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Revealing a Character's Name?

EDIT: Thank you everyone who responded. My issue has been resolved but of course feel free to continue any discussions that arose from this topic :)

I have a character that doesn't get their name revealed to the reader until they introduce themselves to another character. They survived a car crash and I at first refer to them as "Man Who Survived" in the descriptive text each time they are involved in a scene. After they say their name to the other character, I then change their name above their next line of dialogue, and the rest thereafter, to their actual name. Do I need to write a piece of descriptive text before they say their next line of dialogue, that includes their now revealed name in all caps, or can I just leave it at making their next line of dialogue be under their now revealed name?
 
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Sorry, this will probably sound unhelpful but I would aim to only make it apparent once in the script that the character's name has changed. So that the flow does not seem stilted.

Guess if you feel the character's name change requires some more description of the character at that point, then go for it.
 
That's okay Miked, thanks for your response all the same. The character who was at first known in the script as Man Who Survived is actually named Tom. When I introduce him, I didn't put Man Who Survived in all caps. It isn't until the next time his name is mentioned in descriptive text do I put Tom in all caps.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
indiePRO
I have a character that doesn't get their name revealed to the reader until they introduce themselves to another character.
I took a look at your profile page. You list your occupation as
"Screenwriter" so I will make the assumption that you write
screenplays as your occupation.

You know from experience that you do not need to hide anything
from the reader. I have the same question as mad_hatter; Why
do you feel you need to hide this characters name from the reader?
It's a difficult format question to answer because there doesn't
seem to be a reason for it. Perhaps if you explain why I can help
with the formatting of it.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
I took a look at your profile page. You list your occupation as
"Screenwriter" so I will make the assumption that you write
screenplays as your occupation.

I'm sure he's an aspiring screenwriter looking for assistance. ;) You can put filmmaker, screenwriter, female body inspector or whatever you want there.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
indiePRO
I'm sure he's an aspiring screenwriter looking for assistance. ;) You can put filmmaker, screenwriter, female body inspector or whatever you want there.
True. I wouldn't offer the same advice to an aspiring screenwriter looking for
assistance as I would to someone whose occupation is screenwriting. I would
hate to offer assistance and then be told, "I'm a pro I know all that."
 
The actor can know the name of his character. I'm sure Matt Damon knew it was Jason Bourne/David Webb by reading the script. You're concealing it from the audience not the actors.

What audience? The only "audience" for a screenplay are people who you potentially want to be involved in making your film. You don't want to confuse those people.

We don't really know the full context of what the OP is trying to do (hopefully they will answer my questions, so we do know a little more). But I don't read this as being like a whodunnit slasher movie, where your killer is GHOSTFACE, until the moment their identity is revealed.
 
What audience? The only "audience" for a screenplay are people who you potentially want to be involved in making your film. You don't want to confuse those people.

We don't really know the full context of what the OP is trying to do (hopefully they will answer my questions, so we do know a little more). But I don't read this as being like a whodunnit slasher movie, where your killer is GHOSTFACE, until the moment their identity is revealed.
We're on the same length. Story or film it will become is for the audience but the identity can be instantly relayed to the producers, directors, actors, etc.
 
Thanks everyone for your responses. Sorry for any confusion with the question. I didn't intend to withhold Tom's name from the reader, it was just the result of faulty thinking, in which I didn't want to put "Man Who Survived" in all caps when the character is first introduced to the reader, and wanted to just wait until he says his name is Tom, so I could put Tom in all caps when his name is first mentioned in the descriptive text. This of course created a sequence of events in my thinking that continued down the wrong road. I should just name him as Tom in the descriptive text when he's first introduced.

Directorik, I didn't put two and two together that people seeing Screenwriter as my profession would have them assume that I'm a professional one. So that's something I should have picked up, and I definitely wouldn't want to respond to someone, even if I were a professional Screenwriter, by telling them "I'm a pro I know all that.", because I believe learning is an ongoing experience in life no matter whether someone is a professional or not. Professionals in any fields would do well to listen to advice given that is actually beneficial, especially if they're doing something wrong or are given an alternate method that ends up being more effective.
 
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In that case, I expect you will first write his name, in all CAPS, the first time we see him. So something like:

Suddenly, the door of the overturned car pops open. TOM (27, scruffy hair, beard) crawls from the wreckage.

No need to hide anything or refer to him as anything else.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
indiePRO
I have been accused too often of being unsupportive so I choose to
err on the side of caution. I want to give a possible alternative to
your current method so I asked a few questions to better understand
why the question is being asked. A professional knows not to hide
this info from the reader – an aspiring screenwriter might not know
why it's best to not hide this info. A pro might be asking about format
alternatives, an aspiring screenwriter might be looking for advice on
what readers and producers expect.
 
Use his name. If he were a walk-on walk-off character, then MAN WHO SURVIVED can work. Along these lines ...

A major pile up, twisted metal and smoking engines. No signs of life - until a bloodied hand reaches out from an overturned truck. MAN WHO SURVIVED slowly crawls out.

But then again, if he's moving then we know he survived, and you can call him MAN #1. Or TRUCK DRIVER.


All together ..

