Learn How To Write A Script in 8 Simple Steps

Its easy to feel intimidated by the thought of writing a screenplay. The rules! The formatting! The binding! Dont let the seemingly endless parade of screenwriting elements scare you away from writing your first script. Since a familiarity with the basics of the craft is half the battle, The Writers Store has provided you with resources, a screenplay example, and overview on how to write a screenplay to help you get up to speed on screenwriting fundamentals.

How To Format A Screenplay – 5 Basic Elements : FRIDAY 101

What is a script or screenplay?

A script includes the storys setting, character descriptions, dialogue and narration. Scenes should begin with a slug line that describes where the scene takes place. The plot of a script usually follows a three-act structure, as defined in any number of books on the subject. Scripts drafted by screenwriters do not include camera angles, numbered scenes or notes on how an actor should approach their role. The director, producer or other member of the production team will include such things in what is called a shooting script.

How to write a script

Writing a script is a creative process that includes a combination of story structure, character arcs, narration and dialogue. These eight steps describe how to properly write a script:

1. Create your story concept

The first step is to create your story concept. This is essentially the big idea from which you will brainstorm and develop all other elements. The concept is broad and can be summarized in a single sentence. For example: “Two sisters are stranded on a desert island and work to find their way home.” To create the concept, writers may draw inspiration from current events or their own lives. This step is important because the concept is what sells your script to a potential producer or studio.

2. Brainstorm specific ideas

The next step is a creative one, during which writers brainstorm the different story elements that will bring their concept to life: setting, characters, plot and more. Writers think of this as a collection process, seeking to compile as many ideas as possible that they will later narrow down to inform the final product. A brainstorming process can be quite lengthy since writers want to make sure they have a fully thought-out vision before developing the plot and dialogue.

3. Conduct background research

Conducting background research can help inform the planning processes that follow your brainstorm. For example, researching the cultural norms of the geographical location you choose for your setting will inform your decisions about character dialogue and plot. Researching historical events that occurred during the time in which your story takes place will help ensure your chosen plot is believable and grounded in an authentic context.

4. Develop the characters

Most stories include one central character, known as a protagonist, and one opposing character, or antagonist. A protagonist is typically a hero or leader that champions a good cause. Antagonists are typically villains that oppose the good work of the protagonist. Writing a good script requires that the characters have depth and that they take the audience on an emotional journey. Characters should evolve through the script such that they are different at the end of the story than they were at the beginning. Often, these evolutions occur as a result of the storys plot or central conflict.

5. Create an outline

Many writers create an outline before writing a first draft. The outline can be a simple document that includes the character’s main want, the obstacle opposing this want and how the protagonist will overcome this obstacle. Or the outline can be a more-detailed document that includes scenes and some dialogue. The outline is then used to create a first draft.

6. Write a first draft

A first draft of the script includes all three acts with scenes, dialogue, character arcs and a complete story. Sometimes writers will revise their outline based on ideas that are generated during the first draft of the script. Other times, writers may follow their outline without making changes.

7. Revise your draft

Writers often take a short break before editing their first draft. This allows them to approach the editing process with a fresh mind and new energy. When editing, writers are thinking about the big picture of how each story element brings their concept to life and how each fine detail fits in the bigger picture. The editing process may occur in several rounds and can include editors other than the writer. Everything from word choice to main events is evaluated and potentially altered during the editing process.

8. Follow all technical guidelines

The entertainment industry requires that scriptwriters follow a standard format for the technical layout of the script. The purpose of this is to standardize the length of scripts, and corresponding performances, such that one page always translates to one minute of content, with most scripts ranging from 90 to 120 pages. The specific technical requirements include a standard font type and size, margin size, paper type, headings and page numbers. Many writers use screenwriting software that has these formatting requirements embedded in it so they can focus their effort on content.

FAQ

How do you write a script format?

Screenwriting 101: 7 Basic Steps to Writing a Screenplay
  1. Step 1: Craft a Logline. …
  2. Step 2: Write a Treatment. …
  3. Step 3: Develop Your Characters. …
  4. Step 4: Plot and Outline. …
  5. Step 5: Write a First Draft. …
  6. Step 6: Step Back and Take a Break. …
  7. Step 7: Rewrite.

What is script example?

The basics of script formatting are as follows:
  1. 12-point Courier font size.
  2. 1.5 inch margin on the left of the page.
  3. 1 inch margin on the right of the page.
  4. 1 inch on the of the top and bottom of the page.
  5. Each page should have approximately 55 lines.
  6. The dialogue block starts 2.5 inches from the left side of the page.

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