Monday, July 30, 2007

Character Descriptions in Two Lines

Ever been stuck trying to introduce a new character? Okay, maybe not. Especially if you tend to take an entire paragraph to do it. But I'm here to tell you that it can actually be done in just one short sentence.

Yep. Once sentence...Actually, two lines in this case.

How am I so sure about this? Well, The Nails told me so over twenty years ago. The song was 88 Lines About 44 Women and it's a great example of concise character descriptions. Check these out:

"Reno was a nameless girl
a geographic memory..."

"Jeannie had a nightclub walk
that made grown men feel underage..."

"Jackie was a rich punk rocker
silver spoon and a paper plate..."

"Sarah was a modern dancer
lean pristine transparency..."

You get the picture. Just two lines and you instantly get a feel for what each woman is like. All they need are ages and they're pretty much good to go.

For most screenplays, this is quite sufficient for an introduction. As the story continues, however, it's the characters' actions and dialogue that fully uncover the essence of their personalities.