Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

Screenplay Character Description Examples

Every screenwriter wants to create engaging, intriguing, and, most of all, memorable characters. Writers never want to undersell a character with a poor introduction. You might be thinking that in screenwriting, introducing a character is easy! You have to write their name, age, and a brief physical description, and you're done.

SoCreate Subscriptions Coming Soon!

Beta trials are full, but you can sign up to be notified once our subscription service begins.

Writing character descriptions is one of the most overlooked aspects of screenwriting. That's why today I'm talking all about introducing characters and providing some screenplay character description examples!

Screenplay Character Description Examples

What is Character Description in a Screenplay?

A character description is the literal introduction of a character in a screenplay. It's the first time the reader comes across this character, so it provides brief information about them, their name, age, and a brief physical description.

Why is Character Description Necessary?

Character descriptions are necessary because, without them, a reader might overlook a character or be confused about who they are. Character descriptions say to a reader, "Hey, pay attention! This character is important!"

What Goes Into Character Description?

  1. Name and Age

    A character description includes writing a character's name in all caps when they're first introduced. Writing the name in all caps helps alert the reader to the introduction of a new character. Their age range should accompany the character name in parenthesis, for example, SUSAN (25-30).

  2. Physical Descriptions

    You don't have to get overly detailed about what your character is wearing or what they look like. Try to pick out one aspect or write a short sentence that speaks to the visual nature of your character. Do they always wear the same denim jacket with patches for various social causes on it? Are they the lone redhead in their family of blondes? Describe something about your character that brings the visual to life and tells us about who they are.

  3. Write a Sentence to Describe Their Traits

    In a brief sentence, you want to express a defining description of your character. Being able to nail down who a character is in one sentence takes practice, so don't sweat it if you struggle at first! Some examples might be:

    • She's the type of person who uses secrets as currency.
    • He might not look it, but he's the strongest person in the room.
    • She's the kind of person you'd feel safe approaching to ask for directions.

Character Description Examples

I could type away all day explaining character descriptions, but like with most things in screenwriting, I think reading examples is more impactful. Here are some examples of character descriptions. Bad examples, good examples, and examples from produced screenplays!

Examples of Bad Character Description

Bad Character Description Script Snippet

JUDY SMITH walks the makeup aisle of CVS, shoplifting.

This description is very bare bones. It tells us who the character is but doesn't provide much information beyond what she's doing.

Bad Character Description Script Snippet

MICHAEL DAWSON (17) hot, throws a football with friends. He misses a catch.

Again, this is an example that doesn't provide much information. It does provide a simple description that you might come across in teen rom-coms or horror movies. That description boils a character down to their attractiveness. Usually, this is seen with female characters where they're simply described as hot, pretty, or beautiful with no further description. "Hot" doesn't tell us about a character; there are many different versions of hot. "Hot" also doesn't relay information about a character's personality.

Examples of Good Character Description

Good Character Description Script Snippet

JUDY SMITH (30s) walks down the makeup aisle in CVS. She slips foundation, mascara, and lipstick into her pockets. She's plain-looking enough that nobody's caught her in her lifetime of shoplifting.

This description tells us more about Judy than the previous bad example. Judy is in her 30s and is plain enough looking that nobody has ever caught her in her lifelong shoplifting career. This description invites intrigue; it makes us want to know why Judy is a career shoplifter.

Good Character Description Script Snippet

MICHAEL DAWSON (17) looks more like an Abercrombie model than your average high school student as he distractedly tosses a football around. He scans the bleachers. The ball is tossed back to him, narrowly missing hitting him in the face. Of course, he isn't hit, his good looks wouldn't allow it.

This description is a lot more in-depth. Michael is described as looking like an Abercrombie model, and he's so good-looking that mundane, annoying things like getting hit in the face with a football don't happen to him. We also know that he's distracted and looking for someone.

Real Character Description Examples

"The Silence of the Lambs" by Ted Tally

This character description of Dr. Hannibal Lecter paints how unsettling of a character he is while also speaking to his polite, formal, and cultured personality.

"The Silence of the Lambs" Script Snippet

DR. HANNIBAL LECTER is lounging on his bunk, in white pajamas,
reading an Italian Vogue. He turns, considers her... A face
so long out of the sun, it seems almost leached - except for
the glittering eyes, and the wet red mouth. He rises smoothly,
crossing to stand before her; the gracious host. His voice
is cultured, soft.

"Training Day" by David Ayer

The description of Denzel Washington's character, Sergeant Alonzo Harris, speaks a lot about who he is and how others perceive him.

"Training Day" Script Snippet

DETECTIVE SERGEANT ALONZO HARRIS, in black shirt, black leather jacket. And just enough platinum and diamonds to look like somebody. He reads the paper in a booth. The gun leather-tough LAPD vet is a hands-on, blue-collar cop who can kick your ass with a look.

"Queen and Slim" by Lena Waithe

 This script has very direct character descriptions that quickly summarize each main character.

"Queen and Slim" Script Snippet

The MAN: has a slender frame and a laid back demeanor. He's not a fan of rocking the boat or ruffling feathers, but he ain't no punk either. For the purpose of this story we'll call him SLIM.

The WOMAN: She's regal as f***. She's not an easy laugh and she's always waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the purposes of this story, we'll call her QUEEN.

"10 Thinks I Hate About You" by Karen McCullah & Kirsten Smith

The description of Kat tells us a lot about her.

"10 Things I Hate About You" Script Snippet

KAT STRATFORD, eighteen, pretty -- but trying hard not to be -- in a baggy granny dress and glasses, balances a cup of coffee and a backpack as she climbs out of her battered, baby blue '75 Dodge Dart.

In Conclusion

Now you're ready to go off and write your own character descriptions! Remember to consider what your character descriptions say about who your character is. Don't sell your characters short with character descriptions that don't tell us something about them, their personality, or their traits. Happy writing!

You may also be interested in...

5 Tips for Writing Action Descriptions in a Traditional Screenplay

5 Tips for Writing Action Descriptions in a Traditional Screenplay

Screenplays should be quick, snappy reads with moments of “oohs” and “awws” that grab the reader’s attention. Something that I find myself struggling with, especially in first drafts, is describing the action of what’s going on. Too often I can go overboard, and overly describe what’s happening. I find myself painting the picture of what you’re seeing, and while that works in prose, in screenwriting, it’s just slowing down your readability. So if you’re like me and find yourself struggling with the snappy quickness of the descriptions in your script here are five tips to help you speed things up...

4 Common Dialogue Problems in a Script

Screenplays are meant to be taut, precise, almost effortless reads that act as a blueprint for other film industry folk. But there are common dialogue problems in a script that muddy its purity, leaving your reader trudging through page after page of gobbledygook. Luckily these issues are easy to spot during a rewrite of your script's lines of dialogue. Take a read through four common screenplay dialogue problems (with dialogue script examples) that you can probably find (and fix) right now. You’ll learn how to write strong dialogue in a script that keeps the reader moving right along ...

Write Scene Description in a Traditional Screenplay

How to Write Scene Description in a Traditional Screenplay

How do you introduce a scene in a screenplay? Ideally, I want to write a scene description that is engaging, clear, and conjures visuals from the page. I want the reader to breeze through my script, and have the scene descriptions subtly work to pique their interest, bringing them deeper and deeper into the world of my story. These are the qualities I want my scene descriptions to have, but alas, I am a wordy gal. I am, can’t help it. My first drafts are often plagued with long descriptions, and my scene descriptions are no exception. Here are a few tips I use to help get my scene descriptions more in line with what ...