Posted by: michellemuldoon | October 17, 2010

Character Matters


I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to post. My humble apologies for my tardiness. I’m a bad girl for forsaking my responsibilities… *sigh*

I asked friends a while back to submit ideas for the blog, and I have to admit, I’ve failed them miserably.  I don’t think I’m in a position to comment on the nature of writing and the Universe, although, I think, I might tackle that topic someday, and I’ve sent out some feelers on the other (the hot/cold color coding of filming scripts), but as of yet, have no information on that topic.

So, left up to my own devices, I’ve decided it’s nigh time we talked about character.  How many times have you commented, ” Oh that ______, she/he’s such a character”? How many times have you sat back on a patio, in an airport, on the bus, at a cafe and noticed the “characters” that populate your surroundings?

Well, it’s time to put it all to good use.

Every great character has a “tell”, a tick, a unique “something” that makes you stand back and really take notice. Some of the great TV characters, for me, include Monk (OCD), Sue Sylvester of Glee (the tracksuits), Les Nessman of WKRP(oh, those bow ties), Marshall the US Marshall of In Plain Sight (the existentialist), Mr Spock (the logic, the eyebrow raise, etc, etc) and the Fonz (leather jacket, thumbs up and “eyyy”). I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, it just shows that to last past episode two, you need to have some memorable characters to keep a show going. And you need to establish what makes them different and eye-catching early, and fast.

Notice in the examples given that their ticks/tells/something can be a catch phrase, a disorder, a consistent physical response and even clothing that personifies their personality. Either way, in their time, these characters were and still are unforgettable.  Sometimes, the tell/tick/something, can change as a sign that the character has changed, and sometimes, if overdone, the unique quality can be so over done, it becomes annoying.  The character “jumps the shark” and we don’t want to stay on the rollercoaster with them anymore.

When I decide on a really bizarre “tell”, I usually apply that to a secondary character. It isn’t overkill that way, and I can use it as a comedic break in scenes or acts that have gotten too heavy. These characters often become my favorites.

So, go visit a restaurant patio or coffee shop. Try lining up on your own at the theatre and eaves-dropping around you. Observe, take notes and really watch people for the subtleties of their mannerisms.

The world is a fertile ground for the odd, the unique, the awkward and the over-confident.  Enjoy it all, then rush home and turn those observations into the most unique characters the big and small screen have ever seen.

As I always say, if the world is your oyster, don’t forget the horseradish mayo.



  1. Enjoyed catching up with your posts…good stuff

    • Thanks! Love that you come by for a visit.


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