Screenwriting : The Murder Mystery and when to identify your Killer by Simon Hartwell

The Murder Mystery and when to identify your Killer

Hi all

Question - The audience watches, five minutes in we see a shadow, a knife glinting, a victim, a murder

Now, in the script do we say "Shadow of the killer" OR Shadow of SUSAN SHARP (50s, sharp by name sharp by nature, local busy body and curtain twitcher)

Hope you can help


Phil Clarke

It depends on whether or not you want us, the reader/audience member, to know the shadow belongs to Susan. I presume not and you want to keep the shadow's identity hidden for now until a big reveal later on. If this is right, then go with shadow. Just describe what we see. (So you wouldn't need that character description because how could we tell the shadow was in their 50s, a local busybody just from what we see?)

Hope that's helped, Simon.

Craig D Griffiths

As Phil says. Where do you want to place the audience in the story. I like to write as it would be experienced. The reader learns the same time as the audience would.

Simon Hartwell

That was my first thought THEN I thought, from a filming perspective, it would have to be Sharon's shadow, Sharon's hand on the knife, so needed to identify her in the script so she and the Director knew who was supposed to be on set, where, when and why. If it were a novel, no question, just the shadow. but I was thinking, after the scene heading, I would need to identify who was there from a cast perspective - so over thinking it clearly. Much prefer the suspense, that way I get to draw in any perspective Managers/Directors assessing the script

Phil Clarke

Simon Hartwell Yes, but when it comes to production, if it's just a shadow, then what will most likely happen is they won't use the actress playing Sharon/Susan. They'll be no need as you won't see her face. They can use anyone. Case in point: I even filled in for Dudley Dursley in the Hut-on-the-Rock scene on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Me! A 20-something AD (at the time) playing a 9 year-old! Had to wear the pyjamas and everything! God's honest truth.

Your primary concern is story. Be a good storyteller. Focus on this. If in doubt, take the path marked story rather than production.

Simon Hartwell

Thanks Phil and I laughed at your anecdote re Dudley Dursley (*so cool btw), a nice piece of info to entertain my friends next time we're watching the movie. :-)

Matthew Wauchope

Usually in the scripts I’ve seen it says “the killers shadow...” and doesn’t tell you who the killer is until the reveal. The actors know of course but not until the end of the table reading.

Claude Gagne

Shouldn't it be, how!

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In