Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

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  • Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

    1) naming a character before he's named in dialogue


    If I have a character appear in the script before he is named through dialogue, do I refer to him in the script by his name, or do I call him "old man" until the dialogue reveals his name


    2) do I all-caps a character's name if he first appears in dialogue


    We're supposed to all-caps a character's name the first time he appears in the script, but what if he first appears mentioned in dialogue in a scene he is not physically in? Do I all-caps him then in the dialogue, or only later when he actually is physically present in the scene?


    3) character description


    Do I have to give the description of a character the first time they appear, or can I do it in a later scene.

    I have one character who pops her head through the door to say one sentence, but then in the next scene she appears for much longer and in a much more substantive way.


    Can I delay the character description and give it in that later scene?

  • #2
    Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

    Granted you may hear some varying thoughts, but I'll throw these out there for you based on what I've seen or even done over the years.

    When a character enters on screen just name & describe them. "JOHN DOE, 80, enters the bar and sits on a stool." Unless it's intentionally supposed to be a secret or mystery as to who this person is and it will be only be revealed at the end of the movie, then just give them a name in the vast majority of cases.

    You CAP a character's name in the description when they first appear. Yeah, some do it through out. Some do other nutty stuff. I say don't really. Just stick to the tried and true. You should really never cap a character's name in dialogue unless it is for some grand emphasis. MARY (angry) TOMMY! Get down here right now!! Even then I wouldn't really recommend it too much but your call on that. It's more a style choice, but be a little careful. Make sure that overall, it's a smooth read.

    Describe exactly what we see or don't see, if you will. Plain and simple. If you just see a head, then describe that head. Later we see their full figure, then go from there and describe the rest of them.
    Will
    Done Deal Pro
    www.donedealpro.com

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    • #3
      Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

      1) Yes, you can name them and if they are more than a minor character, you should do so.

      2) You all cap a character's name the first time he appears on screen whether or not he has been mentioned in dialog beforehand and also whether or not he has had previous dialog (either through OS or VO). The caps are there so it is easy to pick out when a character first appears for scheduling, casting etc.

      3) Depending on the situation, I might well fudge this one a bit. Give a really brief character description in the usual parentheses that describes what we can see in the first appearance - perhaps just age or perhaps a bit more if appropriate or pertinent. Then, when they appear in a more substantial way you can do more in the action lines if needed. For example: (not going to bother with format)

      BETTY (late 60's, rocking her natural grey) sticks her head through the basement door.

      BETTY
      Dinner's ready.

      ...(later scene)

      INT. THE MOORE'S HOUSE - KITCHEN

      Betty, her clothes and attitude as granola as her vegan entrees, juggles several serving dishes on her way to the table ....

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      • #4
        Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

        Now I'm a little confused re: #1.

        When a character first enters the story, which is correct?

        #1

        WOMAN'S VOICE (O.S.)
        What are you guys talking about?

        They turn to see EMMA, 32, flushed with excitement, run up.

        EMMA
        I hope you weren't talking about me.

        #2

        EMMA (O.S.)
        What are you guys talking about?

        They turn to see EMMA, 32, flushed with excitement, run up.

        EMMA
        I hope you weren't talking about me.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

          You can do either. Not the end of the world. For production's sake, casting and the ADs, you could just do EMMA (O.S) or even EMMA'S VOICE.

          As long as it's not confusing and reads well, then no one is or should really care about it - especially at this early stage. Even if you go with WOMAN'S VOICE, later on it'll probably be changed to one of the two examples above so they can board the film for scheduling purposes and keep a clear track of all.

          Does that make sense and help at all?
          Will
          Done Deal Pro
          www.donedealpro.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

            I agree with Will. Either option works.

            But I would lobby strongly for the second option:
            EMMA (O.S.)
            What are you guys talking about?

            They turn to see EMMA, 32, flushed with excitement, run up.

            EMMA
            I hope you weren't talking about me.
            There is no reason whatever not to use the name EMMA for the (O.S.) and then repeat EMMA in caps for the first appearance of the character.

            "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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            • #7
              Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

              Just to see if I've understood you fellas correctly regarding question #2:


              So, if I have a character mentioned in dialogue and this character has not yet appeared on screen, in that instance (in the dialogue), I don't all caps his name, I do it the first time he actually appears on screen.


              In other words:


              SCENE #1


              BETTY
              Hey, Frank's downstairs. (this is the first time Frank's name appears in the script and I don't caps it)


              SCENE #2


              Betty's husband enters the kitchen and sees FRANK sitting at the table.


              Is that right?

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              • #8
                Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

                Hey Will and ComicBent, thanks!

                It's a small thing that's been bothering me for a while and yet evidently not big enough for me to do some searching.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

                  Originally posted by Dimitri001 View Post
                  SCENE #1

                  BETTY
                  Hey, Frank's downstairs. (this is the first time Frank's name appears in the script and I don't caps it)


                  SCENE #2

                  Betty's husband enters the kitchen and sees FRANK sitting at the table.

                  Is that right?
                  Yes. You don't capitalize characters names in dialogue ever really, unless again as I noted, a character is say shouting at them, for example. Even then I wouldn't generally recommend doing that. But that is more a style choice for extra emphasis.

                  Just capitalize the character name the first time they APPEAR in the script when we, the audience, see them -- along with a short description of what they look like, their age, etc.
                  Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 03-06-2020, 02:42 PM.
                  Will
                  Done Deal Pro
                  www.donedealpro.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Formatting questions relating to character names and descriptions

                    Thanks, appreciate it!

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