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Character Descriptions

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bookworm452

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How much can you describe a character in a script? I've read lots of different scripts, some don't have any description apart from age, and others have a bit. But how far do you think you can describe a character in a script? Obviously you can't put '5'3, blonde, blue-eyed and pale' but can you put things like dyed hair or make up and things.
#1 - May 01, 2013, 06:37 AM

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Less is more, IMHO. I think whatever descriptors you put in should work to set up what type of person we are meeting. It's fine to say tall, more important to say he is tall and brooding. If you're telling me about their clothes, why? Because they're perfectly tailored? Hand-me downs? Has her makeup been applied with a trowel?

In the pilot episode of LOST when we are introduced to JACK, we're told is he's 40 and fit and that's it, but the writers spend a good deal of time setting up the fact that his face is speckled with mud and his breathing is erratic and that one look at him and you know this is someone you can trust, but right now he's in trauma. Every word helps set up the situation JACK is in, and what we can expect from this character moving forward.

I'm relatively new to screenwriting, so others may have more helpful insights!  :goodluck
#2 - May 01, 2013, 07:58 AM
Top 50 finalist, The Launch Pad Manuscript Competition, https://www.tblaunchpad.com/contests/6

You might want to read some of Blake Snyder's screenwriting books if you are just starting out. A lot of the specifics depends on your own writing style and on the type of script you are writing. If you're writing a rom-com the descriptions would be equally light. If you're writing a serious drama, they'd be more direct.   

http://www.amazon.com/Blake-Snyder/e/B001JOXDUA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1368219768&sr=8-1

To answer your specific question -- would you put dyed hair in the character description?

That depends. Is it important? Does it inform character? Or are you only plugging it in because you don't know who the character is?

KYRA, 20-something, bleached-blond bubble head with a too short skirt and a too low-cut top = the reader knows  who this character is. She's dressed trampy and might not know it, or she does know it and doesn't care. Either way, the reader feels superior to her.

KYRA, 35, a mom with dyed hair = a reader has no clue who this character is. Is she a hippy? Conservative? Overwhelmed by her kids? A helicopter parent? Who cares about her hair?
#3 - May 10, 2013, 02:37 PM
OPEN COURT, Knopf

The answer is: you answered it yourself.  It really varies.  In a script, you don't need things like height and weight and hair color unless it's specific/necessary for the character.  Remember that you don't have to describe the character as he/she will appear on the screen, because that will not be in your control.  You're trying to hook the reader -- who could be a hired script reader, or could be a producer or an actor or a studio exec or a network exec -- and to do it by painting a picture about who this character is and why we care about following his/her story.
#4 - May 10, 2013, 05:38 PM
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SHUFFLE, REPEAT (2016, Random House)
JILLIAN CADE: (FAKE) PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR (2015, Soho Teen)

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And Jen would know!  :yup
#5 - May 10, 2013, 06:00 PM
Top 50 finalist, The Launch Pad Manuscript Competition, https://www.tblaunchpad.com/contests/6

 :motorhome You might want to try the Done Deal Pro boards, too. It's like this board, but specifically for screenwriters. A few produced TV people and some produced screenwriters hang out there. (guy who's a showrunner for Chicago Fire, and the writer of Hangover II, and Identity Thief).   

http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/
#6 - May 11, 2013, 08:29 AM
OPEN COURT, Knopf

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Awesome link,  :thankyou CC!  :hug
#7 - May 11, 2013, 08:53 AM
Top 50 finalist, The Launch Pad Manuscript Competition, https://www.tblaunchpad.com/contests/6

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