The other day I watched We Need to Talk About Kevin, which was a great, if not totally disturbing, film. It was sort of stuck in my head for a day (well, really, it’s still stuck in my head) so I was poking around looking for interviews with the actors—all of whom were brilliant in this—and came across this interview with Ezra Miller, who played the psychopathic son.
I’m a bit of an Ezra Miller fan girl. He’s a great actor, and there’s something else I love about him that I can’t put my finger on. Anyhow, he was answering a question about preparing for a role (this happens around 1:50), how he got into that dark, dark place where Kevin lived, and he said:
“By understanding the memories of a person’s life that forms this character, this person, I can understand who they are now. For Vince, Jr it was creating a whole history with this family who’s never been able to be honest with one another. And for Kevin it was less inventing a history and observing a history that was already laid out in front of me in terms of these pivotal moments in his life.”
And, well, that day Ezra Miller was my writing coach because his method of immersing himself in a character is a great way to give characters dimension. It’s asking how we, as writers, can understand the memories of a character in order to know her. What history can we create that will explain her physical and emotional reactions, who she’s friends with, why she embarks on the journey we’re following.
I’ve been revising to pump up a couple of my characters, and this seemed like a great way to look at it. Instead of filling out character sheets or forms I was understanding these people’s memories.
How do you dive into a character?