How To Format A Screenplay - 5 Basic Elements : FRIDAY 101
How to Write a Script
Scripts are good setups for writing and maneuvering a show. Whether you're writing it for an upcoming show, or just trying to see how your talents can be shown, to write a script, follow these guidelines.
Learning Scripting Conventions
Have a title page.Your script will need a title page. This will include the title and your name, but it will also include your contact information and your agent's information (if you have an agent).
Use the correct font, margins and breaks.You will need to use Courier font (typewriter font) (12 point) when writing your script. This will give it a more professional appearance but it is also key for making it easier to read. Similarly, you should use the correct indentations for each part of your script, as it will help the reader differentiate between dialogue, scene description, etc.
Give helpful details about the setting and characters.Use slug lines before each scene. These say whether the action is taking place inside or outside, what the location is, and if it is day or night. A character's name should go in all caps above, or next to, their dialogue (depending on what you're writing for). You can also put instructions, such as pauses, in parentheses.
Use the correct formatting for your intended method of presentation.If you want to write a movie script, then you will have to write your script in that format. If you want to write a play script, then you will have to write your script in that format. While they are largely similar, there are distinct differences and learning them all can take time. Read lots of scripts in your intended medium to see how the pros do it.
Make sure you haven't written too much.Scripts usually last about one minute per page, though there is certainly some wiggle room.Scripts are not like books in that word counts. It is a definitive way to gauge length.
Part 1 Quiz
Which should you type in all caps?
Developing Your Story
Formulate a premise.Write a short sentence or phrase of the fundamental concept which drives the plot. This can be something which is the message or idea behind your story, an extremely short plot idea, or something else to give you a goal and unifying idea to work toward.
Create an outline or treatment.Before you begin actually writing dialog and script, it might help to create a basic road-map/story of what will happen in your story so you don't get sidetracked and can work out any plot holes or kinks. Sketch out a general plan and envision how events will unfold. This should be told in the third-person.
Flesh out your story.Write the entire premise of the play, movie, etc. with lots of details and ideas, paying no mind to style, format, repetition, or anything else that gets in the way of your creative flow. Your finished product should cover the plot, personalities, relationships, character arcs, and a larger point to the story. Sometimes, drawings or diagrams may be used as a temporary storyboard to show to other persons to demonstrate facets of your plot and characters, etc.
- Your characters should drive the action on the stage or screen, so make sure they are interesting and innovative. It may not be necessary for you tofullydevelop them right away, however, as they tend to take on lives of their own as the script-writing continues.
Trim the story down.Now that you have everything on paper, look for dead weight, weak links, irrelevant details, over-explaining, sidetracking, elements that drag, and anything else that weakens the overall trajectory. Be harsh; just because you fell in love with something you worked on in the exploratory phase doesn’t mean it should survive the revision phase.
Part 2 Quiz
What elements can you trim from your story?
Improving Your Script
Research after writing your first draft.Watch plays, tv shows, and movies which are similar to the work you’ve just written. Examine your own work in comparison to these others. Do you fall into to many tropes? Is your story over done? See if you can find ways to distinguish yourself from these works.
- Work on making profound contributions to the subject you’ve written. Take a philosophical approach to the topic and challenge conventional ideas. This will make your work much more engaging.
Simplify your writing.You don’t need overly fancy dialogue or crazy scenes to keep your audience engaged. Much like with writing a book, our work shines the most when we are showing, not telling. Make your character’s choices speak for them and put more meaning into what they don’t say than what they do.
Write the plot in script format.The exact format will vary depending on whether you’re writing for theater, TV, or the silver screen – and in what country. (For example, the American TV industry’s standard script format is modeled on the business plan.) Use proper headers to introduce scenes, identify each speaker, and so on; many production companies won’t even look at a script if it isn’t properly formatted.
- Consider purchasing script-writing software for this phase of the process. There are several programs that will guide you through the formatting or even convert an already-written script into the correct layout.
Maintain your style.Remember, scripts are all about action and dialog. Make sure your characters speak realistically, and try not to mix styles of speech and vocabulary too much unless you are going for a certain effect.
Part 3 Quiz
True or False: Your script format may need to vary depending on the medium.
Engaging Your Audience
Set the scene.Don't forget to include important details such as time of day, setting, and actions of the characters in the scene. These are nearly as important as the dialog that occurs.
Describe action only briefly.Provide a sense of what’s happening on screen, but leave it to the director to fill in the details. Writing out all of the action is not the writer’s job. Trying to include too much of this will only leave you disappointed when things are changed.
Spend a lot of time working on your dialogue.Dialogue will make or break your characters and their relationships. What’s worse, dialogue is extremely difficult for most people to write. To get your bearings, write down or record real conversations to see how people really speak and which expressions they use.
