Screenwriting : Introducing and describing characters by Nick Baker

Nick Baker

Introducing and describing characters

When introducing characters do you normally focus on physical features or personality traits? Or does it depend on whatever defines them most and switch between the two?

Stephen Floyd

Simpler is better. You have the whole film to show who this person is.

Craig D Griffiths

I do physical things, just like someone watching my film experience. I also put some personality in to indicate how it would be acted.

A single word like Confident or Insecure and speak volumes about what the viewer would be seeing as well as informing them how to read the character (until they learn it from your script).

Louis Tété

Physical features only if they really matter to the story. If not, at least few indications of what the characters look like but don't be too precise to let room for casting, unless you're gonna cast and direct yourself. Personality is a must but it's better when it's done through actions than only through dialogues.

John Ellis

When you intro characters, it's important to give the reader a sense of who that char is, as concisely as possible. So how you do that depends on the character.

Doug Nelson

If it's relevant to the storyline, probably. If it's not relevant - don't. Refrain from making the Casting Agents job more difficult than it already is.

Chad Stroman
Craig D Griffiths

Craig Mazin of Chernobyl fame uses Hair, Gender, Age, Race and Makeup. Especially to inform casting in the reader’s mind.

Remember until it is filmed and someone can see it. I believe it is my responsibility to paint what will be seen.

Mike Heff

Yeah only if it matters, like a green shirt wouldn't really matter in the scene unless there was context like it was St. paddy's day or something.

Matthew Hall

I introduce characters like this - JOE BLOGS (30's, dashing)

As others have said, if it's not pertinant, don't clutter.

Chris Todd

My most recent pilot I used only names to introduce my characters. Plus a general aged range for the main character.

PJ Edwards


Rick Meyer

make every word count, or cut it.

Jim Boston

Nick, I focus on personality traits. Rarely do I list physical features...something I used to do all the time, but thanks to what I've found on Stage 32, I've learned to stop doing.

Imo Wimana Chadband

I don't have a set method to this. Depending on the scene I'll do what suits best, but I try to keep it simple.

Peter Roberts

Depends upon what the story is about. If physical attributes play a pivotal role then, of course, these will be required. As Natalie has mentioned personality traits are usually revealed in the characters actions. In the end it all boils down to the scripts focus.

Karen Stark

I capture their essence in a sentence. She wears her life on her face says a lot more than a list of physical features in my opinion'

Craig D Griffiths

My favourite is

“sharp suit with his tie just loose enough to be casual and untrustworthy”

Stephen Floyd

I'm a fan of Sean's description in I, Tonya. "Obese and delusional. Not a good combination."

Doug Nelson

One of my characters is: A pompous Texan with a big hat and no cattle.

Krista Crawford

On some early coverage I got regarding one of my character's description, it was said "Don't describe anything that can't be seen or plays a part." I had something like "REESE, female, 30's, resourceful." Well, how is the audience going to see that she's resourceful? So with one of my later scripts, I intro my lead as "A crooked name tag on an untucked shirt reads FLYNN. Early 30's, relaxed and unflappable, Flynn has managed to under perform radiantly throughout her life." The description of being relaxed matches the visual of a crooked nametag and untucked shirt. You can see that. Just my thoughts on it.

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