Scriptwriting (or screenwriting) is the process of writing stories in the screenplay medium. Scriptwriting is writing down the movement, actions, expression, and dialogue of the characters in screenplay, in screenplay format. The process of writing a novel, a poem, or essay, is entirely different than scriptwriting.
When scriptwriting, your script, also known as a screenplay, should detail character dialogue, scene settings, and actions that take place throughout a film, TV show, or another visual story. Your screenplay should properly tell your film’s entire story from start to finish because it’s a blueprint of the plot and character development before the film comes to life on screen.
How To Write A Script
Writing a script helps express your creativity and make a story come to life. It often takes time and dedication to craft well-rounded characters and a compelling plot. These steps can help you create a captivating script:
Read Others Scripts:
Find and read other scripts to find examples of well-written dialogue, characters, and storylines and to learn what producers are looking for in terms of genre conventions and themes.
It might help to take a few writing workshops to develop your skills or better understand how to craft a strong script.
As a writer, you want to consider the production probability of actually selling the script:
Realistic budgets: Although it may be fun to write a science fiction film with heavy visual effects, production design, and costumes, these elements make the film more expensive.
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Intellectual property infringement: For feature films, unless the property is public domain or bought by the writer, the writer should focus on creating an original story. In contrast to television scripts that might create spec scripts for existing shows, using franchises like Star Wars or Harry Potter for sample scripts could cause liability issues.
In general, you should write what is interesting to you with a story that you are passionate about.
Create Your World
Contemplate the area of your story. Detail your reality all around ok to help crowd individuals clearly envision it. Consider the class of film that you need to make. A couple of components to consider in world-building are
- Time period:
Does your story take place in the past, present, or future? Though the script doesn’t have to mention an exact date, keep it in mind as you write.
- Weather and climate:
Is it hot or freezing? How does the weather in this world affect your characters and the overall plot?
- Story themes:
Determine your themes and what your audience should gain from this film. Do you want them to leave feeling happy, or do you want to convey messages that make people think deeply?
Where are your characters and where do they go? Abandoned houses, New York City, etc.
Develop Your Characters
Determine who your main character is and note their:
- Obstacles keeping them from overcoming these goals
For other characters:
- How do they interact with the main character?
- Do they help your protagonist?
- Are they acting as an antagonist and keeping them from achieving these goals?
When building an antagonist, consider:
- What do they want from the main character?
- What does the main character want from them?
- Why does the antagonist want to keep your protagonist from achieving their goal?
Organize Your Story With A Synopsis
A film rundown traces the story in the request that your crowd will see it. The phases of your story normally include:
- An introduction to the main character and their world
- An inciting incident that gets the story moving
- The first turning point that presents the character with a new situation or challenge
- A call to action where the hero’s goal gets specific
- A point of no return when your protagonist risks or loses everything
- The all is lost point where the hero faces great danger and will have to rise to the occasion
- A second turning point where the stakes become higher as the character redeems themselves
- The climax when the story comes to a resolution
Formatting Elements To Include In A Script (scriptwriting)
Many cinema production programs teach students how to properly format scripts so that filmmakers, actors, and production crew members can easily read it. Since production companies receive new scripts every day, they may disregard a script that’s not properly formatted.
You can either format the script yourself or use scriptwriting software like Final Draft, WriterDuet, or Amazon Storywriter that automatically formats it for you. Here are some elements to include:
- Scene heading:
Also known as a slugline, write the time of day and scene location in capital letters, like “EXT. LILLY’S HOUSE – DAY” or “INT. GROCERY STORE – NIGHT.”
- Action lines:
Using present tense, include brief visual descriptions of physical actions occurring in a scene. An example could be, “Jane’s phone buzzes. She picks it up to find a message from John.”
- Character dialogue:
The names of your characters should be in uppercase letters and centered to identify the person speaking. Place the character’s lines underneath their name in the script, also centered.
If a character has a specific mood or action while speaking, include a parenthetical phrase under their name, above the line. For instance, to show the seriousness of a character, you can write “(straight-faced).”
This is a parenthetical direction used for character dialogue that is off-screen. For characters who are in-scene but talking off-screen, use “(O.S.).” For character dialogue that only the audience hears, use “(V.O.)” for voice-over.
- Mores and Continued:
Use (MORE) and (CONT’D) between pages to show the same character is speaking.
Film editing instructions like CUT TO, DISSOLVE TO, SMASH CUT, QUICK CUT, FADE TO (only for production scripts).
Used when the scene has changed like ANGLE ON, EXTREME CLOSE UP, PANTO, POV (only for production scripts).
Cut instructions between scene locations.
Length of a Script
There are many different types of scripts, so the length depends on what genre and visual storytelling project it’s for. As a general estimate, one page of a properly formatted script equals one minute of screen time. Many scriptwriters use 12-point Courier font for proper formatting and to more accurately estimate the length of the production.
Here are the typical length estimates for a variety of visual storytelling projects and genres:
- Feature film, drama: 100 to 120 pages
- Feature film, comedy: 90 to 100 pages
- Animated films: 90 to 100 pages
- Television, comedy: 25 to 35 pages
- Television, drama: 45 to 55
- Short film: Varies depending on the story, up to 60 pages