In writing for the screen, we are happy to think of plotting, and story structure, as the technical aspects of writing, the things you need to know about to make the story hold together. But it’s in the characters, we say, that the emotional centre of the story is found. And it’s in writing characters that the screenwriter most digs into themselves, their experiences, memories and emotions.

If plotting is the technical centre of the story, character writing is the emotional centre.

I don’t believe that. Of course emotion is involved in character writing, but there is a technical side to it too, a side that is often neglected. I can’t help a writer with the emotional side of character writing, that’s their own personal journey, but I think I can help open up some of the technical challenges of character writing, and in doing so help deepen your understanding of character and show you how to apply the things we learn together practically in your writing.

That’s what my new Character Workshop aims to do. It will show you, I promise, new ways of looking at character, and new ways of thinking about how characters move through stories. We will look at deep underlying patterns of character that are found in all stories, and how many superficially different characters work in very similar ways.  

We’ll look too at how the way you tell the character’s story gives just as much, if not more, emotional impact as the personal details of the individual character. And we’ll look at some interesting and controversial questions: do male and female characters work differently? Is understanding a character’s relationship to status more important than knowing their individual characteristics? Do audiences identify with characters, or situations? Are TV characters different from cinema characters?

If you have been to one of my workshops before, you’ll know it’s a mix of slides, clips, conversations and even friendly arguments sometimes. And when the two days are done, you’ll get a full set of notes sent to you, to remind you of all we have talked about.

The Workshop is suitable for screenwriters of all kinds, directors, producers, development executives and anyone interested in deepening their exploration of storytelling.

Stephen Cleary

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