Think there’s nothing to introducing characters in a script? Think again!
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a deep dive into the subject of character introductions. Why? For an explanation, check out Part 1.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.
Part 5 here.
Part 6 here.
Part 7 here.
Part 8 here.
Part 9 here.
Part 10 here.
Part 11 here.
Part 12: Introduction Through Surprise (cont’d)
Ending First: There are stories where the narrative is told backward such as Memento or the 1983 Harold Pinter movie adaptation of his play Betrayal [description from IMDb]: “Pinter’s play examines the surprise attraction, shy first steps, gradual flowering, and treasonous deception of a woman’s extramarital affair with her husband’s best friend; the entire story is told from the husband’s point of view, with the scenes in precise reverse chronological order.” In both cases, the narrative starts at the end.
Then there are movies, such as Citizen Kane and The Usual Suspects, where the story starts with the ending, then cuts back in time to the ‘true’ beginning, and proceeds in linear fashion toward the finale.
One excellent example of this that also represents a surprising character introduction is the 1950 Billy Wilder classic Sunset Blvd. Here is an excerpt of the opening:
Of course the surprise is not only the story starting at the end, but also the revelation that the character providing the voiceover is the dead man in the pool.
Dreams / nightmares: Give the appearance things are one way, then reveal they aren’t. That’s one surprise you can pull if you use a dream or nightmare to introduce a character. The 1983 movie Risky Business [written by Paul Brickman] begins with a classic teenage fantasy that turns into a nightmare:
Interestingly when Trojan War sold as a pitch to Warner Bros., we started the script at the end: Brad in a police interrogation room, battered and beaten, much in the same spirit and tone as The Hangover. The director came along and switched the opening to a dream sequence which you can see here.
Surprise is yet one more trick of the trade. When we put them all together — physicality as personality, dialogue, action, objects, surprise and editorializing — it’s clear we have a variety of ways to craft compelling, informative and entertaining character introductions.
I hope you have enjoyed this series. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to take care when introducing your story’s characters.
Comments? Click on RESPONSE and let me know what you think.
Character Introductions: Part 12