Characters. We spend hours trying to crack them, understand their ins and outs and what makes them tick. But when we hit the page to introduce them to the world...we're stuck. Character intros take a little bit of formatting, love, and wit. So if you’re struggling with introducing your babies, here are some quick tips to help you out.
1. Standard Procedure
The example below shows the minimum requirements to introduce a character in your script:
Name in ALL CAPS, age in parenthesis, short physical description, and an action that teaches us about his/her personality. After reading, we might think: Wow, he’s such a great, do-it-all dad! Or: WHY TF DOES HE HAVE A BABY NEAR POPPING GREASE?! HE DOESN'T KNOW WTF HE’S DOING?
These choices set the tone of the script. We can go with the latter and potentially make the story a comedy. Or we can go with the former and create a peaceful and lighthearted drama that’ll make the reader’s heart smile at FADE OUT.
2. Pro examples:
We all know screenwriting is meant to be visual, but don’t be scared to take advantage and add some sauce and insight to who the character is. Let's look at some professional examples to see how they engage the reader with their intros.
Below is an example from GET OUT.
We can fully visualize this introduction of CHRIS. We see him scrunching his face, critiquing his look. This may infer some sense of insecurity or that he’s about to go somewhere and he wants to look good/make a good impression. We also focus on his muscular build because later when we learn he's a part of a chattel, it'll matter that he's physically strong.
With ROSE's description, though we can’t see what “cool and beautiful like an old Summer Camp crush” looks like, we get a sense of her personality and understand why she is the best person to dupe unsuspecting black prey.
Another example is from POWER:
This is an extremely descriptive, but intentional introduction. The writer makes note of all the materialistic clothing, letting us know this is a VERY RICH man. As we are introduced to GHOST, we see that the stylish clothes are a disguise, hiding the world from real hustle: drug dealing. The writer intentionally sets this up to show us his double life and sets the stakes for what he may lose throughout the series.
So when it's time to introduce your characters to the world, don't be afraid to give just enough information to make your characters interesting and whole human beings by describing their physical and/or personality traits. It'll be that much easier to make the reader and audience invest in them and therefore their journeys. Need help on creating 3-Dimensional characters? Check out this workbook.
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-Written by Collin Shaw
Shannan E. Johnson, CEO