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Why Naming Characters For Your Screenplay Is Not The Best Use Of Time

By Author: Ronald Bell
Total Articles: 35

Movie loglines rarely mention a character's actual name. This is important to think about. Many writers spend a tremendous amount of time researching and naming characters. Often they will pick a name before they decide who a character really is. When someone asks you about a movie, how often do you include the name of a character? The answer is probably very rarely. If you do mention a character, you are probably more likely to refer to them as the actor or actress who played the character than the actual character name.
It may seem important to give a character the perfect name, but its much less important than who the actual character is. Take Bridget Jones as an example. Bridget Jones may be the most perfect name for that character than anyone could ever come up with. But is the character intriguing because she is named Bridget Jones, or because she's a neurotic, smoking, drinking, over-eating, out-of-romance girl who's trying to break her bad habits and find her dream man? Have you ever liked a person, either fictional or real, solely based on their name? Don't spend time naming characters that you could be using to create them.
Many writers focus exclusively on details like naming characters that are not all that important to someone who you are pitching too. It may be nice that you have thought up every poster on a bedroom wall, but that's not what is most important. What genre are you writing? What is the lead character like? What is that character's goal? What main obstacle are they going to have to face? This is what is the most important and what you should focus on instead of naming characters.
Besides naming characters, another way that many writers waste their time is by watching existing movies and then writing their own loglines for them. It can be good practice, but it's a waste of time unless you were planning to watch that movie anyways. It is highly doubtful that any professional screenwriters take the time to mimic the loglines of their peers.
Instead, try something that Blake Snyder suggests. Road test your logline. Come up with your genre, your character description, their goal, and their obstacle and pitch it to people. You can pitch it to anyone: friends, family, co-workers, and even complete strangers. You can do it verbally, over e-mail, even via text. Make sure to give your pitch context. "This is a horror film set in the Wild West." After you've described your movie, stress what's special and unique about it. "What's special and unique about 'John Doe's Zombie Cowboy Movie' is....
This will get you the feedback that you need. If strangers on the street think it sucks, it probably does. If your friends and family think it sucks and tell you so, it almost definitely sucks. If you don't think that normal people are able to give advice about movies, who exactly do you think is going to be paying money to see your movie? While your cousin may not be a professional movie expert, chances are he knows what he likes and what would want to see. He may even give you a more candid and honest answer than a renowned cinema expert.

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