Character Names

MadMan

Member
Let's say for example the protagonist (John Character) is in his living room when the phone rings. He picks it up.

JOHN
Hi.

CALLER
Hi.



Now we don't know the caller's name.


CALLER
It's your brother.


We still don't know the caller's name but we know it's John's brother. Now do i write:

BROTHER
What's up?

OR

CALLER
What's up?

Do i stay with the name "Caller" or "Brother"???

And later if the brother's name is mentioned do i start using his real name???

Thanks.
 

Uranium City

Pro Member
indiePRO
If John's brother eventually has a name, you'd use his name from the very beginning.

JOHN
Hi

STEVE
Hi

JOHN
Who is it?

STEVE
It's your brother.

JOHN
Which brother?

STEVE
It's your brother Steve.

JOHN
Steve, you got the money you owe me, jerk?
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
The script is a blueprint in a way. It's the document that everyone
involved in the production of a movie uses to determine what they
will bring to the production. You, the writer, aren't trying to hide
anything - you are trying to make it as easy as possible for everyone
reading the script to understand what is going on.

If you use three different character names (CALLER, BROTHER, STEVE)
it looks as if there are three different characters on the phone with
John. For example; the actor hired to play Steve reads the script and
passes over the lines given to "CALLER" and "BROTHER" because he
is playing Steve.

A longer way of saying what Uranium City said. There is no need to
make the very simple screenplay format so complicated.
 
I've always just assumed to go with the name from the beginning.

At most, I'll do something like: "A man with no arms and five heads, RICK, walks in and starts urinating on the five golden bacon salt shakers."
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
The shooting script is more of a blueprint than the screenplay. If you are writing a spec screenplay, you don't want to reveal your twist, or ruin a mystery.
 

FatalFire

Member
If you were writing a novel you would hide the names so the reader gets the pay off with the reveal.

A script is something completely different, its not read for enjoyment it is a set of instructions for making the film. So use the character's name from the start.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
The shooting script is more of a blueprint than the screenplay. If you are writing a spec screenplay, you don't want to reveal your twist, or ruin a mystery.
I suppose if the twist is a voice on the phone turns out to be someone
different than the reader expects, "CALLER" might be appropriate.

SALLY
Hello.

CALLER
Sally. it's time.

SALLY
What do you mean? Who is this?

CALLER
It's time.

SALLY
Stop it!

Sally pulls the phone from her ear. The Caller repeats his message over and over. She slowly
brings the reciever back to her ear.

CALLER
It's time.

SALLY
Oh my God. Steve?

CALLER
Yes. And it's time.

Sally drops the phone. Steve appears in the window behind her. He smashes it. Sally turns sharply.

STEVE
I told you.

He lunges through the shards of broked glass.
But changing the character name twice in a phone conversation (with no
specific story twist) is just confusing.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
I suppose if the twist is a voice on the phone turns out to be someone
different than the reader expects, "CALLER" might be appropriate.



But changing the character name twice in a phone conversation (with no
specific story twist) is just confusing.
Agreed. I don't think there's a twist here, was just noting the exception, as far as I'm concerned.
 

FilmJumper

Member
We should point out that using the brother's name from the GET-GO would only be correct if the caller had been introduced in the script before this call. Otherwise, CALLER is fine. However, at some point, you'd need to INTRODUCE that character to the reader ESPECIALLY if this is a spec script and once introduced, continue on by using the character's name.

filmy
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
We should point out that using the brother's name from the GET-GO would only be correct if the caller had been introduced in the script before this call. Otherwise, CALLER is fine. However, at some point, you'd need to INTRODUCE that character to the reader ESPECIALLY if this is a spec script and once introduced, continue on by using the character's name.

filmy
That's the way I've been doing it. I don't use the name until the name has been spoken. Filmy, in a shooting script, could you just put the name even though the character hasn't been introduced to avoid confusion? My guess is yes, but just want to ask.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
That's the way I've been doing it. I don't use the name until the name has been spoken.
So let’s say for 20 pages no one in the script speaks the
characters name. What do you call that character?

I’ve written several scripts where no one ever says a characters
name. In that case what would you call that character?

Would it be inappropriate to use STEVE if the first scene in a
movie was a phone call and the character of Steve is the caller?
He isn’t seen and no one says his name.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
So let’s say for 20 pages no one in the script speaks the
characters name. What do you call that character?

I’ve written several scripts where no one ever says a characters
name. In that case what would you call that character?

Would it be inappropriate to use STEVE if the first scene in a
movie was a phone call and the character of Steve is the caller?
He isn’t seen and no one says his name.
I probably do it wrong... :weird: I need some polishing. I haven't written in a long time. The next screenplay I write will be seriously messed up.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
It's not about wrong or right. I'm just wondering what
you call the character before someone says their name
by offering a two examples.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
I did something like Man #1, Man #2... but like I said, it's been awhile. I am actually looking forward to writing again, so I may be the one asking questions here soon :)
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I can see that being really difficult to keep track of.

Everyone being Man #1, Man #2, Woman #1, Woman #2
until someone says their name and then you use the name
in the script.

I have a script where no one ever calls the lead character
by name. The entire script she is "MARY". It would be interesting
to read the "That Thing You Do Script". No one ever says the
bass players name and in the credits he's listed as "T. B. Player"
 

FilmJumper

Member
It is generally inappropriate to use a character's name in the character cue BEFORE you've introduced the character even if some other character says the character's name unless you cut to a shot of said character in order to introduce him or her.

Of course if it's your own script and you're shooting it yourself, you can do whatever you want... I'm talking about a spec script or a script you're attempting to obtain financing for. Inevitably, someone down the line is going to have someone who knows what they're doing, read the script and if in reading the script, someone who knows what they're doing finds a name without the appropriate introduction beforehand, they will most likely think they missed something and flip pages back to find the intro.

And... When it's not there, then your script comes off that much more unprofessional.

Generally speaking, you simply give the character some kind of temporary name as you've already pointed out above when we haven't yet SEEN this character.

I have seen character introductions for characters we've only heard on the phone but not yet seen as outlined above but they generally come off fairly clunky.

In the very first post in this thread, the correct way to accomplish what we're discussing would be to cut to a shot of the character during the phone conversation and write his introduction to the story/script.

However, this ALL DEPENDS on your story... In the same example above, there might be a very good reason the writer doesn't want us to see John's brother... What if he's in a wheelchair? What if he's a transvestite? What if he's in prison? In a case like this, the writer might not want to reveal this information till later on in the script. If so, then the way it's written would be appropriate.

But generally speaking, you don't use the character's real name in the character cue until we actually meet the character through the written introduction of said character. Before that, using something temporary like CALLER, VOICE ON PHONE, etc. is fine.

filmy
 
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