1. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Writing Characters in Scripts

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by mbinks89, Aug 14, 2013.

    I came back from a brainstorming/editing session with a fellow writing friend, and he gave me some food for thought on writing characters in scripts. I'm very unfamiliar with script writing, and would like your thoughts. Bear in mind this is for a movie screenplay, not a play's script.

    Before, I was told that I should be hyper-descriptive, and reveal the character's personality entirely through action.

    Ex:

    Jon, a tall white man in his early twenties wearing a tank top and Rayban sunglasses, stares around the room, his face deadpan.

    From what I understood, my friend was suggesting more along the lines of:

    Jon (aggressive, egotistic) and dressed in shabby clothing, stares around the room expressionlessly.

    He thought that this would convey more of who my character actually is to director's and the actor, and not get me bogged up in tiny details that a director might not like, while still maintaining who my character really is.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    If I'm honest, I think both ways work, but I prefer your way, not your friend's way. That's the style I use when writing a script, although mine is a graphic novel, not a play or a film script. And to be honest, I can see exactly what your character looks like - a badly dressed Arnold Schwarzenegger! ;)

    Let's just say I've seen more scripts written in your style rather than your friend's style. I think it's up to you which one you use, depending on what exactly you are trying to convey and what you're comfortable with. :)
     
  3. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    mbinks89, I would have to agree with Thomas here. I've been on both sides of scripts and your presentation is actually a better image of the character. Actors do like to be able to put their own unique stamp on their portrayal of a character, but they have to know who the character is at the outset. Your introduction offers enough of the image of the character as well as a bit of the personality of the character without leaving the actor hamstrung as to his part of the creative process.

    And "deadpan" and "expressionless" are not necessarily descriptive of the same qualities. While one suggests a deliberately calculated emotionless countenance; the other could just as easily connote someone who is brain damaged or with a high dose of pentathiol in their system and they are expressionless because they have nothing going on behind the eyes.
    Bear in mind, in screenplay, you have two burdens to fulfill as far as character development is concerned. 1) you must create the energy and physicality of your characters through how they behave and interact with other characters, 2) you must convey, in description and at the outset, just what kind of presentation your characters' first impression might be. NOTE: the first impression is usually the continuing thread of the character but not always.
    In both cases, once your screenplay is ready to make its leap from the page to the screen, the director and producer are likely to manipulate this and that to suit their vision in addition to, or instead of, your own vision. So, at this point, you want to make sure your vision of the character matches in physical as well as verbal image. And make it as tight and easy to read as the latest blockbuster novel... at least from a directorial point of view. Good luck with this and have fun with it!
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i write/rewrite screenplays and mentor many aspiring screenwriters, so speak from decades of experience...

    neither way is correct... this is how it might be written in a spec script by a seasoned screenwriter:

    the writer should not take over the job of the director and casting director, so the character is described as minimally as possible, unless some physical characteristic is vital to the plot...

    the characters' personalities are not established solely by their actions... i don't know where you got that idea, because their dialog is equally important in letting the audience know who/what they are and why... their idiosyncracies should not be laid out in the action/description element, as one would do in writing a novel... if we don't SEE it or HEAR it, don't write it!... even more so than in prose fiction, in scripts you must SHOW, not TELL...

    so, if this character has to be 'aggressive and egotistic' you can't just tell us he is, but must show it with what he does, how he dos it, and what he says...

    if you want help along the learning path, i always have time for another mentee...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  5. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Thanks for the input guys. @mammamia, I should have specified I meant dialogue and actions as opposed to just telling somebody their traits.

    This script I've written is actually probably going to get filmed, so is it needed that I create character profiles for the actors to check out before filming?
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...that's not normally done in screenwriting, though some novelists find it helpful... the script itself should present the characters in enough detail that a character profile shouldn't be needed... the director will add instructions to the actors to provide whatever is needed to round out the characters...
     

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