- Be sure to listen to a variety of speakers so that you can give your own characters more flavor and individuality.
- Ensuring that different characters have their own "voice" and "persona" based on their background will keep them from blending into one another. Remember, their persona will affect their attitude, word choices and dialect.
- Read your dialogue aloud as you go, paying extra attention to whether or not it sounds halting, stereotyped, over-the-top, or totally uniform.
Part 4 Quiz
What can a character's persona affect?
Finalizing Your Script
Edit your work.Polish it, but don't be a perfectionist; worktowardperfection, nottoit.
Show your finished work to people whose opinion you respect.Choose people who not only come from different backgrounds and have varied personal tastes, but are also willing to provide honest feedback.
- Don't let yourself feel insulted, controlled, upset, or angered by a critiques or remarks; they’re opinion, not fact. Laugh and be enthusiastic about help and advice, but weigh your critics’ opinions against your own judgment before implementing any changes.
Revise your work as many times as necessary.Painful as it may be, you’ll be glad when you’re finally able to convey your vision.
Part 5 Quiz
Who should you ask to review your script prior to submission?
QuestionHow do I write about the characters in the script?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGive brief descriptions of your characters in the script but try to show instead of tell - you want the characters' actions to explain what kind of people they are.Thanks!
QuestionShould I write an outline before writing a script?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, as it helps you to understand the entire story and the ending/consequences. Use paper and simply write the names of characters in a scene, then put the actions in bubbles around the paper and connect each character to a scene. From there, elaborate and add detail, as well as motives/POV for each character regarding the event.Thanks!
QuestionWhere can I see sample scripts?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are many scripts available on websites. Try searching for your favorite movie's script on-line. It may help to choose a movie you haven't yet seen and read the script first. After you watch the movie, you can compare the visuals of the actual movie to the script and get an understanding of the process of how the movie is made out of a script.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the difference between writing a script and a story?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA script is designed to be filmed. Therefore, the storytelling must be purely visual. If it can't be seen or heard, you don't write it down. A novel, on the other hand, is designed to be read. Therefore, the storytelling can be much more intimate, with plenty of time to express thoughts and feelings.Thanks!
QuestionWould it be okay to put the characters name next to the line instead of above?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, both methods are used, just make sure the lines are spaced out and easy to read.Thanks!
QuestionWhat app programs do I need for writing a script?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou do not need a specific app. You can use any text processor or even a Notes section on your phone. Some other options are Microsoft Word, Textedit and Notepad. Celtx and Trelby are free screenwriting programs if you want something specific to script writing.Thanks!
QuestionDo I also add in the script where effects should come in?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you can provide stage directions and describe any actions that occur, just keep them brief and to-the-point. It's up to the director to make most of the decisions when it comes to action and special effects.Thanks!
QuestionDo I need to copy the script on a page?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you mean writing it by hand, you can but it will harder and longer to do it like that. Typing is much easier and has been the standard way it was always done.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I write a horror movie?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFollow the steps here, but include horror elements like demons, suspense, murder or other scary things.Thanks!
QuestionHow do you write the script for a TV ad?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell or show the audience that the particular brand or product is good. Promote the the brand. Put your characters in a situation where they have to praise the brand.Thanks!
How do I write scripts for comics?
Where do I send the finished script to?
How do you write a comic script?
- Know the type of script you're writing. If your script is a comedy, make sure that other people think that it's funny. If you're writing a drama, make the dialogue dramatic and gripping.
- Make sure your script sounds good in real life and not like a robot is talking.
- If you’ve written amovie script, you may want to use one of the film industry's online scouting services, to get your story and screenplay reviewed by industry executives in a protected platform of exposure.
- Astage playshould have a cover page clearly showing the title of the play, the author of the play, and the approximate length of the play. Stage direction/other direction is written in italics.
- Before pitching ascreenplay, you'll want to get electronic proof-of-creation. You can do this online.
- You may want to attend a script writing class, which will give you helpful hints on the nuances of writing a full script, especially things such as plot development, character development, and dialogue.
- Be sure to make the script as original as possible!
- Find a script writing program such as Celtx to help you learn formatting.
- Add your own twist on characters looks or personality.
- Be unconventional! Try your wildest ideas and see how your test audience reacts.
- Be patient. Writing takes time, and rushed scripts are usually subpar. If you take your time, your script will be wonderful.
- Don’t expect your very first script to get picked up right off the bat. It is a difficult industry to make it in.
- If you would like to have your script performed on stage or screen, you will need to contact an agent who can help you send it to the necessary people (producers and directors). It is often a long and arduous process to get a script accepted, so be patient.
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