STEP FOUR: THE HANDSHAKE
In steps one and two, you thought about story. In step three, you thought about characters. It’s now time for step four, and that means. . .
Character, story. Story, character. Now say “Hello.”
That’s right—it’s time for your story and character to meet. It’s time to do character summary sheets.
Character summary sheets connect the character to the story. Here’s what they involve:
1. Character snapshot. Overall, if you were telling your best friend about this person, what would you say?
2. Motivation—what drives the character? Why are they acting this way?
3. Goal—related to motivation, but more. Think big picture. Think future.
4. Conflicts this character is facing.
5. Epiphany—what will be that AHA! moment when the person realizes something he or she (or it) did not know previously?
6. Direction—where the character is generally headed.
Will there be overlap? Yes, there will be overlap; that’s perfectly normal here, since the various parts are intertwined. To give you a better idea of what this might look like, let me show you an example for one of my characters, Roxy Lee. . .
CHARACTER SUMMARY SHEET FOR ROXY LEE:
Roxanne (Roxy) Lee
Female, new on the force, and facing male harassment, Roxy needs to crack a big case to gain the respect of the men, and she just may have found it. If she can solve the case she’s stumbled upon and bring the perp in, she just might not have to find a new place to work.
To gain respect as a police officer.
To lead these creeps one day—show them what a leader does! Also, to be the best single parent she can be to her daughter.
Her co-workers, her family, the community at large—attitude in an Asian cop? A female Asian cop? Who will stand for it?
She learns that if you play the system, instead of having it play you, the results are more positive. In fact, she’ll have to go against her own beliefs at the end in order to have a chance at the happy ending she’s seeking. On the other hand, it could cost her everything.
Roxanne alienates many in her attempt to make a name for herself on the force. Her support network just doesn’t seem to be there for her when she needs it. In the end, she may have to turn to someone she despises for that support, and it may cost her. Then again, if she cracks this case, maybe she’ll get what she finally deserves . . . maybe.
That’s all there is to it. This step starts to weave the strands together, bringing a bit more story out of the characters you’ve fleshed out. Again, do this step for your major characters, not the minor ones.
Try to knock out two character summary sheets before tomorrow. Really, if you have two characters with opposite goals who get in each other’s way, that creates conflict–and conflict is what will drive your story. Tomorrow, we continue to build on the firm foundation you’ve created. Join us!