Screenwriting : Character's description by Roberto Dragonne

Roberto Dragonne

Character's description

I have this character who I can imagine perfectly (in fact I already have an actress in mind for the role), but is it necessary to describe her physically on the script? I think that just by saying that she is happy and passionate for music is enough, right?

Al Hibbert

Usually there's a general physical description, nothing too specific (unless he or she has to look exactly like you describe him/her/it). It's done one time when you introduce them. Do you know this actress that you have in mind for the role? Or know anyone who does?

Kyle Hecht

I think while description is important for all departments, if this is a script you will be producing and directing the rules are the ones you create. if you've already cast the role then give your notes to the other departments. it's your project.

Josiah Olson

Physical features are of least importance. The essence of the person is what you want to capture. Some examples from my recent script; Ex. CATIE, a 19 year old girl of simple, natural beauty. Her strong will is her most apparent quality; she’s nobody’s girl but her own. This creates a personality, not just an image. Ex. BENJAMIN VESI, 19, the type of kid who has the world in the palm of his hand but nothing to live for. He hides his lonely pain well in the way he carries himself but his eyes betray him. This shows his loneliness in the world without saying 'he is lonely'. Ex. TOMMY, 20, is a well-built, well-minded man. The stubble of a two-day beard on his chin and sweat on his brow. A headband slicks his hair back to keep it out of his eyes. This description shows that he is a hard worker without saying it explicitly. Ex. OFFICER MICKEY, 40, could use a nap, he just downed his third cup of coffee for the morning and it’s only 6AM. This sets him up for the scene without a word of physical description. I hope these help you out! Write on!

Robert Parera

Al, is quite right. description should not be to specific, unless it's needed to show character, but only once in their introduction. After that the Director should have an understanding. Examples-- Gothic, Bubbly, Eccentric, Distinguished, Elegant, He/She lives like a " pirate ", ,, Sultry Ann, sits in her robe sadly staring no-where !

Al Hibbert

might have a specific piece of clothing.

Pierre Langenegger

Are you talking about a character introduction or are you talking about a later scene? There is, of course, some leeway in character introductions, something the actor can use to help them portray that character, but never go into detail about their appearance or what they wear unless it is important to the story. Describing them as happy and passionate about music doesn't sit right with me, as far as an actor cue is concerned, but perhaps their introduction could include something like: she is permanently happy and bubbly and will lose herself in the music when she hears it. This then gives you an opportunity to write those special moments for this actor and tell her how she needs to act in those scenes.

Jody Ellis

I keep my character descriptions brief. Example: Mary, 30's but looking younger Lisa, 20's, hard-edged and beautiful. Overdone character descriptions are not usually well-liked by readers. It's often considered the mark of a novice.

Dan MaxXx

@jody ding ding ding! Get her a prize!!

Dan Guardino

I agree with Jody.

Robert Parera

Let's all remember their is a difference between a main character and a not so significant character. that alone will drive the description. So i agree with Jody, however one needs to define by importance.

Robert Parera

Peirre, that's great way to lead with out pissing the Director off. A nice simple explanation of character cue.

Vladislav Nikitin

I don't include "beautiful" in character descriptions. I usually try to write less adjectives in descriptions, instead giving a feel for who the character is, like "David, a high-brow teenager stinking of arrogance" or "Kathy, a soul of fire"

Roberto Dragonne

Great comments. Yes, I was talking about character's introduction. The brief description sounds great. Thank you all.

Beth Fox Heisinger

For me, or in my opinion, the best character introductions tend to include both a sense of what is seen and an intriguing nugget about a character's personality and/or situation. :) Here's a tip from screenwriter John August: "Look for details that have an iceberg quality: only a little bit sticks above the surface, but it represents a huge mass of character information the reader can fill in."

Desiree Argentina

Great question and great answers. Thanks!

Linda Hullinger

Beth, that's a great tip from John August! I'm going to call it the Iceberg Tip so I will remember it. :-) Thanks for posting it.

Beth Fox Heisinger

You're welcome, Linda. If you're not already familiar with John August's web site and podcast with fellow screenwriter Craig Mazin, here's the link: :)

Linda Hullinger

Thanks, Beth. I will check it out today. Some people wake up and drink coffee and read the newspaper. I drink coffee and read Stage 32 posts. I really do enjoy this site. :-)

Beth Fox Heisinger

That's great, Linda! I do the same thing every morning: coffee and Stage 32. ;)

Roberto Dragonne

That John August tip is amazing, thanks Beth. Also thanks for the link.

Marvin Willson

Remember three important things... Wardrobe, hair and makeup. Check out @femscriptintros twitter account It's hilarious.

Roberto Dragonne

Thanks Marvin, I checked it out, it is great indeed.

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