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How I Wrote a Screenplay in 30 Days: Part 10


Character Passes

Download a copy of the screenplay, A Girl Named Trouble.

After you finish writing a screenplay with no less than a dozen characters, you’ll find that the voices of many characters will drift or become muddled. But there’s a simple way to fix that. Do a pass for each character’s voice. And there’s a great tool in Final Draft for that. Find it here: Tools >> Report >> Character Report

Tracking Character Voices

So one of the first things I do is check each character’s voice for consistency. I pull up a report on each character. It displays all their dialogue in order. You can also choose voice-over and off-screen dialogue too. I was pretty happy with most of the characters, but I did find a few issues with Calix Jace. From the start, I knew Calix was a detail-oriented man. For that reason, he doesn’t curse and he doesn’t use contractions. He considers both of them sloppy and imprecise. After cleaning up those issues, I moved on to character introductions.

Character Introductions

Next, I like to review character introductions. The first time a character appears in a screenplay, the writer has an opportunity to explain a little bit about that character. Going by the book, the reader needs to know the character’s age, gender and a little insight into their personality.

Here’s what I’m trying to say when I introduce each character:

Pg. 1: Roman thinks his way out of trouble.

Pg. 1: Dante is subordinate.

Pg. 2: Everybody likes Bobo.

Pg. 2: Sam has no life.

Pg. 3: Trouble trusts no one.

Pg. 4: Kong is a big enough dog that he doesn’t need to bark.

Pg. 7: Calix Jace is from the past.

Pg. 8: Bernie is struggling.

How to Introduce Cane

I rewrote the character description for Cane eight or nine times. There is so much there to explain. His backstory included this: kicked out of two branches of Special Forces, once for excessive violence. In the end I thought it was more valuable to explain his sadomasochism and balance that flaw with the idea of him wearing a superhero cape. At least that’s how Cane perceives his full-length trench coat.

Next week we’ll explore more individual passes for props, wardrobe and location.


Start the series from the beginning.

Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.