feels for even the most unlikeable lead.

Remember THE PLAYER? Tim Robbins’ character kills a man who doesn’t deserve it in any way – other than that he’s a writer, that is – but Tim’s life gets so tough afterward that even writers rooted for him all the way home.

As writers we’re always playing God. Don’t forget to make your characters into Jobs. (And I don’t mean Steve!)


Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every Tuesday. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at larrybrody@tvwriter.com and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.