Posted by: michellemuldoon | January 18, 2011

Nice To Meet You

 

Character introductions are more than hair colour, more than age, and more than a pair of brown pants or Italian leather loafers. What the character is wearing, how old they are, if they’re short or tall are all staples of character description in many a script. But, the question is, “Is this good character description?”

How you introduce a character sets the tone for that person for the length of the script.  So, what is it that makes a person memorable? Is the hair colour significant?  Is the clothing choice so descriptive it acts as a character trait, is it so contrary to the scene that it pops, or is it as inconsequential as what was clean that morning?  Is the state of their dress or undress significant in any way to the story? How can you describe who they are? What is it about their character traits, or the actual tone of the scene that can be described in the introduction? 

And most importantly, have you given them an opening with impact? Does their introduction hit the reader hard with a clear and unforgettable image?

Here are some character introductions from successful scripts, and by successful, I mean someone bought them, made them, distributed them, and people watched it. Isn’t that what we all want?

FROZEN RIVER

RAY EDDY, 38, a bit worn for her years, with a long red ponytail, wearing an old bathrobe, sits in the passenger seat of her RED PLYMOUTH HORIZON with the door open, smoking a cigarette, thinking. Her breath is visible in the cold morning air.

Her bare feet rest on the cold ground.”
 
 THE EXPENDABLES 
 
 YING YANG: Thoughtful, deadly and a master at ‘close quarter combat.’ He’s a man who’s always meditating on how he should live his life.”  

 JUNO

“JUNO MacGUFF stands on a placid street in a nondescript subdivision, facing the curb. It’s FALL. Juno is sixteen years old, an artfully bedraggled burnout kid.”

CHILDREN OF MEN

“THEO FARON (55). Detached, unkempt, scruffy beard, glasses, Theo is a veteran of hopelessness.”

All of these introductions rely on providing a strong image to who the character is, not just how old they are and what they threw on that day. When clothing is discussed in good character introductions, it’s only because the clothing choice is a reveal to what kind of person we’re looking at. The clothing isn’t window dressing, but an invitation to look deeper into the window.

They aren’t just described externally, but their introduction has a point, or an action, and what is on the outside, is mearly an appetizer to what the introduction really says about them.

What does your character introduction really say about who that character is? How does their arrival impact the imagery of the opening scene, and what is it that makes the reader want to forge on, and in an actor’s case, makes them want to play this character?

These are the questions that need answering. Why? Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And that goes for the script, the character, and the writer.

Advertisements

Categories

%d bloggers like this: