The Character Essay

When Ang Lee was directing Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, he had all the actors write a letter from their character. I’ve heard a few directors get their actors to write essays about their characters, and it struck me this might be a good thing for writers to do.

I tried it a for a few characters, just writing an essay about their motivations and beliefs and past. I found it really useful. You don’t always get time to explore a character fully in a book, especially if the plot moves fast, so the essay can give you that time to really get to know them.

It doesn’t have to be an essay. Perhaps a letter, or a short story. Something that is personal to them, that is just about them, can be very illuminating.

And even if you don’t use the material, the fact that you know this character really well now will come through when you write it. We always know when our authors have imagined a rich backstory for characters, even if they never tell it. The characters always seem more alive.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

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