Many thanks to book publicist, Rachel Beretta from who is sharing an excerpt from the book, “Voice Acting for Dummies”, written by David and Stephanie Ciccarelli. I hope you’ll find it useful this voice acting lesson on creating characters and building a back story for your character(s).
+ + + + + + + + +
A back story is all the information about a character that an actor creates, based upon clues the author has given the actor, and through character development and details the actor infers from his own imagination from the text. Essentially, having a comprehensive back story allows you to make solid choices about how to be the character you’re assigned. The choices you make concerning your character are very important and need sound reasoning to support them.
The back story can include details such as where your character grew up, what his family was like, what he likes to do, what types of people he associates with (basically who his friends are), what his political leanings and religious beliefs are, and any experiences he has had that shaped who he is up to the point he is presented within the confines of the script.
In order to truly understand your character and present him well, you need to know the lens through which your character sees the world. How a person sees the world determines how he views himself, what’s most important to him, how he makes decisions, and how he relates to other people.
Every person sees the world a certain way, based upon his or her life experiences. You can refer to this as a worldview. You have one of your own, and if you’re trying to create an authentic personality for your character, your character has one as well. This worldview is why you want to know about your character and why creating a history for him gives you insight for why your character may do the things that he does or feels the way he feels about people or events in the script.
When you make a choice as your character, such as choosing what to say, how to say it, or when to flesh out your character’s back story, make sure you commit to the choice or otherwise it won’t come across with authenticity. Then physically play the character in your voice and act on those choices with conviction. For people to believe you, you need to first believe in yourself and the choices you’ve made for your character.
Gaining an appreciation for your character in its relation to other roles
Another aspect of character development includes making sure you know in great detail how your character relates to other characters in the script. Look at this experience as an adventure and have fun exploring.
Understanding relationships between characters isn’t only important in longer scripts and productions; it can also be critical for giving a believable performance in shorter projects like commercials.
Relationships fascinate people. Stories are interesting mainly because they involve people and how they relate to each other. Just think of all dramas, sitcoms, and reality TV shows. Although the show’s genre or plot may initially pique your interest, the characters and their relationships with each other pull you in and keep you interested.
When you first receive a script, we suggest you do the following to help you figure out as much as you can about the characters:
* Take note of who the characters are and jot down a little bit about them. You may want to know, for instance, if certain characters are related to each other. Whose lives are interwoven? What do these people have in common with each other? Are they part of each others’ lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime?
* Create a mini character sketch for each one. (Look at the earlier section, “Understanding your role: Back to basics” for how to create a character sketch.)
* After you know who the characters are, categorize each one in terms of their significance to your character. By categorizing, we mean that you identify which characters are most important to your character and also note whom your character interacts with most. This ordering can tell you whom your character has loyalties to or feels strongly about. Relationships between your character and those characters listed near the top of your list will be different than relationships your character has with characters who are lower on the list.
If you’re a narrator, consider how each character impacts the story and other characters as well.
* Draw a family tree. Doing so can help you visualize how the characters are connected to each other.
Be careful and don’t overthink the script or who your character is. Overthinking can make it difficult for you to change your read if you’ve studied it one way. Keeping an open mind until you get the go-ahead from a director is important because your first attempt at the character may not be what has been asked for or what is expected.
As you can see, a lot goes into character development. Are you ready to learn more about voice acting? To discover more about this exciting field and the book, visit VoiceActingForDummies.com.
About The Authors
Stephanie Ciccarelli and David Ciccarelli are the founders of Voices.com, the largest global web hub for voice actors. Over the past 9 years Stephanie, David, and their team have grown Voices.com from the ground up to become the leader in the industry. This article was originally published in Voice Acting For Dummies and has been republished with permission from John Wiley and Sons, Inc.