Formatting in Character Names
I recently noticed a Google search that landed someone on my blog at a page that didn't answer their question. The search was for "screenplay formatting character nicknames" and since the same issue recently came up in another script I read for a friend, I decided to address it here. This is not to say that it is the "standard" method of formatting in this case, since I don't think there is a standard, per se. But here is how I've always done it, and what seems to make the most sense.
Suppose you have a character whose name is Carlos Jimenez, but he is commonly known as C.J. Let's also assume there is a reason to list his full name, and not simply refer to him as C.J. and nothing else. Because if everyone in the entire film refers to him as C.J., and the audience will never learn his real name, there is no real reason to ensure that the reader knows it.
In the above situation, I would introduce him as CARLOS "C.J." JIMENEZ (early 40s). I think it reads better and more clearly than writing "CARLOS JIMENEZ, C.J.," "CARLOS JIMENEZ, or C.J.," "CARLOS JIMENEZ, aka C.J.," or "CARLOS JIMENEZ, better known as C.J." I've seen variations like this many times, and I think my version is best.
I also included the (early 40s) because I wanted to talk again about character ages. I did post about it once before, but I just wanted to reiterate it here. Also, it would be preferable if you aimed for some consistency in how you write the character ages. Personally, I prefer the age in parentheses immediately following the introduced characters name, as above. I don't mind if you do it CARLOS "C.J." JIMENEZ, early 40s. I am slightly less fond of when the age is buried in description, as in, "CARLOS 'C.J.' JIMENEZ, a hulking presence dressed in worn leather, drags his forty-year old body across the room."
But however you choose to describe your character's ages, you should aim to do it in the same style for each of your characters. For the same reason that you put the character ages (making things easier for the reader), consistency in this area is also something to aim for.
This has been a public service announcement from your friendly neighborhood script reader. Thank you!
Tags: screenwriting, script+reading, screenplay+formatting