Twisted metal and smoking engines. No sign of life - until TOM, late 20s, bloodied office suit, crawls from a trashed Mercedes. He gets his bearings, calls out, checks other vehicles. He hears a grunt, finds TRUCK DRIVER, 40s, trapped under a pick-up.

A later scene you can have a policeman or woman ask Tom his name.

COP
Name?

TOM
Man who survived.

COP
Spell that, please.



This can be tricky when you have characters like SHADOWY FIGURE who later become KASSANDRA, the jilted lover out for revenge. It's okay to string your reader along in some cases, as you want them to be surprised as well, and the script written visually enough to them to feel like they are watching the film.

Since we see Tom's face (I assume), then there is no reason to hide his name until later on.

Be clever about it, not confusing.

alex
 
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It's a script. There is no need to hide anything in the script. Ever.

I find it hard to get behind that. If I were a producer reading a spec script I would hope for skilful storytelling, and skilful storytelling (whatever the format) frequently does require hiding things and misdirection.
 
EDIT: Thank you everyone who responded. My issue has been resolved but of course feel free to continue any discussions that arose from this topic :)

I have a character that doesn't get their name revealed to the reader until they introduce themselves to another character. They survived a car crash and I at first refer to them as "Man Who Survived" in the descriptive text each time they are involved in a scene. After they say their name to the other character, I then change their name above their next line of dialogue, and the rest thereafter, to their actual name. Do I need to write a piece of descriptive text before they say their next line of dialogue, that includes their now revealed name in all caps, or can I just leave it at making their next line of dialogue be under their now revealed name?

Aw crap, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Can't... escape... the tractor beam.

Your post falls directly in line with the good practice of only writing what you can see. Plus the fact that you never asked "Is it OK to do this", but instead asked "How do I do this", tells me you already knew full well this is a frequent device. Nicely done.

It's a script. There is no need to hide anything in the script. Ever.
I find it hard to get behind that.

You should find it impossible. The first page of this thread is like a misinformation highway... that was iced over... with heavy fog... at night... during rush hour.

A wise screenplay reader (not writer) once said that good writing is distinguished by how well your exposition is disguised. And I can personally attest that bald exposition is a rampant problem.

So here we go...

If the audience hasn't really "met" the characters yet and/or you want to maintain a bit of mystery then by all means you need to do this. It's routine to be honest, but admittedly takes more finesse and inventiveness.

One typical approach is to take the enigmatically named character along through your pages until another character calls them by name (or sees a business card or a desk nameplate or a drivers license or a variety of other creative reveals). Heck, now-a-days it's nothing for the trendy coffee shop barista to yell out the name of a character we (yes we the audience, you're always writing for the audience) don't know yet - or perhaps even slicker for us to see the name scrawled in black marker on their polyethylene-coated cup.

As far as format, assuming you've properly cemented their description over the course of their "unidentified" run, just put the former name in parens after the revealed name, and only do this the first time it happens. Like so...
====

Officer struggles to catch his breath.

OFFICER
How much further son?

Guide looks over his shoulder.

GUIDE
Just about there Sergeant Stardrinker.

Guide walks away.

SERGEANT STARDRINKER (OFFICER)
Well I do believe I no longer know where "there" is. In fact I'm not sure of where "here" is. How about we...

Sergeant Stardrinker is interrupted by the sound of sliding rocks. He looks around.

SERGEANT STARDRINKER
Mr. Darkbloom?

MR. DARKBLOOM (GUIDE) glides down a sloped embankment on the opposite side of the plateau.

====

Now I get the impression that this may be a fresh concept to some and I totally understand the whole sake of simplicity thing can seem really freaky, but it's a non-issue on all fronts (except perhaps the challenge it may create for some writers). In my experience actors are typically pretty jazzed to know they are "two" characters in one and have no issue keeping this straight if they know their characters story (which they will, eventually better than you). Readers of course love suspense and surprises, in any form, but I already covered that. As far as script management, it's nothing really. If you have a great story that enthralls and excites the cast/crew then running reports or creating shooting scripts or blocking scenes that have "DRIFTER" and "BUTCHER BAKER" (the former Drifter) in them will be immediately embraced and easily absorbed by all parties involved. All of that being said I would definitely modify your example from MAN WHO SURVIVES to just SURVIVOR.

The practice of a character being THE STRANGER for 10 pages before a ranch hand recognizes them on a wanted poster, or a WAITRESS pouring a dozen cups of coffee before a patron reads the name tag on her uniform, or a PROWLER killing every single camp counselor before being called JASON is commonplace in good screenplays.

OTOH to poof a SUGAR KANE KOWALCZYK into the middle of an action scene without warning is uncouth, furthermore to write "A SEXY MUSICIAN, let's call her SUGAR KANE KOWALCZYK" is unforgivable.

After all this is what we will see, and only what we will see.
 
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In the pilot script for "Breaking Bad," Vince Gilligan opens by repeatedly using the character name of "Underpants Man" to refer to Walter White, who's stumbling around outside his meth-lab RV with a gun while in his underoos. It works well in the opening scene and he only switches to "Walter White" after Bryan Cranston's monologue into the selfie video camera reveals his true name. The conceit is carried on for only the first few pages or so. I wouldn't withhold a character's name very often, and certainly not for any sustained amount of time.
 
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