Naming characters



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  • Naming characters

    As mentioned in another thread, I'm days away from finishing my first script. It is a character-heavy film, and all the main characters are named. Many of the supporting characters are named. But some supporting characters popped up along the way that are unnamed (Doctor, Clerk, etc.).

    What is the protocol for naming? Is the expectation to name and describe every character that has a line? Two lines? Appearance in more than one scene?

    I'm okay to name them all, but many of their names would never be mentioned in dialogue. It feels more apt to leave their names as descriptors, as it saves space. And they could be played by a variety of actors (ages, genders, etc.).

    Thanks for any advice!

  • #2
    Re: Naming characters

    I think that's the logic, right there. No naming needed if it's a clearly minor role, and if they're better identified by their profession anyway. Call someone DOCTOR in a hospital location and we picture a white coat and stethoscope, no need for a description.

    3-page writing challenge coming up in January.


    • #3
      Re: Naming characters

      Perfect, thank you! I'll just do a little bit of cleanup to make sure it all makes sense. But that makes things easy.


      • #4
        Re: Naming characters

        You've landed on the conventional wisdom on character naming. The only thing that I would add is that if you have more than one of a type that will be seen or heard, I like to add an adjective to the job to differentiate the two minor characters beyond COP #1 and COP #2. As an example: NERDY COMIC and HIPSTER COMIC, or SERIOUS DOCTOR and JOKEY DOCTOR.

        Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

        -Steve Trautmann
        3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast


        • #5
          Re: Naming characters

          Yes, I've been doing precisely that with COP #1 and COP #2. But that's a good tip about the more descriptive ones. I'll employ that as well. Thank you!


          • #6
            Re: Naming characters

            Probably just read screenplays and see how they do it

            but, it's sorta a catch 22 where if you name a character, then you probably going to give them lines and you'll probably want to give them some sort snarky name to tell the director who the character is and how you want them to read the lines

            ...reading what other screenwriter have done and knowing what's right for your style is the best.

            Ricky Slade: Listen to me, I intentionally make this gun look that way because I am smart.