Identifying Character With Double Identity



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  • Identifying Character With Double Identity

    I've been poking around the archives to see if this has been asked before, and apologize if I've missed it, but here's my dilemma:

    In my current project, I have a character that was once a celebrity but has since chosen to keep her identity under wraps. When my protagonist meets her, he suspects her real identity, but it's a few pages before this is confirmed. Initially, she refers to herself as "Mrs. Anderson," and that's how I identify her. But by the scene she admits her true identity, it seems silly to keep referring to her as "Mrs. Anderson," bulky to refer to her as "Mrs. Anderson/Sally Celeb," and odd to refer to her as "Sally Celeb" before she confesses.

    I've tried finding a screenplay that has a similar situation, but to no avail. Can anyone point me to a readily available screenplay that handles this, or offer suggestions?

    Much appreciation!!

  • #2
    Hey HUD!

    Here's how I've seen it done.

    If the reader knows who the real character is, but she's under an assumed identity, then just reveal her as herself (Sally Celeb) and add a (wryly) beneath her name in dialog headings of her talking (as assumed identity). But if the reader doesn't find out until your protag does, then as soon as the protag discovers this, just say something along the lines of "Mrs. Anderson is revealed to be SALLY CELEB." Then refer to her from thereon out as Sally Celeb. That's how I've seen it done. If I think of the script, I'll tell you, but I'm drawing a blank right now.


    • #3
      This has come up twice in the last few months. Opinion is divided about how to handle it. My preference would be to use one name and not to put the reader into the same position as the viewer, but others feel just the opposite and argue that the reader should be surprised along with the viewer. Ultimately you just have to decide which way you want to go with this.


      • #4
        Thanks, folks! Er - hadn't realized this has been brought up in recent times.

        Jogged by the discussion on this board, I've had an inspiration -- I think that in the scene were she confesses, I'll initially refer to her in the scene's action lines as "Mrs. Anderson (Sally Celeb?)," and refer to her as Mrs. A until she spills the beans.


        • #5
          I do this all of the time - mysteries, you know - and think you need to make the reader into the viewer.

          Start by calling her MRS. ANDERSON.

          After she's revealed as Sally, called her MRS. ANDERSON/SALLY CELEBRITY for a couple of pages, then call her SALLY CELEBRITY for the rest of the script.

          But a big question - if we can SEE that she's the same person, what is the change in name going to accomplish? The same actor plays the role - so all you have is more information about the role. In that case, you may just be confusing things by giving her two names. Why not just call her MRS ANDERSON throughout the whole script? We'll know that she has a past, but she's still living her life as MRS ANDERSON, right?

          Here's a script of mine where characters aren't who they seem to be:

          If I were at home I'd pull the FACE/OFF script off my shelf - but I'm in London watching movies with Saffrom Burrows.

          - Bill


          • #6
            How long do you think she'll let you call her "Saffrom" before she corrects you?


            • #7
              English Keyboards

              The keys here are much smaller - and some are in weird places. (Where's the @ on your keyboard?)

              I'm just gonna call her "mellow yellow".

              - Bill


              • #8
                Re: Name Switch.

                Your character is introduced as Mrs. Anderson. Then a few pages later itâ€TMs revealed Mrs. Anderson was a false identity and her true name was given.

                The way to handle the format is after you reveal her true name, you use that name in the character cue instead of Mrs. Anderson. You put Mrs. Anderson in parenthesis beside the new name for one time only. The reader should get it that Mrs. Anderson is now Sally Celeb. That way you donâ€TMt have to be redundant by constantly repeating both names.

                SALLY CELEB (MRS. ANDERSON)
                Oh, Joe, youâ€TMre so handsome.

                Thank you, baby.

                SALLY CELEB
                Oh, my. I feel woozy.


                • #9
                  Re: Name Switch.

                  A truly great example of this is Boogie Nights. Check out the script.

                  Anderson has the character under the name of Dirk the whole time, even before his false identity is thought up.

                  Here's why: because, to Eddie, that's who he is.


                  • #10
                    Re: Name Switch.

                    What about if you gave her the same first name so that she is introduced as SALLY ANDERSON and referred to as Sally and then when she is revealed as SALLY CELEBRITY, her name continues to be Sally.

                    Just a thought. Mind you I'm on my fourth beer.



                    • #11
                      Re: Name Switch.

                      <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> Revising my previous position ...<!--EZCODE BOLD END-->

                      Just so I do not appear to be a total dunce, or stubborn, I will concede that there are times when it is good practice to use more than one name for a character. A good example would be a story in which the heroine is known as "A" but is really "B," the unknown heiress of a great fortune. Halfway through the story, her real identity becomes known, and "A" assumes her proper role as "B." In such a case, a name change to "B" is certainly appropriate.

                      I will concede, too, that it is more suspenseful to hide, briefly, the "true identity" of a character who is posing as someone else, provided that we are not yet familiar with the true identity of the character. An example would be "Tanya" (true identity) posing as "Janet" in an undercover assignment. Initially the character might be presented as "Janet," but once we get to know the real situation, and know who she really is, I think it is better to use a character cue like "Tanya (as Janet)" in subsequent undercover scenes.

                      I will slink away now.


                      • #12
                        I checked the Vertigo script and the character "Madeleine" is named seperately from "Judy" although he describes her appearance: "...might have the same features as Madeleine. This girl's hair is dark, where Madeleine's was light; her features on closer inspection seem heavier, and she wears much more makeup, etc.")

                        I'm doing the same thing with my characters in my current script as you are and I think I'm going to take the 'Vertigo Route.'


                        • #13
                          Bill, thanks for the link! Yes, a *very* twisty ID misdirection, there. (Were that my own were quite so clever.)