I’m not a pro in character development and I don’t want to position myself as one by any means. However, I’m happy to share my experience in developing the characters of «Life After Orange» with you.
Know Your Characters
First of all, you gotta know your character, obviously. Become aware of who your character should be. What quirks, what fears, what positive and negative character traits make your character the person that they are? Make a mindmap and write down the most important traits and the rest will follow automatically.
Backstories Are Crucial
As soon as you have mapped out the personality of your characters it’s time to develop their backstory. Think about what your characters might have experienced in their past that made them the person they are today. Does your character have trust issues? They could’ve been cheated on by their girl- and boyfriends several times or their best friend might have betrayed them in a horrible way. Is your character very short-tempered? They might have lived in a family where yelling at each other or being a violent was part of their everyday life.
This is one way to combine character and backtory development but you could do it the other way around as well. It depends on whether the personality or the background of your characters are more important to your story. If the background of your characters is more important you can develop their personalities based on their backstories. So, let’s say, it’s really important for one of your characters to have experienced the death of several people close to them – it makes sense to make your character have trouble letting someone else get close to them.
Research Is Key
Now, if you develop the backstories of your characteres elaborately they can make up a great part of the actual story wich was the case in «Life After Orange». That’s great and a lot of work is done but it also means that the backstories need to add up from A to Z. Good research is key because you don’t want your viewer to notice any mistakes in your project. «Life After Orange» revolves around a lot of legal stuff based on the characters’ backgrounds. So what did I do? I studied law – that’s how dedicated I am to this project. Just kidding, turns out the Internet can make you an amateur lawyer. I studied the different types of felonies there are in the USA and what sentence the respective criminals get. Since I’m Swiss and not American this was a challenging task. But it was very enlightening and I’m a lawyer now – kind of.
Overviews Are Lifesavers
After you have mapped out all of the above mentioned elements and probably a couple of more such as relationships, a characters language etc. you will need an overview of everything. This is very important since it will make writing your story and completing your concept a lot easier. Make as many overviews of your project’s elements as you can, they will save your life or at least your project. Among other overviews I’ve created a table of the characters’ criminal facts and a timeline of the relevant events in their story.
Character development is a complex and crucial part of any film project so you should invest a lot of time in it and, more importantly, work on this task with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Dedicate yourself to your characters as if they were actual people in your life and I assure you, your characters will turn out great.