Building character: The WriteGirl Character & Dialogue Workshop

By Pamela Avila
WriteGirl Volunteer

Building characters and constructing dialogue was the focus for 82 enthusiastic WriteGirl mentees and 70 dedicated mentors who attended the Character & Dialogue workshop at the Linwood Dunn Theater on Apr. 16. Professional screenwriters helped the girls craft their stories, honing their screenwriting skills before professional actors brought those words to life on stage.

WriteGirl’s executive director Keren Taylor and screenwriter Clare Sera, a founding WriteGirl volunteer, welcomed the girls to a “big fat day of screenwriting and monologue!” Taylor began the morning offering advice on writing, the importance of caring deeply about what you write, and creating the world you want to be in.

“If you treat everything in your world as an opportunity, you’ll never be bored,” Taylor said.

The day’s writing prompt was “You Don’t Even Know What Love Is.” Inspiration seeped through the room, a space that allowed the girls to feel like true Hollywood screenwriters.

Emmy award-winning screenwriter and playwright Jane Anderson spoke about character development and helped mentees brainstorm the different wants and obstacles of their characters. Drama based on reality in a screenplay is a successful way to develop substantial characters, she said. "[As writers], we have to take the responsibility for every character on the page,” she said.

Executive story editor for NBC’s drama Chicago Fire, Jill Weinberger, talked about giving characters dimension using internal and external conflicts a character may experience to help them become multidimensional. Weinberger communicated that in screenwriting, things don’t have to happen in an absolutely linear way because some of the finest stories are the unpredictable ones.

“What matters to me is conflict,” said Jamie Pachino, supervising producer and writer on NBC’s Chicago P.D. “Let’s not waste our time with something that doesn’t get us somewhere we need to be.” She also said that the language of each and every writer in the room is a “fingerprint” that makes each screenplay unique.

Mentees learned about crafting screenplays equipped with multifaceted characters, conflict and obstacles that serve a purpose, internal and/or external conflicts, monologues, resolution, and humor.

The girls were then invited to sit down with the writers and actors to receive feedback on their writing. After polishing up their scenes, screenplays, and character monologues, their work was brought to life on stage.

Professional writers in attendance included Clare Sera (Blended), Rebecca Addelman (New Girl), Rachel Feldman (Ledbetter), Josann McGibbon (Runaway Bride), Robin Shorr (Galavant), Courtney Turk and Kelley Turn (7th Heaven), and Maiya Williams (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Television personality and comedian Wayne Brady, along with actors Pamela Guest (Cleopatra Backstage), Tyler Hilton (One Tree Hill) and Vik Sahay (Chuck) performing the girls’ scenes in a fantastic showcase.

The workshop ended on a high note with Wayne Brady’s improv performance derived from words used to describe WriteGirl: Passion. Empower. Journals. Coffee. Support. Creativity. Voice. Shoes. Determination.

“As long as I’m a WriteGirl, I shall persevere,” he said.