Thursday, January 28, 2010

Screenwriting in the supermarket - Drawing characters


Dick, handsome as ever, wearing a cowboy hat and steel toed boots, strolls through the aisles powerfully.  Change JANGLES as ambles, and EMPLOYEES turn to him in awe as he passes. Dick stops when he notices Jane, beautiful and elegant, stocking cereal.


Jane wipes sweat from her brow and nods respectfully.

I heard snowstorm tonight. You here for canned goods?

Dick shifts nervously in his colossal foot wear.

I...I...uh...I just kinda saw you there. And I thought, well gee, you're pretty. Do you think that -

Canned goods aisle five. Get.

Do you you wanna go on a date with me sometime? Maybe lunch?

I might could consider it.

Dick looks down sheepishly. Then he glances up. Their eyes meet.

Soup. Green beans. Green broccoli. Celery.

She looks at Dick deviously and winks.

Creamed corn...

Dick wobbles and stumbles backwards.

Yea...yes ma'am. Aisle five. Got it. Th-th-thank -


This was extreme but there are two points here.  1) Draw broad, distinct and memorable characters. Give their speech a unique cadence and rhythm. Make every character sound completely different.  You can always scale back if needed. 2) Always consider reversals! The action here sets up completely opposite characters than what's played out in dialogue.  The cowboy is the quivering mess, and the stock girl is confident and strong.  You can use reversals like this all over your script.  Maybe Dick actually is the strong, confident type, but he meets Jane and melts. Jane is the only cowgirl in the supermarket to meet Dick's confidence with her own brand of home-bred arrogance.  Or maybe you just you these two characters or their relationship for constant comic relief.  There is a wealth of jokes in reversals, so plumb the depths greedily.

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