Screenwriting : Character description - screenplay/feature. by Eddie James

Eddie James

Character description - screenplay/feature.

I've got three siblings all introduced in my first two pages. I have their blood relationship stated in dialogue but not till page 5 well after lots of action. Should I establish brother/sister in their initial character descriptions? I'm not aware of any hard-fast rules but interested in other experiences with this. Thanks,

Erick Freitas

Great question. Introducing a lot of characters in a scene can really be difficult. My rule of thumb when things get confusing in screenwriting (or in life) is to stick to the principles. Which in this case, would be to simply write the characters without explaining their relationship in the description. Because well if you were an audience member, you would not know they were siblings anyway until it was mentioned or by the action in the scene. That's what I would do FIRST.

Then once it got into other reader's hands, I would see if this confused them or hurt the script. If it did - then I would simply add somewhere in the description - "they are siblings" - but not until a few test reads.

With that said, hope this helps, good luck!

Dan MaxXx

I'd put in the description, in case readers are skimming, and also for cast & crew to read. Unless there's some irony/plot twist of revealing characters' relationship with dialogue - I remember reading a script where a woman-bartender is beating up drunk tough guys and the Hero tells a wing-man the Bartender is his Mother.

Claude Gagne

What I do is? If I introduce a character, no matter who they are, I need to cap their names, right, so if I do this, I immediately describe them. Seeing that you have three, I'd describe them. Get it over with! Now on page five, we'll know who they are and they can do the boogie-woogie to all that they want.

As a general rule, name your characters at the moment they first appear in the screenplay. Doing that avoids confusion. It's difficult for a reader to keep track of a YOUNG GIRL who becomes pages later, PRISSY.

Make it easy on readers, name your characters, those that have names, when they first appear or shortly thereafter. Good luck.

Baz Martin Gibbons

Speaking as a story analyst: if you establish that your characters are siblings in the dialogue then that's all I need to know. In fact, that's the best way to do it.

If you tell me they're siblings in the action description I'm going to assume you're not sure what you're doing and that will colour the rest of my reading. Description should be used to briefly tell me the age and appearance of a character so I can picture them in my head and it should describe what they are doing, their actions. Hope that helps. :)

Bill Albert

I'd suggest put in there when the viewer needs to find out. A big part of it would depend on the type of story we are looking at, too. That "Holy crap, they are related" moment could go over as a laugh at some point or a shock at another.

Dan Guardino

You don't need to put their relation ship in the character description because the audience isn't going to be reading your screenplay.

Eddie James

Wow, outstanding advice. I'm leaning toward leaving it out of the character descriptions. The reason I decided to ask was that I'm rewriting the first two pages and I organically found myself bringing in all three siblings within the first two pages and it was reading dense having to say sister to so-n-so, brother of..., etc. Having been to a couple of character description webinars lately I found myself wanting to write elaborate descriptions. I'm in the delicate balance of discovering what is just enough. It's not meant to be a big reveal that I'm holding til pg 5 but in the rewrite, I found myself wanting more white on the pg and it started to feel redundant and actually more confusing for my reader when on page 5 I can simply say it all in one line of dialogue. Thanks, everyone, just figured that out. For now at least.

Cannon Rosenau

I agree with Baz Martin Gibbons and Dan Guardino because you need to be able to show not tell. Further, keep a viewer like me in mind: someone who gets easily confused with so many characters that may be similar (like siblings)...give them each their own defining characteristic or a memorable quirk to their personality. But that's just my own selfish request. Best of luck!

Claude Gagne

Don't give them a driver's license description. Make them original.

Dan Guardino

Since a character's description is used to hire the right actor it it okay to say something that we can't see on film. Example: MARY, 20's stunningly beautiful and equally mischievous. Her desire to win no matter what, has ruined many lives.

Claude Gagne

I would say, Yes, Dan. Sounds good to you, it'll sound good to the reader. It brings out what she is. A bitch, maybe.

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