One thing I mentioned there is the very tricky business of descriptive character introductions. On the one hand, screenwriters are theoretically supposed to avoid “invisibles”, where we describe things that can’t be seen onscreen, but in practice we can get away with these in certain situations, most notably in character introductions, where they’ve actually become fairly mandatory.
- There’s no point in describing the character physically with any specificity, because they want to send it out to different types of actors.
- You don’t want to include any specific backstory here, because that’s too much of a violation of the rules.
- But what you will want to do is describe the character’s “type”.
- TERI BAUER, mid-thirties, attractive, a former free spirit tempered by parenthood, works on a laptop, web-designing a logo for a corporate client.
- KIMBERLY BAUER enters. She’s 16, striking, moody – not as tough as she acts but not about to admit it.
- JACK BAUER, 35, is at an exercise machine. Rock music pounds from a boom box on the floor. Jack’s body and face are younger than his age, his eyes a bit older. He’s up-front, physical, charismatic; men generally hate him or love him, women tend to love him. His natural, don’t-screw-with-me expression softens as Kimberly enters…
You have a big job to do. First, fickle script-readers will ask themselves, “Do I really want to read about this character for the next hour?” Then a producer will ask, “Do I want to spend the next year of my life begging actors to play this part?” Then, of course, actors will read it and ask, “Do I really want to be this person for seven years?” Can your character introductions withstand that scrutiny?
These are great examples. Since this sort of thing is so incredibly important to get right and and can so quickly signal incompetence to one's readers if you get it wrong, I wouldn't mind seeing a few more positive examples and perhaps even some negative ones (plus, naturally, their Meddler approved fixes).
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