How to Write A Script: Learning the Basics
The art of scriptwriting is a timeless and invaluable skill. It’s the blueprint that brings characters to life, weaves intricate plots, and breathes soul into every word spoken by actors. But writing a great script isn’t easy. You might face challenges like not knowing how to begin or where your story is headed. To tackle these hurdles, you need some knowledge about scriptwriting.
With practice and understanding, you can write scripts that fit different genres and meet industry standards. You can also get help by outsourcing professional scriptwriting services provided by video production companies like Hancock Animations.
But if you’re interested in writing on your own, we’ve created a guide that covers everything from research to the final draft. Let’s explore the basics of scriptwriting together.
What Is Scriptwriting?
Scriptwriting is the art and process of crafting written content for films, television shows, video games, and other visual media. A script serves as the blueprint for a production, outlining the dialogue, actions, settings, and overall structure of a project. Professional scriptwriters are responsible for translating ideas and stories into a format that can be brought to life on screen.
The Different Types Of Scripts
There are several different types of scripts, each tailored to a specific medium or purpose. Here are some of the most common types:
Screenplay writing involves scripts written for films and television shows. They include descriptions of scenes, and dialogue, and often specify camera angles, transitions, and other visual elements. Screenplays are typically formatted in a specific way, following industry standards.
A teleplay is a script specifically written for television. Like screenplays, teleplays include dialogue, action descriptions, and scene directions. However, they may also include information about commercial breaks and episode structure.
3. Stage Play
Stage plays, also known as theatrical scripts or theater scripts, are written for live performances on a theater stage. They include dialogue, stage directions, and details about set design, lighting, and sound cues.
4. Radio Script
Radio scripts are written for audio-only productions, such as radio dramas, podcasts, and audio advertisements. They primarily focus on dialogue and sound effects, as there are no visual elements involved.
5. Documentary Script
Documentary scripts are used as a guide for non-fictional films or TV programs. They outline the content, interviews, and narration, and sometimes include suggested visuals or footage.
6. Corporate Video Script
These scripts are designed for promotional or instructional videos produced by companies. They include dialogue, voiceover narration, and directions for visuals or animations.
If you are a business looking to enhance your corporate video content, connect with Hancock Animations for our premier corporate video production services.
7. Training and Educational Script
These scripts are used for training videos, e-learning courses, and educational programs. They include instructional content, and narration, and often incorporate multimedia elements.
8. Commercial Script
Commercial scripts are written for advertising purposes. They are concise and focus on delivering a persuasive message within a short timeframe, often for television or online advertisements.
Script Writing Process: A 3-Step Guide
Whether you’re an aspiring screenwriter, a content creator, or simply curious about the magic behind storytelling, writing a script might seem daunting, but it becomes more manageable when you break it down into a systematic process. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide by professional scriptwriters to help you craft your script:
Step 1: Establish the foundation
Understand what a script is
If you are new to the world of writing, you might be curious about what a script is. Essentially, it can be a story that comes directly from your imagination. Alternatively, it can be inspired by a real-life event or something that someone else has written, such as a book, stage play, news article, etc.
A script outlines everything needed to visually convey a story. It includes elements like sound, visuals, character actions, and dialogue.
It is typically a collaborative process that undergoes numerous edits and adjustments with inputs from directors, production professionals, and actors.
Read different scripts for research
The initial step to becoming an excellent screenwriter is to go through numerous fantastic scripts, as many as you can comfortably handle. Many famous scriptwriting specialists also suggest this. It is particularly beneficial to explore scripts of the same genre as the one you intend to write. It will allow you to understand the landscape better.
For instance, if you are working on a comedy script, consider searching for ‘top 50 comedy scripts’ and start your journey from there. You will find that many scripts are easily accessible online for free.
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Enhance your writing skills by reading scriptwriting books
Additionally, it can be beneficial to engage with books that dig into the art of scriptwriting. There are plenty of books available online, and we have mentioned a few excellent ones below to kickstart your exploration.
- The Coffee Break Screenwriter – Pilar Alessandra
- Your Screenplay Sucks! – William M. Akers
- The Nutshell Technique – Jill Chamberlain
- The 21st Century Screenplay – Linda Aronson
- Screenplay – Syd Field
- The Art of Dramatic Writing – Lajos Egri
- The Sequence Approach – Paul Joseph Gulino
- Getting It Write – Lee Jessup
- Writing Screenplays That Sell – Michael Hague
- Inside Story Dara Marks
- On Writing – Stephen King
- Story – Robert McKee
- Making a Good Script Great – Linda Seger
- My Story Can Beat Up Your Story – Jeffrey Alan Schechter
- Save the Cat – Blake Snyder
- Into the Woods – John Yorke
- The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler
Watch some movies for inspiration
To easily dip yourself in the world of scriptwriting, consider revisiting some of your favorite movies and uncover what is so captivating about these movies.
Take notes on the parts that ring to you, such as favorite scenes and memorable dialogues. Analyze your attraction to specific characters. If you are not sure about which films to revisit, you can consult lists of the “greatest movies of all time” in that specific genre and explore those as an alternative.
Step 2: Craft the Story
Write a summary
After indulging in those classic movies, you will most probably be feeling quite excited and inspired about embarking on your scriptwriting journey. However, before you jump into writing the script, there are a few more tasks to tackle.
First things first, you will have to create a ‘logline’. Do not worry, it is not related to trees and the environment at all.
Instead, it is a brief summary of your story, typically just one sentence, that introduces your main character (the hero), their objective, and the opposing force (the villain) and their conflict.
