How To Write A Script: 23 Steps to Write a Successful Script
If you want to learn how to write a spec script, you need to develop a deep understanding of the structure, format, and art of screenwriting before you begin.
1. Find inspiration:
Art is all about imitation, so use these tips to help you get inspired.
- Read great screenplays.
- Listen to music.
- List and watch 20 movies you wish you’d written.
- Write an outline of someone else’s movie.
- Look at sample scripts: Sample 1, Sample 2, and Sample 3 (film overview).
2. Read about screenwriting:
Learn as much as you can about the art of screenwriting from professionals. Consider reading these highly valuable screenwriting guides to help you hone your writing skills.
3. Make it extraordinary:
Find ways to make your work stand out from other screenplays by:
- Using unique elements and making unusual choices in your story
- Using your family, friends, missteps, and achievements as inspiration for characters
- Staying updated on current events and using them to inform the themes and messages of your work. to better educate yourself before you start writing.
- Reading scripts and analyzing them. You’ll see what’s effective and can put that to work in your screenplay. To analyze a script:
- Note effective elements.
- Track technical notes, like action and subheadings.
- Identify areas that don’t work.
- Review your analysis for takeaways.
4. Identify a conflict or theme central to your story:
Consider events happening in the world around you or unifying concepts you’d like to explore as inspiration.
5. Select a film genre for your story:
You can also combine film genres to make something unique.
6. Pick a setting for your film:
Use your theme and genre to help guide your setting choices.
7. Create a dynamic protagonist:
The protagonist should have a central goal they want to achieve throughout the screenplay.
8. Build an oppositional antagonist:
This could be a person, idea, or event that keeps your protagonist from easily achieving their goal.
9. Write a logline that summarizes your idea:
This one- or two-sentence summary should clearly capture the main ideas in your script.
10. Create a story world:
Establishing the world in which your story exists is vital for writing an authentic and believable screenplay. Key elements include:
: Gather potential ideas to use in your script.
- Concept: This should be a clear central tenet that you can summarize in your logline.
- Story: While you won’t have every scene yet, you should know the basic high and low points of the screenplay.
- Characters: Know a bit about your main characters.
11. Make your concept or story more interesting:
If you’re having trouble breaking out of traditional script ideas, use these strategiesto help you add interest to your screenplay:
- Think about your favorite type of movie.
- Brainstorm unique ideas for your plot.
- Read screenplay outlines and treatments.
- Seek feedback on your outline.
12. Outline your script:
When you create your screenplay outline, include specific details related to:
: Identify the major plot points in the story.
- Scenes: Note specific scenes or potential scene ideas. : Iterate how your protagonist will get from point A to point B.
- Conclusion: Know how the story will end.
13. Establish interesting characters:
While things like hard work, luck, and dedication all play a part in writing a great script, pushing your imagination is the most important factor. Ask yourself these questions to help bring your characters to life:
- Will these characters leave an impression?
- Am I excited as I write about these characters?
- Are these characters predictable?
- Are their flaws to blame for the bad things that happen to them?
14. Think outside of traditional character traits like “loyal” and “handsome.”
Look for unusual descriptors like:
15. Format your script:
Before you begin fleshing out your script idea, you should have a working knowledge of screenplay elements. The most common elements and transitions found in a screenplay include:
- Scene Heading: Also known as a slugline, this one-line description of the time of day and location of a scene is always in all caps.
- Subheader: This element helps identify minor distinctions within a scene, like a cut between two locations.
- Action: These lines describe the scene events in present tense.
- Character: Names should be listed in all caps the first time they’re introduced in action and when listed above dialogue.
- Dialogue: This is a character’s lines of speech.
- Parenthetical: These additional directions are how a character says a line.
- Extension: These are technical notes, like specifying that a line is spoken off-camera.
- Transition: Transitions are directions for film editors.
- Shot: This is used to indicate the point of view of the scene has shifted.
- Montage: A montage is a series of shots showing the passage of time.
- Chyrons: Chyrons indicate the time and place of a scene, usually in text over the video.
- Lyrics: If your script includes lyrics, you can add them interspersed with dialogue or note the general feeling of the song with the actual song included separately.
- Fade In: Fade in is listed at the very beginning of the script.
- Cut To: You should use “cut to” to indicate a change in location.
- End of Act: Use this at the end of each act, typically for a TV script.
- Fade Out: Fade out indicates the end of the script.
16. Create your first draft:
Write your script’s first draft by setting specific goals and deadlines, writing a predetermined number of pages per day, ensuring your dialogue sounds natural, and keeping your script around 90 to 120 pages.
- The first page of the script: The first page of your script should start with the words “FADE IN.” Your actual script begins there, usually with a scene description, character notes, and any other exposition before beginning character dialogue. : To delve deeper into the writing process, keep a daily diary of your feelings, ideas, and revelations about your script before you tackle your pages.
17. Revise your script:
After you’ve written your first draft, take a break from it for a week or two to reset your mind. To write is to rewrite, so it’s vital that after your brief break from your screenplay, you come back to it.
18. Share your script with others:
Seek feedback from people you trust to help you refine your script. Ask them for notes on the concept, plot, setting, characters, and dialogue to help you refine all elements of the screenplay. Use professional consultants, like from Script Reader Pro, to get even more valuable feedback.
Rewriting is a vital component of revision. Make changes and updates to clarify your story based on notes from trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors as well as your own thoughts.
