7 Ways Screenwriters Can Naturally Introduce Character Names
The go-to screenwriting topics of discussion for any given day usually include the likes of concept, story, plot, character arcs, structure, and marketing. These are all essential elements of screenwriting and they should be discussed.
However, there are many other idiosyncrasies at play in screenwriting. And these stones often go unturned despite the fact that they are important — collectively — to the end product, no matter how simple they may seem.
Hollywood screenwriters John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Titan A.E., Charlie and Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie) and Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II, The Hangover Part III, Identity Thief, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) recently tackled one of these unique but important elements to screenwriting in their Scriptnotes Episode 291 Podcast.
What Are the Best Ways to Introduce Characters Names to the Audience?
It may be a simple question, but it’s a difficult script problem to tackle.
“The worst way is just when two people who know each other are taking like John and I are talking right now. And I’m like, well, you know John, out of nowhere I just mention your name. Scott Frank always blows up about this. He’s like how many times do we use each other’s names when we’re talking to each other? Zero percent of the time. We both know each other’s name. That’s always the worst,” Mazin quips during the podcast.
Character name introductions in screenplays and the eventual produced movies often come off as forced and unnatural. Thankfully, through their podcast discussion, John and Craig have brainstormed seven ways to better introduce character names. We feature these excellent solutions and elaborate on their points below.
1. Introduce Names Through a Group Conversation
As Craig mentioned before, two people having a conversation know each other — or at least have gone through the introductions that would dictate a name drop (and if not, well, there’s a simple way to introduce the names). Thus it would come off as very unnatural for them to refer to each other by name. However, when more than two people are talking, in the real world they will say a character’s name to differentiate who they are talking.
So we know what Lewis thinks on the subject. What about you Donald?”
2. Show Names on Physical Objects
Screenwriters can use name tags, nameplates on desks and office doors, business cards, and any other number of items to easily introduce a character’s name to the audience.
This practice can often come off as a bit too forced, so the best way to avoid that in this scenario is to be creative. Perhaps showcase computer readouts, mugshots, signatures, or whatever else gets the job done.
Character names can be introduced based on their situations and settings. If a character is in a waiting room, a receptionist can call their name out. If a student is sitting in class, their name could be called through the speaker. If a character is waiting for coffee, a barista can call out the name that was placed on their order.
Read the full article on Screencraft.org
Don't Miss a Writing Tip
Sign up for our free newsletter and receive the latest writing tips directly to your inbox.Subscribe