Writing - The Cast Of Characters
( Originally Published 1922 )
How to Write the Cast.— When writing the synopsis, first note down the names of all your principal characters before you begin to outline the plot. Then, as you complete your synopsis, record each additional character's name as soon as he or she appears.
All of your important characters should be described briefly in your cast, so that the editor will know at a glance what type of characters they are.
The cast is necessary and important because it gives the editor a clear idea of how many people are needed to pro-duce your script. At a glance, he knows whether his company is capable of producing your work.
It is best to make the cast as explanatory as possible. This will be a great help to the editor. You should give the approximate age of the characters, general appearance, occupation, characteristics and the type of part he or she is to play. Of course, there are no special restrictions to be placed upon the description of your characters. A brief description of from three to twelve words is generally sufficient. If you bring out the characteristics of your people clearly in the synopsis, the probabilities are that you will not have to de-scribe them so fully in the cast.
A Model Cast of Characters.—The following Cast of Characters for "Tol'able David," the model synopsis reproduced in Chapter V, will give you a correct idea of just how to write the cast.
David Kinemon; younger son of Hunter Kinemon; ambitious to be a man; quick to avenge a wrong.
Hunter Kinemon; mountaineer father of David; a good man at peace with the world.
Mrs. Kinemon; David's faithful mother.
Allen Kinemon; David's elder brother, who drives the U. S. Mail Coach.
Rose Kinemon; devoted wife of Allen.
Mr. Hatburn; meek neighbor of the Kinemons.
Esther Hatburn; granddaughter of Hatburn; David's youthful sweeheart.
Iscah Hatburn; distantly related to Esther's grandfather, a base moutaineer who has just escaped from prison.
Luke Hatburn; elder son of Iscah; a fiendish character who delights in killing all living things.
Saul Hatburn; younger son of Iscah; self-centered and of a low order.
Rocket; David's dog.
Villagers, passengers, and others.
An Important Point to Remember.—As previously stated, to write a photoplay you merely prepare a detailed synopsis of the plot, telling the story of your play in from five hundred to five thousand words, and follow this synopsis with a list of the characters that take part in your production. This is all you need do. You do not bother with sub-titles, inserts, scenes, and so on; this is all attended to in the studio after your synopsis is purchased. Editors merely want to buy ideas from you—and they are willing to pay big money for them. So photoplay writing is a simple proposition technically. You merely prepare a synopsis and follow it with a cast of characters—then your work is ready to be submitted.
What Names to Give Your Characters.—Shakespeare said that a rose by another name would be just as sweet. In fact, he thought there wasn't much in a name. This is one instance where the great writer was wrong.
There is a great amount of psychology in names. It will be worth your time to study them. Many writers are able to make you like or dislike their characters, in a measure, just as soon as you hear their names. Dickens and Hawthorne often happily made the name describe the character. Isn't it easy to tell that "Mr. Gathergold" is a money grabber?
Some inexperienced writers seem to enjoy calling their hero Apollo or Reginald, while their heroine blossoms out handicapped with Magnolia or Evalina. Such names are the identification marks of inexperience. Do not use them. Can you imagine any reasonable person wanting to follow the antics of an Apollo?
Different names suggest different stations in life. The tendency among writers who want to make the character seem aristocratic, is to call them Van der This or Van Something Else. The reason for this is not clear. Surely there is nothing in the "Van" to elevate the character. Richard Harding Davis once wrote a story about a fair sort of chap whom he called Van Bibber. Can it be imitation that has brought about this Van-pest? By all means do not handicap your characters with such names. If you knew how irritating it is to an editor, you would not do so. If you have to choose between calling your character Vanderbilt or Smith, make it Smith !
There is great power and beauty in a well-chosen name. You should not use names appearing in popular plays or publications, however, even though they are very attractive; for readers often ascribe certain characteristics to certain names and are liable to be prejudiced against your characters. Remember that a bad name suggests a bad character; and, if you try to make the public believe otherwise, you will have a difficult time.