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You have a million-dollar idea, and maybe you’re simply attracted to the thrilling industry of filmmaking. I get it!
It’s incredibly exciting to see your story come to life on the big screen.
How can you get there?
You need a story, and you have to pitch and convey it to producers and investors.
What is script writing?
Script writing is the process of creating a video script, also known as a screenplay for a film or TV production.
Your screenplay tells your film’s story from start to finish and details character dialogues, actions, and scene settings. Since the story needs to be expressed visually, a scriptwriter needs to format a screenplay with explicitly stated visual cues.
6 Steps to write a script
Follow these steps to turn your brilliant idea into a tangible screenplay that may turn into a full-blown production.
1. Learn from reading other scripts
Research is always an excellent first step when trying to learn something new. Isn’t this how you found this article?
Find and download a few scripts to check out how others do it. It’s even better if they’re from the same or similar genre! Look for recurring themes and inspiration, not for the storyline, but the tools used and the options available.
2. Flesh out the story
A script isn’t worth much without an idea.
You may find it helpful to create a logline. A logline is a single sentence introducing your script’s main topic without spoilers. For example: When a museum is robbed, a naive art student takes on an elite con artist to recover her father’s masterpiece.
You can then expand your logline into a treatment, which is a slightly longer summary. Producers will often read the treatment before investing time in reading your entire script.
3. Develop your characters and world
Well-developed characters captivate audiences and help them relate, connect, or at least feel strongly about them. Take time to develop your characters, especially those that will play a crucial role in the plot. Describe their:
- Physical appearance. You can get as specific or generic as you like, but gender, age group, and any noticeable physical traits are often defined.
- Strengths and weaknesses. Here’s where it gets tricky. The temptation to write the perfect hero or a purely evil antagonist with no depth or complexity can be there. Create balanced characters that aren’t black or white, and your viewers will understand them more.
- Goals and motivation. It adds to the story to understand this. What challenges do the characters take on? Why do they do it? Like in real life, characters often have complex motivations. Keep in mind that the best villains often have some sort of idealogy.
- Obstacles. What obstacles did your characters overcome before the story’s beginning? What will they face now? How equipped are they to handle it?
Building a coherent world helps your audience vividly imagine it. Worldbuilding is especially hard in the case of fantasy or sci-fi scripts, but in any case, you should answer:
- Where does the story take place? Is it a real location? A different planet? New York, but in a parallel universe?
- How does the setting affect your characters?
Take aspects of the location like the customs and climate. If you make sure that your characters interact with these, your story will feel rich and more realistic.
- What time does your story span across? Does it take place in the past, present, or future? How does that affect the plot? Are there time skips or flashbacks?
Answering these questions will ensure that your world and characters are well-rounded, consistent, and sometimes even relatable.
4. Create your story’s outline
Once you have your main points down, it’s time for an outline. Many great stories utilize the three-act structure and use the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution as their guide.
Think about how the story will unfold and what major plot points it needs to get the message across.
Elaborate on the story by writing down the main events of your script. This throughline should guide your plot as you work on the screenplay. Have this easily accessible, as it will be helpful in the actual script writing process.
5. Write your first draft
Once you've completed the steps above, it’s time to sit down and write that first draft. That's the only way to ever finish your script!
A first draft does not have to be perfect. You can revisit ideas, characters, and scenes. Just get them down on paper.
Understanding the required formatting elements and screenwriting terms will help the seamless transition to film. Learn more about these below.
6. Reread and edit your draft
Script writing is an iterative process, which means you’re not done when you type The end. Reread your script, cut parts that seem irrelevant, and identify sections to rewrite.
If you’re working with a long script, take notes to remember what you wanted to improve.
In the editing phase, you need to get rid of:
- Weak or irrelevant plot points,
- Plot holes and continuity errors,
- Conflicting or confusing scenes,
- Drawn-out dialogue.
3 Screenwriting terms you should know
Formatting your screenplay doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s a crucial part of script writing, but lucky for you, there are plenty of script templates available online.
Understanding the three terms below will give you an idea of what information you need to include. This will make shooting days a lot easier.
Interested in more? Learn all you need to know about filmmaking.
1. Scene heading
A scene heading or slugline is a one-line description of the location and time of day. It’s located at the top of the page, written in all capitals, e.g.
EXT. TERRASSE – DAY.
2. Action line
An action line describes events on screen in the present tense. It narrates the physical, not verbal, moves the actors will have to act out.
E.g. “Anna goes to drink from the wineglass. It slips out of her hand and shatters on the floor.”
3. Parenthetical line
A parenthetical is an instruction to actors determining how they should deliver a line.
It’s noted in parentheses below the speaking character’s name, e.g. (jokingly).
What’s next? Learn to write a video script
Now that you understand the process of script writing, you’re one step closer to turning your idea into a visual story to share.
Learn how to write a killer video script with more tips on the subject.
Settle in with a cup of coffee and enjoy writing your script!
What is script writing?
Script writing is the process of creating a script or screenplay for a visual production.
How to start writing a script?
Research other scripts in your genre to gain inspiration for your own screenplay. Then start by fleshing out the story and developing your characters before writing your first draft.
What does script writing look like?
Professional scripts follow a specific format. Luckily there are many templates available online. All scripts are written in Courier font, single-spaces in size 12.
What are the 8 elements of script writing?
The 8 main elements of scriptwriting include the:
· Scene headings,
· Action lines,
· Character names,
· and transitions.
These usually appear on the page in this order.