In this edition of Script Formatting Tricks, we go over that most strange and awkward task: how to introduce a character in a screenplay.
You’ve gone through all the character-building exercises. Your secondary characters are as developed as your primary characters—they ooze personality, character development, quirks, and pizazz.
You feel like you know them, you know what they dreamt about last night, you know how they take their coffee, you know their biggest fears, weaknesses, strengths, and whether their belly button is an outie or an innie.
Most of this information will never reach the page, but it’s important that you, as the writer, know all the ins and outs of each character. And you do!
So you’re ready to write, but how do you first introduce this character onto the page? What is the correct script format for introducing characters?
It’s actually pretty simple and shouldn’t take long to master—the main rule for correct screenplay format of a character introduction is that the first time the character appears in the script, you must put their name in all CAPS.
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A bearded man, RAY, in a “Save the Whales” T-shirt tinkers with water gun behind his carnival game booth as a crowd of visitors walk by ignoring his stand.
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If the character doesn’t have a name and instead is referred to as “Waitress” or “Spectator 1”, you still need to put their name in all CAPS the first time they appear in the screenplay.
If the character is simply mentioned in speech, you don’t need to put their name in all CAPS. Only put the name in all CAPS when they physically appear in the story.
To keep things simple and avoid confusion, it’s best to name your characters when they first appear in the screenplay—don’t call the woman “WAITRESS” on page 12 and then give her a real name on page 22, name them right away.
And remember, the first time you name the character in your screenplay is a good chance to offer a little insight into that character’s personality and nature.
Don’t get too specific unless the specifics matter to the plot, but use this chance to give your reader an idea of who this character will be. Follow the above tips and you’ll have correct script format for introducing characters.
And that’s it when it comes to how to introduce a character in a screenplay. (Told ya…it ain’t rocket science.)
Got a screenplay format question? Let us know in the comments below!