An excerpt from my script review for Ad Astra which will be available 09/23/19:
3.) Quality of Characters
What is “too much” when introducing characters?
This script can answer that.
Roy McBride: forties, handsome. His eyes are light blue,
seemingly friendly, but reveal little about the man himself.
He is even-tempered, but one would not call him kind; there
is an icy quality to him. Still, he is not overtly cruel or
petty, and to talk to him, one could never question his
intentions or his integrity.
Roy speaks slowly, formally, deliberately, as though he does
not want ever to repeat himself. He seems guarded, sincere,
precise, competent. His face is blank but prone to the
occasional awkward joke, and those jokes are made almost for
self-amusement. He does not seem morose.
My issue is how do you show all this in a simple introduction?
Will and should these traits and mannerisms unfold naturally throughout the story, sure, but not all at once forcing it down our mind’s throat.
Roy McBride: forties, handsome. Being “on the spectrum” actually makes him good at his job.
We’ll know what you’re referring to with “on the spectrum” and the rest of the characteristics can be presented through the various dramatic scenes that come later.
(And sorry! His eye color doesn’t really matter.)
Instead, what we’re given is this initial bit, and the more “forced revelations”, shall we say, later.
HIS EYES BEGIN TO WATER. YES, WE ARE SEEING TEARS BEGIN TO
FORM IN HIS EYES!
Typing everything in caps and underlining it doesn’t make a statement any more revolutionary or creative.
What it accomplishes instead is shows a reader you didn’t effectively do your job earlier, showing Roy in situations that were moving, yet him being who he is, isn’t moved by them.
THEN you can have your “climax” (I hate using that term here by the way) at the end when he’s finally overcome with emotion seeing what his father really accomplished, making for a big moment for him and us the audience.
Anything less and you’re just cheating to make a two dimensional character feel more alive.
Do your job right.
Swinging back to the “too much” argument though…
He refers to DONALD SCOBEE–late thirties, brown hair in a
comb-over. He’s in excellent physical condition. Looks like
old Nixon aide John Dean.
Why the fuck would you feel the need to include this last part?
It plays zero role in who this character is, and if you tell me that not knowing means I just don’t get your script, then newsflash, you’re pretentious.
Now, if you have a characteristic that gives the reader a good mental image about who the character is, by all means please use it, but every word in your script should be constantly analyzed and questioned if it’s really needed making for the tightest narrative possible.
An example of a reference for mental visual…
HANK (40), at a local bar hitting on a woman half his age. Slightly resembles a thin Fester Adams coupled with most of the mannerisms.
Even if you’re not an avid Adams Family fan, you’ve probably got an idea of what Uncle Fester looks like, and inserting him into the dating scene, you probably know it won’t go well for me…er…I mean this fictional character.
(Fuck me, I’m going to 40 this year…)
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