Building well rounded characters as actors is an important job, one that takes time and effort. We’ve all had experiences that have shaped us into who we are, or made us think and act the way we do, experiences create stories. Same goes for every character, if you want to create great characters that aren’t one dimensional you’ll need to think about adding depth and detail. Some of you may be thinking what’s the best way to do that? Well, here is a character concept template you can fill out for characters, maybe you’ve got a role in a play or feature film, or maybe you want to create characters for a new novel you’re writing. Whatever it may be, this template can help you build a solid background for your characters.
The character Concept Template
#1: Who’s the character
If you’re making a new character from scratch then you can create anything you’d like, this is where it gets fun! Firstly, start off by thinking about who is your character? To build a well rounded character it’s important to think of events from early on in your character’s life. Thinking about these questions can help visualize what they look like and the type of world you’re building for them.
These questions should be a guideline for your characters, however put as much detail as you can into them, the more thought out answers you have for each the better. For example, the question What is my name? Just putting your name as John Doe can be a little vague, but putting something like Manning Edgeworth, Manning meaning a brave or valiant man. A name his mother gave to him shortly after his father passed away, has more depth, we know what his name is and where he got it, which gives you a lot more information than just John Doe.
There’s many stories in a name that can help build your character’s identity, so be thinking about name meanings, did the name get passed down by someone special? Did it change and why? Thinking a little outside the box for each question can really take your character somewhere you weren’t expecting which is always a great surprise.
If you’re building a character from a script or novel then you can simply add in all of the given details but expand on them. For example, if the script doesn’t say whether you have siblings or an occupation, then that’s where you can make something up that would suit your character.
A good way to go about these certain questions is to ask yourself why – why does your character have that particular name? Or why does your character have the education she or he does? The why question can open up so many avenues for your character. For example, one of Manning Edgeworth’s defense mechanisms might be denial because he lost his father when he was young and his way of dealing with pain is to be in denial and keep covering up for himself.
#2: What’s happening now
This part is more focused on your actions, surroundings, objectives and super objectives, this is where your character is present. Be thinking about what your character is doing in a particular scene. What has happened prior to a scene, what’s happening currently and what’s your character’s motives within the scene?
The objective is a goal that your character wants to achieve, objective’s should also be action-oriented. Let’s take my character Manning, he wants to break up with his girlfriend Astrid, using verbs is the best way because they’re action words, so in order to communicate he uses actions like: to confess, to reveal or extinguish.
Whereas Astrid doesn’t want to break up, so her actions could be: to beg, to threaten, or to manipulate. These verbs give them both a strong motive to get what they both want.
Super-objectives focus on the entirety of the script or novel, this is your end goal. Usually super-objectives are a little more subtle than your objectives. For example, Manning wants to be a professor at the university where his father taught. But even more than that, Manning wants to follow in the footsteps of his father and make him proud. So his super objective is to be accepted into one of the hardest universities.
Thinking about objectives and super objectives are crucial for your character, it’s the driving force. It can be easy to write surface level goals like, win the love interest, get more money, or hunt the bad guys, but think beyond that, what does your character really want? To be accepted, freedom from slavery, recovery from a childhood trauma, or to recieve affirmation. These questions can reveal the deepest and darkest parts of your character.
Another element to add is the surroundings and given circumstances. What’s your character’s environment like? Your relationship to your character’s place and space can have monumental effects on them, so be as specific as you can. Think about what your character is doing in a particular scene, are they biting their nails because of nervousness? Are they out for a run to get exercise? And what are they holding back? Is it anger towards a younger sibling? Is it tears, or is it the truth? Never be afraid to go in depth with these questions.
Lastly, come up with a belief statement for your character, a worldview. For example, my character Manning might believe the world is a complicated, painful but hopeful place. Your character’s worldview shapes what they believe through certain events that have taken place during their life.
This character concept template is to help you build solid characters, it helps you flesh out likes and dislikes, strengths and weakness, relationships, capilbities, career history, accomplishments, desires, wealth, ethical values, artistic tendencies, academic ability and so on.
I hope you have fun using this character concept for scripts, novels or even just getting better at creating well rounded three dimensional characters. Now, go get your creative on.