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How To Connect Better with Your Main Character

By Marilyn Horowitz

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This morning I worked with two of my favorite private students. One is a screenwriter working on a romantic comedy about a commitment-phobic banker, and the other, the first novel in a trilogy about a housewife with mystical powers whose job is to keep demons from another dimension from crossing the veil and creating havoc on earth. Both students are fine writers and good storytellers, but often stumble when they create an exciting plot situation because they become unsure about how the hero or heroine will react.

In my fifteen plus years as a writing coach, I have constantly been faced with writers wrestling with this problem. Being a coach, not a therapist, I became increasingly frustrated as to how to move my students smoothly down the path to completion of their book and screenplays.

My solution was to have students complete a series of exercises so that they could imagine what they themselves would do in the situation, and then compare that with the actions the characters might take.

It was only when they were able to see themselves as characters in the script that I was able to help them write better, and quickly complete their stories.

Here is the exercise:

1.  Set a timer for 15 minutes.

2.  Take the scene you are working on and save it to a new file.

3.  Change the hero or heroine’s name to your own.

4.  Rewrite the scene based on what you would really do in the situation presented in the scene, but ignoring how these choices will affect the rest of the script.

5. Put it away for a while and then reread it, comparing your choices with the ones you think your character would make.

6. Compare your choices with the ones your characters made, and decide if you allowed your characters to follow their instinct, and if not, make the appropriate changes.

About Marilyn Horowitz

Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, author, producer, and Manhattan-based writing consultant, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She is also a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Horowitz has created a revolutionary system that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked writing system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and the University of California, Long Beach.

Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007). Her new novel, The Book of Zev is available on Amazon.

Screenwriting Article by Marilyn Horowitz

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