Continuing my series on character exploration: 
     I find that the more complete a visual picture I can create of my characters, the more they come to life for me.  Although I don’t usually write for specific actors, I do try to see real people in my mind’s eye, most often totally fictional, but nevertheless real–as people often appear in my dreams. I’m talking here about actual physical appearance–height, weight, hair and eye color, skin tone, posture, grooming, attractiveness, sex appeal, degree of ruggedness or refinement, clothes choices, and so on. 
     Here’s a simple exercise that might help open the floodgates.
  Close your eyes and try to visualize your central character right in front of you.  Put him or her in clothes appropriate for your script when they first appear in the story and carefully create your own visual picture.  Start from the head down.  Take your time.  Work at this until you can actually see the person standing there staring back at you, until you’ve created a real, living and breathing human being.  Then study your creation.  Spot the details.  A button missing, the holes in the running shoes, the stain on the sleeve, the grooming or lack of grooming.
     Don’t get impatient here.  Take the time to try this visualization exercise.  It’s absolutely critical that you develop a keen visual sense of your characters in all their human glory.  And the only way to do it is to focus in on the details.  A visual picture of your central character obviously isn’t the only thing you’re going to need, but it sure helps as you proceed.  The objective in character exploration is to gain an intimate knowledge and “feel” for your people.  They have to become so close to you and you have to become so sensitively close to them that their humanity and yours merge.  That’s true intimacy.  You can’t create real characters any other way.  
     Now, write what you’ve come up with.  Get down on paper an initial physical description.  Keep everything concise.  The idea here is just to tack down the essential details.  If you’re drawing a blank and nothing appears before you, make up a preliminary description anyway.  Force yourself to put something down.  This will get you started.  When you come up with something that doesn’t seem right, you’ll know it.  And don’t worry about how this developing description sounds–remember, no one else is ever going to see it.  Simply capture for yourself an accurate visual picture.
     Writers sometimes balk at coming up with this kind of physical detail so early on in the process of writing a script. My response is that scriptwriters, particularly those early in their careers, need to take advantage of every possible trick they can to get close to their characters, especially at the front end of a project.  And creating a detailed visual picture is one of the proven ways to activate in your writer’s head a whole set of responses that will bring you into closer contact with these people you’re inventing.
     If you find yourself resisting, all I can say is this:  Push through it, plunge in, and start making these initial choices in a trial-and-error effort.  You have nothing to lose and a potentially much more fruitful character exploration to gain.  Your task is to create characters that will come to life on the page and–let’s hope—eventually walk right off the page and onto the stage or screen.  Having a detailed visual picture as you move through your character explorations will only help you achieve that goal.
     Next step:  Your characters’ external world.