Guest Author - Robin Rounds Whittemore
Making main characters, as well as supporting characters is something worth spending a large amount of time doing. You will want to get in the mind, body, and soul of a character. The characters are yours from their birth until their death.
The background of the character will help in deciding what their reaction will be to different scenarios. If they have been sheltered all their life, they might not be able to handle or comprehend an everyday situation like homelessness. While homelessness is not funny, the characters clueless reaction to something the homeless person says or does might be odd enough to draw a laugh.
Rose Nylund of the Golden Girls was portrayed by Betty White. Rose was from Minnesota and had a great marriage with Charley. When he passed away, she was forced to go it alone. She met her roommates and didnít have to be alone for long. Her naÔvetť got her into some scrapes along the way, and hilarity ensued as her friends were there to help her emotionally handle whatever came her way.
In contrast to Rose Nylund, there was the character of Arthur Fonzarelli. Henry Winkler brought to life a hardened type of person whose father had left him at an early age. He dropped out of school to go back to night school to graduate with his buddies. A self-made person, his street smarts was a far cry from the vulnerability of Rose.
These are two very different types of people. Fonzie could snap his fingers and women came running. If Rose snapped her fingers, dogs might come running, but she probably would not have attracted men. Rose was gentle inside and out. Fonzie was tough on the outside and gentle on the inside.
Try this writing exercise with these two characters in mind. Pretend that you are an encyclopedia salesperson portrayed by, letís sayÖ.Tim Conway. Write some dialogue that you might encounter with Rose. Try it again, but this time with Fonzie as your prospective customer.
Now, when you write your characters, make note of their age, weight, hair color, as well as their upbringing and other circumstances in their lives. Has their past hardened them, or made them gentle, happy, and outgoing? Perhaps they are somewhere in between.
Will your characters be workaholics, or people that put family first no matter what else comes their way? How would they react to being laid off from a job? What if they werenít invited to a dinner party that the rest of the block was invited to?
These are just some thoughts to start you off by using just these two differing characters of Rose and Fonzie. You are nowhere near finished; as this has not even scratched the surface of character building. This exercise has just begun and will be never ending for your sitcom writing career. As with real people, your characters will have dimensions that will continue to develop.