Playwriting

Character is Everything

Orson Welles as Macbeth, the ultimate obsessed character

Orson Welles as Macbeth, the ultimate obsessed character

This post by Matt Debenham talks about when it comes to character writing, characters must be everything. He’s writing about how to do that from a fiction perspective but his suggestions are dead on for theatre as well. For me, character is everything in a play. Character is the spine, the backbone. The story is told through the characters. The audience connects to the characters. I am always going to connect more to a play that is character driven rather than idea driven or story driven. It took me a long time to figure out why I wasn’t fitting in as a playwright in Toronto – one of the reasons was that idea driven work did very well. And I just didn’t write that, or like that.

A couple of things I love from Matt’s post is that characters should be obsessed and that it’s important to put them into scenes. These are excellent points. There is a huge difference between characters telling the audience who they are and seeing that character in action. Seeing a character in a scene, revealing their personality and background by how they interact with others. And one of the ways to put a character into action is to make them obsessed. I often tell writers that you can make a character’s “want” anything in the world, so long as it’s important and urgent. The character must care about what they want and they must achieve that want ASAP.

This is not as efficient as making a character obsessed and it really makes me think about my own writing and honing in on an obsessed character. Obsession is such a wonderful trait because it can so often go so horribly wrong. And that’s what makes a great character. Obsession gone awry.

Think about some characters in TV shows, movies, or plays that you have enjoyed. Are they obsessed? If so, with what? And how does that obsession go awry?

About the author

Lindsay Price