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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Q. In writing prose fiction, one key to vivid descriptions is specificity. So, a description of a beautiful woman might focus on her freckles or a crooked tooth or the way the muscles on her back move when she reaches up to change a lightbulb. I'm curious about doing the same thing in a script.

To the extent that it's something that's just costuming or makup, it seems like good sense to do the same sort of specific descriptions in scripts (maybe the pretty girl pulls her long sleeves down so that they hide her hands). But does it make sense to describe physical characteristics if they're mostly going to be a matter of casting?
Right. No, it does not. Unless a freckle is a story point, don't mention it. What if Rachel McAdams reads it, but doesn't have freckles, and now she doesn't want to do your script any more? That would suck.

If someone has a horrible wart on their nose, on the other hand, and they're self-conscious about it, then you would mention it because it's a character or story point. Like the way Dorothy is self-conscious because she's in black and white, and she dreams of being in color. Or something.

I will try to describe personality as efficiently as I can. I try to avoid describing looks for the lead actors. Rather than giving a character description that depends on casting, give a character description that depends on personality. Describe how the character is, rather than what they look like. Give the actor something to act, not something to have.

With minor characters, on the other hand, you may be looking for a specific type that will score with the audience immediately, e.g. WIRY BANK ROBBER, FAT CLERK, GENETICIST WITH BODACIOUS YA-YA'S. Then go for the physical description. But then, essentially, the character's type is the story point.

3 Comments:

But at the spec stage (screen or teleplay) - where part of the goal is to interest a reader - couldn't a descriptive detail here or there help solidify a character in the reader's mind?

By Blogger Mackey, at 12:24 AM  

I think you are limiting the imagination of the reader ... too much descriptive detail on age or type and all of a sudden the star they were thinking was perfect doesn't seem so anymore and you outfoxed yourself.

And as it was so aptly put to me by a very wise writer ... casting is not your job. Neither is directing. Give enough for the reader for form a sense of who the character is in their mind but not so much that you prejudice them.

By Blogger Caroline, at 7:43 PM  

well its a story about who cares about freckle unless you play dot to dot but guess it will be special with a new 5freckle but much bigger like ah 45 but then while one is in vegas with abunch of friends one could think what if na waste of a thought but your never know when it hits you say hello rich running to toeldo nota would be a vacation but again your never know ....

By Blogger Roger, at 11:41 PM  

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