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Old 02-03-2013, 05:49 PM   #1
Doc181
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When a character's name changes...

I'm brand new here, and I hope I'm not breaking any protocol by my first post being a question.

I'm writing a screenplay wherein the main character's name changes maybe 10-15 pages in; think Genghis Khan, who was really named Temujin for much of his life, or Geronimo, who was named that after a particular battle.

Also similar to those examples, we meet the character when he is a child, and around 12 years old, he gets a new name. So - what is the appropriate way to handle that? It seems odd to call him by his new name when everyone else is calling him by his "original name."

Any thoughts?

Thanks!
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Old 02-03-2013, 06:05 PM   #2
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If I recall correctly . . .

At the first mention of the new name, put the old name in parentheses. I think you only do it once, but I'm not absolutely sure.

KHAN (TEMUJIN)
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:39 PM   #3
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In a screenplay, never change the character's name. It's not like a novel where you are holding out for some 'surprise' for the reader: scripts are for the director and the actors to work with, and he/she needs to know from the get-go who everyone is.

If the name does change - it should ONLY be a revelation for the characters in your work and what they call that character.

Welcome aboard, but before posting more questions, the best thing to do is introduce yourself in the 'New Members' subforum first.
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Old 02-04-2013, 09:47 AM   #4
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I disagree with Wilde at Heart.

First, never is a strong word - there are always exceptions.
Second, if you're trying to portray a story to a reader, you need to emulate how it will play to the viewer. So, if a name change is vital to story, the approach must be as delicate as in the resultant film.

A script may be for the director and actors, but before that it is for readers.
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Old 02-04-2013, 06:47 PM   #5
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I'd add a line into the screenplay, informing the reader of the name change:

From this point on, TEMUJIN will be known as GENGHIS KHAN.

GENGHIS KHAN
Slaughter them all!

-Derek
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Old 02-04-2013, 06:54 PM   #6
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It happens with identity change plot lines. I gave the MC's acquisition of a new identity its own chapter and had the MC call his boss and tell him his new name.

In a screenplay, the audience has the advantage of a clear visual of the character, so it shouldn't take them long to adjust.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LIVIN View Post
I disagree with Wilde at Heart.

First, never is a strong word - there are always exceptions.
Second, if you're trying to portray a story to a reader, you need to emulate how it will play to the viewer. So, if a name change is vital to story, the approach must be as delicate as in the resultant film.

A script may be for the director and actors, but before that it is for readers.
Which readers? The slush pile readers? With screenplays the people who first read it with perhaps a mind to producing it are not to be confused with the eventual cinema audience. The example I was thinking is the typical 'mystery man' scene from a distance, and whose identity is later revealed. In the screenplay you wouldn't put 'mystery man'. You would put his name and then emphasise that he is seen from behind/unknown to the other characters, etc...

And I'd imagine that major plot-changing events would be in the synopsis that they'd probably have read before going through the actual script anyway.

Even if there are exceptions, there aren't many and generally it's a bad idea to push them if you are not already thoroughly familiar with the standards. There are things you can probably get away with if you are already established as a writer that are ill-advised if you are not.

Now one exception might be say, a superhero and his secret identity. Look up Spiderman, Superman, etc. to see how it was handled there. But it is still important to remember that the people who read the screenplay are not an 'audience' in the sense that regular viewers and readers are.

Last edited by Wilde_at_heart; 02-05-2013 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:01 AM   #8
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A screenplay is intended for an audience of viewers. Its author and those who read it prior to its production understand that and treat it accordingly.
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Old 02-07-2013, 08:57 PM   #9
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As long as it is clear to the reader what the situation is, I don't think you'll have a problem either way.
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Old 02-08-2013, 01:01 AM   #10
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I can't remember the names of the characters in any of my favorite movies anyway, unless it's Disney.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:56 PM   #11
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I just thought of the perfect example. When Aragorn is introduced in Lord of the Rings, he is called Strider. It's not till later we learn he is Aragorn. Has anyone seen the actual screenplay of this movie? I wonder how his name is handled?
Thanks for all the replies. -

Hey, I just found it on IMDB! Wow, they just change it with no fanfare at all...
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:39 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wilde_at_heart View Post
In a screenplay, never change the character's name. It's not like a novel where you are holding out for some 'surprise' for the reader: scripts are for the director and the actors to work with, and he/she needs to know from the get-go who everyone is.

If the name does change - it should ONLY be a revelation for the characters in your work and what they call that character.
Read the spiderman script.

Name change from PETER to SPIDERMAN back and forth.
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Old 02-28-2013, 01:45 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
I'd add a line into the screenplay, informing the reader of the name change:

From this point on, TEMUJIN will be known as GENGHIS KHAN.

GENGHIS KHAN
Slaughter them all!

-Derek
I like this way best and when i have read it in scripts its a lot easier to follow than the other options.
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Old 03-05-2014, 02:28 PM   #14
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It's an especially good idea if they resent their old self, like Darth Vader saying that the name Anakin Skywalker no longer had any meaning for him.
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Old 03-25-2014, 04:47 PM   #15
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interesting topic for me as me latest script will use this : someone is introduced/named using some official ID card etc, but we later find out they are someone completely different, which would fall into WaH's scenario i guess. i like Dpaterson's approach, i don't know if i should initially add something like "he holds up an ID showing that name, but we will later discover this is a fake ID" or such?
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Old 03-27-2014, 08:56 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Maiden View Post
interesting topic for me as me latest script will use this : someone is introduced/named using some official ID card etc, but we later find out they are someone completely different, which would fall into WaH's scenario i guess. i like Dpaterson's approach, i don't know if i should initially add something like "he holds up an ID showing that name, but we will later discover this is a fake ID" or such?
I think it entirely depends on the perspective. Do you want your reader (or the viewer if it's going to be a movie) to discover the story's truths and realities with the main character, or do you want them to be privy to wisdom and knowledge the character/characters don't have in the story's now? I think it can certainly work.
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Old 04-11-2014, 06:30 AM   #17
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This comes from Trottier and his "Screenwriter's Bible":

CHARACTERS WITH TWO NAMES
What if a character changes his name from Tom to Harry? One solution is to refer to him as TOM/HARRY or TOM (HARRY) after the name change.
In the movie North by Northwest, we have a case of mistaken identity, but the Cary Grant character is referred to by his true name in each character cue of the entire script. Whatever you decide, make sure you don’t confuse the reader.
In stories that span a person’s lifetime, you might refer to JOE BROWN and YOUNG JOE BROWN. That maintains the identity of the character while, at the same time, making clear the approximate age of the character.
What if a character speaks before we see her? What do you call her? You can refer to her in the character cue by her actual name if you wish, or you may handle the situation as follows:

FEMALE VOICE
I want to tell you...

Ed parts the curtain and sees BAMBI, a twenty-something bombshell with hair tumbling everywhere.

BAMBI
... how much I want you.

See another example at “When to withhold a character’s name”.

Trottier, David (2010-08-01). The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script (Kindle Locations 4192-4207). Silman-James Press. Kindle Edition.
----

So, don't change a character's name in the script. His real name or main name stays, but his secondary name goes in parenthesis. I made the mistake of changing a character's name in the script and it confused the reader.
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