Lessons Learnt: The Rewrite - Characters

We’re the creators of the web series Out of It. This is our weekly column to share with you all the things we learnt along the way.

8. Lessons Learnt: The Rewrite
Part 2: Building Character

Following on from last week’s discussion about Building Structure, this week we are focusing on Characters and how to develop them further in the Rewrite.

Structure and Character are interconnected - the story develops as the characters make choices and follow their objectives. So, it is vital to analyse both during a rewrite. As it was necessary to cut our episodes in half, we had less time to reveal our characters and their motivations (and subsequent decisions). It’s important to make sure your characters have credible journeys, stakes and relationships to appear fully formed and below are a few exercises that can help.

Each character must bring something new to the story and be believable to the audience. In our series, we want each episode to push our characters into further choices, actions or difficult situations which ultimately push them to make decisions (and in the case of our characters – bad decisions).

When we started to analyse our characters, we wrote out the journey and motivation of every character for each episode, even the background characters. Similarly to last week’s exercise on breaking down the structure of episodes into units of action, you can breakdown your character’s journey by identifying their key events. Write out their individual journey in a timeline, identify the moments of change and highlight the moments they meet other characters in the story.

When we utilised this exercise with background characters we found it actually led to more realistic comedic moments. For example, our three main characters interrupt a couple at a bar. By writing out the couple’s journey before their interaction with the main characters, we realised how best for them to be affected by the meeting. In addition, by identifying the separate character journeys, varying objectives and different backgrounds it will help you to ensure that your characters have distinct voices.

If you’re analysing your characters in the rewrite, here are a few useful questions to ask yourself:

  • Have the characters been explored to their fullest?
  • Does each character have a clear objective, if so do they achieve it or how do they go about trying to achieve it?
  • Do the stakes for the characters rise throughout the episode or series?

Taking the time to fully explore your characters is vital to telling your story.
How do you deal with redrafts or analysing your characters? We’d love to hear your comments below.


I once did a major rewrite of a character not because of budget but because the actor went a totally different way than I expected- in a really good way, it turned out! They turned a one-off too-cool-for-school character into a hilariously enthusiastic puppy dog of a character, so I switched some things around and their character ended up having a way cooler arc because of it. I’ve also rewritten dialog when an actor’s voice doesn’t quite fit the cadence of their lines, which always opens up new and interesting layers.