How To Create A Great Character by Houston Howard

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Film Courage: What suggestions do you have for writers on developing character?

Houston Howard, Transmedia Author/Instructor:  So for me The Hunger Games is no good without Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is the end. Harry Potter is the end. You have to have a great hero or your products don’t work obviously. It doesn’t matter how good your story world is, it doesn’t matter how good your plot is, you have to have a character that people care about.

So when you’re talking about the individual journey of the character and how to develop the character I think personally it goes back to soap box. It goes back to that thematic that you’re trying to create and develop and if you know what you want to say then you will naturally know how to develop your character because typically your soap box will be something that your character needs to learn and if you want to teach people how to overcome disabilities or if you go back to the Joseph Campbell thing about embracing your destiny.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Neo’s story (THE MATRIX for example) I think his soap box (that message), his character that goes from somebody that embraces their destiny and they have this tremendous destiny that he achieves at the end (really interesting character development happens there). But his starting point is him needing to find out the soap box. He’s at a place (you find him at a place) where he doesn’t feel like he has any purpose, any great destiny at all, he’s stuck in a cubicle and has a meaningless life. So his starting point there is a great starting point because if when he achieves the soap box (at the end of the movie) that’s what creates the development. 

I think any good screenwriter is going to tell you when you develop a character it’s cool to add in the high concept to that character. I think it’s cool to make that character interesting in a lot of different ways. But the emotional arc of the character needs to be routed in what are they learning. What’s their deficit in the beginning and how do they realize that soap box toward the end and that’s what gives them the emotional journey and I think if you tie that to basically the A and B story right? 

You have your A story which is the physical goal they are trying to achieve. So in TAKEN the A story is how do I get my daughter back?…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Watch the video on Youtube here

Special thanks to The LA Film School for allowing us to film this video interview on their campus.

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