Two Simple Ways Writers Can Improve Their Characters — Matthew Kalil

Film Courage: How can a writer develop character using The Three Wells of screenwriting [Matthew’s Book]?

Matthew Kalil, Screenwriter/Author/Instructor: It’s kind of super-easy. It’s one of the easiest ways. I’ve got a chapter in the book on writing characters from using The Three Wells and just to give you an idea if you have a character (and it can be a very minor character) or a major character but I’ll just use a minor character for an example to show you how powerful The Wells can be.

If for example you have a character that is walking into a store and there is some meeting with the store clerk (the clerk at the store) and they are doing something and there is some dialogue between them. So this is a minor character, the store clerk is some minor character who you could just write as STORE CLERK 1.

But if you want to kind of use The Three Wells to maybe pump up that character you can look at your External Sources Well and make a list of characters from movies that you like. They could be absolutely random characters but they should be in a way just I like this character, I like this character. I like the guy from THE SHINING. Anyone I like, Michael Corleone from THE GODFATHER. I’m naming all the characters from good movies for some reason. I like Spiderman’s best buddy in SPIDERMAN (he’s funny). You make a list of all the movies and all the characters from the movies you’ve seen.

Then you take your store clerk and you say Could he be Spiderman’s buddy from that other movie? He could be Spiderman’s buddy from that other movie and so suddenly your Imagination Well is kind of lighting up because you’re kind of making up a condition of two things and suddenly you’ve got this Oh wait? What happens if he was Spiderman’s buddy from the other movie? And the clerk finally has a character, he’s got glasses, he’s a bit chubby, and he’s really funny and maybe what you buy from him links up to movies or comic books and now you’ve got a character just from doing that. It’s almost like a Rolodex, you are flipping through for all of these characters that existed before and are putting them through and putting them in kind of minor parts of your movie. You could do it with a major character but then you need to take…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Bio: Matthew Kalil is a writer, director and script editor. He has written and co-written over 40 produced episodes of TV and has received various grants, development funding and awards. Matthew’s productions have been screened and broadcast in Canada, Denmark, Morocco, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom. Since receiving his MA in Screenwriting, he has been teaching, writing and mentoring students for close to 20 years. Matthew has developed a unique system of screenwriting theory that helps beginners as well as established screenwriters get in touch with their creative cores. His workshops have touched and inspired thousands of participants. His gentle and insightful script editing guidance has helped many writers realize the stories they were always trying to tell.

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