T minus 9 days. On November 1, the Zero Draft Thirty challenge kicks off!
Zero Draft is what some writers call the vomit draft… or muscle draft… the just-get-the-damn-thing-done draft.
And thirty is… well… the number 30 which is… oh, yeah… the number of days in November!
Write an entire first draft of a script in November — FADE IN to FADE OUT in 30 days.
Feature length movie screenplay. Original TV pilot. Rewrite a current project. Break a story in prep. Generate a month’s worth of story concepts.
Whatever you feel will ratchet your creative ambitions into overdrive, do THAT!
Check out the comments and see the dozens upon dozens of writers who have signed up. And you are invited to join the creative fracas.
In the days leading up to ZDT, I figured we could spend some time talking about story prep as well as psychological prep for our collective writing effort. I began that process in this post sharing some tips on how to break a story in prep. Yesterday we got down to brass tacks in talking about a powerful prep tool: index cards. Today let’s talk character development.
In my view, the single most important key to story prep is curiosity. Specifically getting curious about your characters. They are the players in the narrative. They have lived in your story universe 24/7/365. At some fundamental level, it’s their story. So who better to learn about your story than by engaging your characters?
How to do that? Get curious! Ask questions! Reflect on each character’s personal history and backstory:
Personal History: Everything that has happened to a character which has shaped them generally.
Backstory: Only those events and incidents which have a specific bearing on your story.
The idea is to amass as much information, background, and content about each character as you can. It’s all potential narrative material. Then as you focus your story, the most relevant dynamics emerge becoming the character’s backstory, providing important grist for your plotting process.
Here are links to a bunch of character development tools:
- Blank Character Sheet (+370 Questions)
- Abridged Character Sheet (100 Questions)
- Big-Ass Character Sheet
- Character Creation Form
- Character Sheet by Jody Hedlund
- Creating a character Bio Sheet
- Character Analysis Worksheet
- 100 Character Development questions for writers
- Create a Character Profile
- Character Development Worksheet
- Original Character Bio-Sheet
- Character Chart for Fiction Writers
- A Character Chart By Charlotte Dillon
- Fiction Writer’s Character Chart
- Detailed Character Sheet
- Character Sheet Template
- Character Twenty-Question Worksheet
- In-Depth Character Sheet
- Character Worksheet
- Character Interview Sheet (First Person)
- Background Questionnaire (First Person)
- Characters Perceptions (How do other people perceive your character?)
Obviously you’re not expected to use all of these. Rather consider them resources from which you can pick and choose when working with your characters.
But notice how so many of them involve asking questions. Again the key is to get curious about your characters. Why are they the way they are? How are they the way they are?
Who. What. Where. When. Why. The journalist’s credo applies as you are digging into each character to uncover their story so that collectively the Story emerges.
My embrace of the importance of story prep led me to create – to my knowledge – the first online workshop of its type — Prep: From Concept to Outline. That was five years ago when I launched Screenwriting Master Class and it has proved to be one of the most popular courses I have ever offered. The next session begins Monday, October 26. And yes, we work with a variety of question-based exercises to delve into the individual and collective lives of your story’s characters. From that, your plot organically comes into being.
Back to the Zero Draft Thirty challenge.
November 1: Type FADE IN.
November 30: Type FADE OUT.
30 days. A first draft of an original screenplay.
Who’s with me?
It’s cool! It’s crazy! It’s free!
NOTE: For those of you using Twitter, use the hashtag #ZD30SCRIPT.
Background on the Zero Draft Thirty challenge:
And here’s something cool! Writer and GITS follower Sergio Berrione has translated the Zero Draft Thirty challenge into Spanish! Any other hearty souls want to translate it into another language, contact me. Story: The Universal Language!