I can’t remember when I started doing this heading to developing a new script but it’s an offshoot suggestion from Michael Hauge’s book Writing Screenplays that Sell. This book is awesome by the way for those of you just getting started in screenwriting. It helped me look at movies entirely different ever since, just saying.
Anyways, when I’m developing characters initially, I usually put together what I call the OMIMOCIC sheet. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I guess the best attempt would be “Oh-Mim-Ock-Ick.” But for future reference in this blog I will call it a “Noodle Sheet,” because it sounds fun.
Noodle sheets (teehee) are fairly simply and a good way to start developing characters at their core. They do not include any kind of detailed backstory. All it breaks down is each characters’ outer motivation (OM), outer conflict (OC), inner motivation (IM) and inner conflict (IC).
There’s no one way to map this out but I usually create mine like a chart.
Here’s some quick definitions of each component of the Noodle Sheet.
Outer Motivation: This is what the character wants in the story. Specifically it is what he wants that’s apparent to everyone around him, especially the audience.
Example: in The Karate Kid (original) Daniel’s outer motivation is to learn karate and win the big tournament against the Cobra Kai Dojo.
Inner Motivation: This is WHY the character wants what he wants from his Outer Motivation goals. This isn’t always as obvious to other characters or the viewer/reader until the character opens up to someone or something in the material.
Example: The Karate Kid – Daniel wants to be able to defend himself and prove himself as someone who can’t get pushed around but the Cobra Kai kids who have been bullying him. Possibly, he wants to show off to his girlfriend AND win the tournament for Mr Miaggi who’s helped him gain confidence and change his life.
Outer Conflict: This is what’s directly keeping the character from their outer motivation goal and again is evident to everyone else.
Example: The Karate Kid – Daniel keeps being bullied by the Cobra Kai kids and have terrorized him into thinking he can’t win. Daniel also doesn’t have a lot of time to learn everything he can before the big tournament. So in this example, Time itself becomes a nemesis for Daniel creating an evident outer conflict.
Inner Conflict: This is where your character really gets deep. This is what is keeping the character from reaching his or her inner motivations. It’s not easy seen by other characters unless express in dialogue or some other way in the text.
Example: The Karate Kid – Daniel is afraid to lose his new girlfriend, let Mr Miaggi down and be bullied the rest of his high school days. He doesn’t think he has enough time and lacks confidence. Doesn’t think it can be done. He doubts Mr Miaggi’s methods at times. These are all inner conflicts for that character.
So what I do to map out my character noodles is create a grid with the character names vertically down the left side and write down the different noodles horizontally.
Above is an example of a stageplay I recently started developing casually. I only have three character conceived for it thus far but you can see how the grid is starting to form.
It doesn’t have to be pretty, but doing this basic development task will set a tone for when I go to write my character backstories. My backstories usually address elements of the characters’ histories which make them have the inner conflicts they do. And I’ll also have them address inner motivations from their backstory which are fleshed out and more detailed that on the noodle sheet. The noodle sheet is fairly basic, but the information I create for it is vital before I start writing my actual script.
If you’ve never done one of these sheets before, and you have a script already finished, try creating one for the finished script just for practice breaking down your developed characters.
For those of you looking to write a play or screenplay for the first time, give this a shot, you may find it becomes a vital part of your process as it became for mine.