June 26th, 2011 by Seth Kenvin
Flying Virgin America, laptop on tray-table, DishTV showing above that on the screen built into seatback, watching makingof, and struck by what’s at ~7 minutes into this video, thoughts from screenwriter Craig Mazin about how he practices his craft.
For me, the best way to write for characters is to be a little crazy yourself, the way actors are a little crazy, because actors have to sort of subsume their own sense of identity into somebody else’s, an imaginary person’s. When you’re a writer, you don’t have to do that quite so publicly, but you do have to sort get a little schizoid about the work, because when you’re writing characters, you have to think like they think. The only way you can think like they think is if you understand who they are fully, and the only way you can understand who they are fully is to really, really create another person.
This is just an extension of what we did as kids and made up imaginary friends or took little action figures and created desires and motivations for them and conflicts. Then you just be real about them as best you can, if you’re writing that sort of movie. Try and be true to the person that you’ve created, and they theoretically will turn out interesting if you’re true and real to them, but you have to do the work. You have to do the work, and you have to understand people, be a little bit of a psychologist
Such empathy in core to software product management as well, in our case concern with the perspectives, motivations, capabilites etc. of various user personas in parallel Craig Mazin’s thoughts about characters being written. Providing software for media production, we love these sorts of opportunities to relate our respective crafts.