Name your Red Shirts

Actually the title is a bit misleading, because I’m not saying to name the people about to die. What I’m really saying is name an “extra character” that has direct action or dialogue in your script.

For example. I recently saw something like this;

“A motorcycle gang surrounds Joe. They pull out chains and knives and other playful toys.
One gang member yells OK GET HIM!
The gang attacks.
A gang member punches Joe. WE WANT YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE
A gang member kicks Joe. MAYBE WELL TAKE BOTH.
A gang member grabs Joe’s girlfriend. Joe’s girlfriend struggles but the gang member is too strong, she can’t break away. The gang member sticks his nose into Joe’s girlfriend’s hair and inhales deeply.
The gang member looks toward the camera and gives a creepy smile.
A gang member takes a swig of whiskey. HURRY UP.
A bunch of gang members stomp on Joe.”

Ignoring the fact that this entry isn’t written with any format (which it should).
The generic reference to the cast puts a bigger burden on the artist to figure out exactly who’s in the scene and who’s doing what.

*Naming extras makes the scene clearer.
*Naming extras makes the script more efficient.
*Naming the extras can also convey character detail to the artist, through the name alone. What comes to mind when I call a gang member; “Red, One-eye, Spider, Knives, Jamal, Eugene, Kimbo… etc.”

Sometimes you can get away simply by numbering generic names
“Gang member 1 xxxxxxx”
“Gang member 2 xxxxxxx”
“Gang member 1 xxxxxxx”

But adding actual names is more powerful, and if the scene has multiple extras 1,2,3,4 — it can get confusing.

If you have a scene of 20 guys no need to name everyone. Just the guys who have dialogue or take direction action in a panel. Especially if a later panel makes use or references that action.

For minor characters in a script, I’ll usually detail the character right in the script where they land. “Mr. Clean, a clean shaven, bald biker with lots of earrings and a leather vest with no shirt underneath…”

I’ll normally put major character details in a separate CAST document to accompany the script. ▪

About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.


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