Character Mapping

Last year I attended a talk by screenplay solver Laurie Hutzler at my local independent arthouse cinema, The Watershed.

Laurie has worked with everyone from Aardman to Pixar, solving their script issues, and making stuff flow and she proved to be a funny, bright and wonderful woman with whom I would love to have a pint of whisky one day. I bet she has some great stories about Martin Scorsese’s eyebrows.

She was in Bristol to talk about Character Map’s and help an audience of budding scriptwriters work out their protagonist’s story arc. I scribbled notes down, and drank red wine, and thought about how my character could beat up everyone else’s character in a fight. “I bet my character is better then your character. He memorised a entire book of fantastic facts when he was ten to fill in awkward silences between his parents.”

Did you know that the only animal besides humans that can get leprosy is an armadillo?  PLEASE DON’T DIVORCE!

This is the experiment Laurie had us carry out.

She asked us to use answer six questions about ourselves as an example, completely honestly, and then apply them to our character at some point to map out his journey.

Please take a minute to answer these questions. They are pretty illuminating/depressing.

  1. Among people who know you but do not know you well—what is the biggest misconception about who you are? What do people say about you in the loo or bathroom if they want to dismiss or belittle you?
  2. What was your greatest childhood worry or anxiety? This is a non-specific generalized fear. What would keep you awake at night as a kid if you thought about it too much?  What was a recurring dream or image that scared you?
  3. What are your strongest traits? What is your crutch in hard times? What personal traits get you through when the going gets tough? What traits do you lean on?  What do other people admire about you?
  4. These are traits you do not have. They are, however, traits you really admire in someone else. When you see these traits in someone else your heart leaps a bit and you wish you could have these wonderful traits yourself.  These are not skills or talents they are personality traits.
  5. What are the traits that get you in trouble? Sometimes, when things are going reasonably well, this is what will muck it up. This is the way you most often get yourself in hot water with loved ones, co-workers, authority figures or friends.
  6. Think of someone you cannot abide. This is someone you know well or someone you’ve observed briefly— it is a person who has actually passed through your life and not an historical or celebrity figure. When you met or observed this person, the hackles on your neck rose and you had a visceral response of intense dislike. What were the traits that this person had that set your teeth on edge?

What it all means…

  1. This is the mask you wear. The super cool fun time you that you bring out to parties, who just LOVES to tango. This aint the real you.
  2. This is your fear. This is what drives you, what you hide from, what motivates you to run in the opposite direction, your biggest vulnerability.  This is what stops you making a leap of faith, or what you think makes you unlovable.
  3. These are the things you rely on to fix problems, your false sense of security. You need to steer away from these if you want to face your fear. These are what you perceive to be your strongest traits.
  4. This is your true self, who you want to and can be. This is inside of you, if you face your fear.
  5. These are the bad traits, which the antagonist will prod and try and provoke. These get you into bad situations. Drunk on limeoncello in your living room thinking “but this is DISGUSTING, why am I drinking it still?”
  6. Your darth vader. Your evil spiderman. Your inner magneto. Your dark side. What you see in that other person is something about yourself, you don’t like. This is what happens if you rely solely on your strongest well worn out traits.

It’s like the therapy you didn’t want or need in your life isn’t it.

Still reading Anna Fucking Karenina. It never ends.





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