Screenplay Character


Assign ages to your characters with the greatest of forethought and care. Character age is critically important, down to the specific year, especially for females. One or two digits say more about your character more economically than any other single thing. Consider the difference between introducing 'DEBRA, 12, . . ' and 'DEBRA, 13, . . ' Every woman who remembers being twelve and thirteen, or has a daughter that age, knows the world of difference this represents. The laws of physics keep changing as Debra goes 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. How different is each of these years in terms of her development, relationship with friends, parents, boys, and her ambitions and limitations? Consider the years 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25, particularly with regard to emotional maturity and the biological time clock. Then we have the ultra critical years 27, 28, 29, and then 39, 49, 59.

Each year contains major importance, and should play out in the story as such. The importance should be attached to the phases of a man's life, of course, though the striations seem fewer and farther apart.

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  1. View the coming-of-age film Thirteen (2003). What makes that such an effective title? Why is the girls being thirteen so important to the story? What divide (or breakthrough) does this represent? Why is the age chosen particularly important for females? How different would the movie be if it had been called 'Sixteen'?
  2. Review the classic The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). What power is generated in the story by holding the central character's age constant in parallel with an aging world? What can we learn about the importance of age?