Long ago, here in Britain, when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister there was an outcry in some sections of the media because he couldn’t decide what his favourite biscuit was when he was asked. It was a simple question but one that got caught up in a hailstorm of advisors all pondering what the best response to give was if he wanted to appear like a man who would be a good leader of the country. Would a Rich Tea be too boring? Would a Pink Wafer be far too obscure? Was a Kit Kat a biscuit or more of a chocolate bar? In the end he told them he’d get back to them. It was seen as indecision and the right wing press who always wanted an excuse to take him down used it as a club to beat the last bit of life out of any political career he had left.
Mind you, calling a woman who has voted for your party for the last fifty years ‘a narrow minded bigot’ live on TV probably didn’t help him in the long run.
Why am I bringing this strange occurrence of 2010 into a blog about script writing? As part of The Unlocked Project I’ll soon be thinking up names for my characters. Often in the past I’ve seen other writers stress over what to call their creations, almost to the point of it being a great achievement when it suddenly comes to them and they leap into the air shouting “Kevin! He’s most certainly a Kevin!”. I have seen downloadable forms for such character profiles which encourage you to fill in a vast pile of questions about them. What music is your character into? How many sexual partners have they had? What, indeed, is their favourite biscuit? My response to such detail is simple, it doesn’t matter.
Maybe I’m just really bad at writing characters but I’ve never, ever bothered going into masses of details about anything that won’t effect the story in the long run. As long as the story is powered along by the character’s actions rather than just some random events then I don’t give a hoot what their favourite lesson in school was. What matters is how they react in the environment you’ve created. It’s a complete mystery to me as to why many writers fret so much over something that’ll stand in the way of the important thing, your story.
Just in case you’re wondering, mine’s a bourbon cream.