Your logline should convey the basic concept of your story, its overarching theme, and provide insights into the story’s genre and the emotional experience it offers to the audience. Or you can hire Hancock Animations’ professional scriptwriters to do it for you.
Draft a treatment
Once you have crafted your logline, the next step is to create a treatment. This is a more detailed summary that includes your script’s title, the logline, a list of your main characters, and a brief synopsis.
A treatment serves as a valuable tool when approaching producers. It gives them a picture of your story and helps them decide whether they want to go on with your full script. Do not forget to include your name and contact information in the treatment.
Your synopsis should provide a clear picture of your story. It should cover all the key events and plot twists. It should also introduce your characters and convey the overall atmosphere of the story.
When someone reads it, ideally a successful producer, they should gain enough insight to start building a connection with your characters and feel interested to find out what happens next.
This phase in the writing process is an opportunity to review your entire story and evaluate how it flows on paper. You are likely to notice parts that function well and others that require some adjustments before you move on to crafting the final draft.
What lies at the core of your story? What is its essence? Character development in scriptwriting involves guiding your characters on a path of transformation that allows them to address this critical question.
When you start crafting out your characters, you might discover that you might need to use a character profile worksheet readily available for free online.
Regardless of who your characters are, what truly matters is that your audience feels connected to them and desires to get to know them better and relate to their experiences, even in the case of the antagonist.
At this stage, you should have a fairly clear understanding of what your story is about. Now, it is time to deconstruct the story into its small components and key moments that shape the plot, often called a ‘beat sheet.’
You can use various methods to achieve these moments. Some people go for flashcards, others prefer a notebook to write it all down, and some may opt for digital tools like Trello, Google Docs, Notion, and others to make notes.
The choice of tool does not really matter. What is truly important is breaking down the plot into scenes and then adding more substance to each scene to make it full. This includes elements like story events and specific character or plot details.
Although it may be alluring to instantly start writing the script, it is wise to spend a substantial amount of time outlining the plot early. The more information you can add to the plot, the better for your story.
While you are writing, remember that a good story is built on tension, which involves introducing conflicts and then finding ways to resolve them. This tension drives the need for your protagonist to undergo a transformation in order to overcome obstacles and achieve victory.
Step 3: Writing The Script
Learn the basics
Before you begin crafting the first draft of your script, it is essential to understand the fundamental requirements. In straightforward terms, your script should be a written document that possesses the following characteristics:
- 90-120 pages long
- Written in 12-point Courier font
- Printed on 8.5″ x 11″, white, three-hole-punched paper
Those who have strong preferences for fonts might hesitate when asked to use fonts like Courier instead of their favorite typefaces like Futura or Comic Sans. However, this choice is not up for debate.
The film industry’s preference for Courier is not exclusively about aesthetics. It serves a practical purpose as well. In simple terms, when using a 12-point Courier font, one page of the script equates to approximately one minute of screen time.
A typical screenplay should generally consist of 90 to 120 pages. It is essential to recognize that this may be slightly different depending on the genre. For example, comedies tend to be on the shorter side, around 90 pages, which translates to about 1.5 hours of screen time.
In contrast, dramas typically extend a bit further, going about 120 pages, which roughly corresponds to a 2-hour runtime on screen. Short films, as their name implies, naturally involve fewer pages in their scripts and are mostly 15-20 minutes long.
Write the screenplay
Creating screenplays is a challenging task. Keep the following guidance in mind: Establish instead of explaining. Use the present tense. Follow correct script formatting. Avoid excessive editing while writing. Allow your movie concepts to flow naturally, and then organize them once they are all on paper.
Format the screenplay
You can easily find script templates on the internet, and many screenwriting software programs will automatically format your writing into a screenplay layout. Most of the professional screenwriters prefer Final Draft as a writing tool.
The standard industry format for a script uses a 12-point Courier font with a 1-inch right margin, a 1.5-inch left margin, and 1-inch margins at both the top and bottom.
Edit the screenplay
You may need to go through several rounds of rewriting and revisions before you complete the final draft. Author and screenwriter Neil Gaiman compared the writing process to an explosion.
He explained, “You burst onto the page—the story is like an explosion. After it’s finished, you can step back and examine the aftermath, looking at the fragments and the impact they had. You can see what worked and what didn’t work at that point.”
Crafting a great script is the foundation of any successful storytelling venture. Whether you’re new to scriptwriting or a seasoned pro, remember that Hancock Animations’ scriptwriting services are here to make your creative vision shine. We specialize in turning your words into engaging visuals for live-action videos and animations. So, don’t underestimate the importance of a well-written script, and trust Hancock Animations on your scriptwriting journey.
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A script is a written document that serves as the blueprint for a film, TV show, play, or other visual storytelling medium. It includes the dialogue, actions, and descriptions necessary to bring a story to life on screen or stage. You need a script to guide actors, directors, and the production team in creating the final product.
While formal training in screenwriting or playwriting can be beneficial, it’s not a strict requirement. Many successful writers are self-taught. However, understanding the fundamentals of scriptwriting, including formatting and storytelling techniques, can be advantageous.
A script typically includes:
- Scene headings
- Action descriptions
- Character names
It’s important to follow industry-standard formatting guidelines to ensure clarity and professionalism.
The length of a script can be widely different depending on the medium and genre. In general, one page of a script is often considered to be equivalent to one minute of screen time. Feature film scripts typically range from 90 to 120 pages, while TV scripts vary by episode length.