Look for and fix any grammatical or spelling errors as you see them during the revision process. Ensure your screenplay’s format is appropriate and matches the specifications of scripts.
21. Prepare your script for presentation:
Once your script is complete, prepare and bind it for presentation:
- Print the title page and script on three-hole punched paper.
- Place the title page and script in the script cover.
- Add brass fasteners in the top and bottom holes.
- Slip washers on the back of the fasteners.
- Hammer the fasteners flat with a script binding mallet.
22. Use screenplay formatting software:
Using screenplay formatting software can save you an enormous amount of time when planning and writing.
- For story development:
23. Surround yourself with creatives:
Find a community that supports your dreams, like a film school.
Documentary screenwriting follows its own process since much of the script is created after filming occurs, which changes the order and manner in which you create the screenplay. For more information on writing a script for a documentary, check out this video.
With dedication, perseverance, and education, you can become an outstanding screenwriter. You can learn more about scriptwriting and how you can improve your skills by applying to the Nashville Film Institute here.
Screenwriting Tips: How to Write a Creative Script
Screenwriting is a visually exciting writing form that is well known for its distinctive format typed in a 12-point Courier typeface. While essays and other academic papers require an author to follow a specific structure, it’s a total flip of the script when it comes to screenwriting! Unlike an essay or novel, when writing a script for the moving picture, everything must be written in specific visual way so that way the Film Director, Director of Photography, and Film Editors can easily translate the words into moving pictures. It’s all about visual translation!
When writing a screenplay, an author must first plan the characters and solidify the key story beats (events) prior to writing. And once the story outline is prepared, the writer must keep in mind that all components of a script should follow traditional script formatting.
Whether it is a film, show, or video game; a well-written script should convey:
visual character descriptions and location detail
shot type and transitions
If you’re feeling a little confused or nervous about getting started, don’t worry! This post can help you build and/or strengthen your writing skills. Awesome tips on how to write an interesting script are just a few words away!
Write everything down
All films, TV shows, and even YouTube videos start from an idea in someone’s head. So if a really good idea crosses your mind, write it down immediately! Use a notebook, laptop, or even a smartphone – there’s lots of screenwriting apps you can try too. If all you have on you is a napkin, grab that napkin! That being said, be sure to transfer the idea into a word document or screen writing software once you’re able to. The point is when you have an idea, you owe it to both yourself and this fabulous idea to write it down.
Next, expand on your idea by writing a script with no interruptions. Try to eliminate thoughts like, “Is this idea really good?” or “What will others think about this?” By avoiding any doubts, you are giving your idea the opportunity to grow into something significant.
Even if your script seems poor in quality or unsatisfactory, remember that you can always polish it later. If you find yourself lacking skills in the exciting art of editing, you can hire expert writers.
Find Inspiration Anywhere
It’s nearly impossible to come up with new ideas for creative scripts while sitting at home. If you experience difficulty generating new ideas, feel free to seek inspiration outside of your four walls. After all, the best stories come from experience. You must live so you can write!
Get some sun and vibe with nature, explore the internet, immerse yourself in movies or sports. If you’re a people or animal person, take Fido or friends for a walk. Some would say that even a little time with yourself or “you time”, can be a great way to get inspired. Still need a bit more inspiration? Here are the top five ways to find inspiration:
Spend a few hours outside.
Surf the WEB for new ideas.
Try doing something new to you.
Gather friends and brainstorm.
Make new connections and listen to others’ stories.
Show, Don’t Tell
Unlike novels, films don’t provide depth on a character’s thoughts, state of mind, or plans through the written word. Instead, films represent a character with the help of dialogue and visual actions. So it’s up to you to avoid worthless information and focus on how characters will look and speak on screen.
If you’re not sure how to visually write about your character’s traits start by reading real movie scripts that made it to the big screen. Seeing how the pros do it will help kickstart and inspire your own scripts.
If you’re a student, don’t be shy to use academic writing help services. Using them, you can delegate your assignments to professionals so you can focus on reading scripts and writing your own.
Use Your Strengths, Trust Your Voice
If you want to write a creative and interesting screenplay, identify and use your strong suits. If you know many jokes and funny stories, make your characters funny by tapping into your knowledge and experience. If you can hardly create funny stories but can misdirect an audience well, create a script that is full of unexpected turns and grand reveals.
In the case that you have zero talents mentioned above, you might be good at finding interesting information through research. Use your research skills to supplement a script with interesting facts that are worthy of captivating the attention of your audience.
Develop your characters, avoid cliches
Do you want your script to be boring and obvious? Assuming the answer is no, don’t be afraid to make your characters unique and remarkable. Add some personality traits that can be applied to your specific characters. You can also create unexpected circumstances that reveal a characters’ unforeseen sex, age, or nationality. Feel free to develop the personalities of your characters by picking traits and peculiarities randomly.
Anyway, if you’re a student who uses a fast custom essay writing service to create top-grade papers, use randomness. Feel free to develop the personalities of your characters by picking traits and peculiarities randomly.
Like real people, characters should have a realistic past that’s filed with unique dreams and goals in their lives. By observing this rule, you’ve established a foundation that helps rationalize their actions. Use this free Character Development worksheet below to help you.
Another option is to research typical character archetypes and see which one your character fits into. For example, there is the Leader, the Caregiver, the Seducer, the Castaway, and more.
Here is a script scene excerpt from Inception that features multiple character archetypes.