Character development exercise to get you thinking about character depth, you should have a back story for your character.
I have always been a big fan of strong female protagonists, my all time favourite Television series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I find successful strong female protagonists quite rare; the fantastic thing about Buffy was that she was always both mentally and physically stronger than the men in her life. I have never liked the fact that in horror films the women are usually so defenceless. Even in the horror films where there is a female survivor at the end, they usually only survive as a result of being saved by a male character. The difference with Buffy is, she is the one doing the saving. More often than not she has to save her male love-interests, which is a very unusual plot twist to the conventional horror film style.
This inspired me to create a character profile for Buffy, which I felt would help me start thinking about character development and the elements of a strong protagonist.
Age: 16 from season 1
Appearance: Small and slim with blonde hair and brown eyes
Strengths: Fast wit, sarcasm, superhuman strength, fighting ability, weapon handling, accelerated healing, intuition, has prophetic dreams, deceptively strong; people don’t assume she’s the slayer from her small frame and girlie appearance.
Weaknesses: Likes a “bad boy”, soft spot for vampires, sometimes lets her emotions get in the way of her destiny to protect the world, often resents her responsibilities, wants a normal life, defies authority.
Background information: She’s not very academic – street smart rather than academic. She enjoys going out with her friends, her friends are like her family; Scooby gang. Consisting of mainly: Xander and Willow. Strong male figure in her life is Giles, her watcher. Her father is mostly absent, as her parents are spilt up and she lives with her mother. She has a sister Dawn, whom she is very protective over. She fell in love with a Vampire: Angel. Most of her relationships don’t work due to the fact she is the slayer. The responsibility of being the slayer holds her back from having the ‘normal life’ she desires.
Personality: Good sense of humor; can make light of a dark situation. Sarcastic humor. Kind willed, wants to help people. Gives people a second chance, gives Spike loads of chances after he’s done evil things.
One of the things that makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer so enjoyable to watch is the development of her relationships with friends, family and lovers. The men in her life come and go, her select friends are very loyal to her, her enemies are believable.
All these aspects make for a relatable protagonist. I think the important thing about your protagonist, is that the audience can relate to him/her.
Character profile for my character:
Character profile for ELI WELLS – main character of short film
Age: 23 Years old
Appearance: Tall, brown hair, brown eyes
Height: 5ft 10
Occupation: Just finished a law degree, but doesn’t want to be a lawyer. His father paid for his law degree for him, but he regrets doing it and feels he’s wasted time doing something that doesn’t make him happy.
Hometown: North London, Highgate
Class: Upper middle class family
Parents: Dennis and Christine Wells. Dennis is a Tax Lawyer, defending big corporations and Christine owns a posh cafe near their house in Highgate
Religious beliefs: Both Eli’s parents are Christian, but Eli is atheist
Relationship with parents: He doesn’t get on with his father, his father is a very controlling and manipulative man, he forced Eli to go to law school even though he knew he wasn’t passionate about it. He believes his only son should follow in his footsteps. He gets on very well with his mother but she is weak in comparison to his father and never sticks up for Eli, which he hates.
Siblings: Eli had a twin brother Eric, but he drowned at the age of 4. Eli believes his father has always thought Eli was responsible for Eric’s death because it had been his idea to go swimming in the sea when they were on holiday, which is how Eric had drowned. Eli has always felt a sense of being incomplete since Eric’s death.
When he was younger he had always dreamed of being a captain of a ship, but his parents hadn’t wanted him to pursue his, because of his brothers death at had been too painful for them. His mother developed a fear of the sea after his brothers death, and refused to let Eli go anywhere near the sea.
When Eli came back from university he fell out with his father because he refused to follow his fathers ambitions for him, as being a lawyer. He has since moved out of his house in London to be near the sea. He’s currently working on cruise ships, but he isn’t happy as he has more ambition and wants to be a captain of his own ship.
Eli’s love for the sea links in with the films location of Beachy Head.
In the early stages of thinking about the character of Eli I gave my friend Gabriel Owen who is a very talented actor, director and screen writer, my script to read. He felt he really connection with the character of Eli and offered to be in the pilot of the short film.