How to Write a Script
Knowing how to write a script professionally will greatly increase your chances of being heard in the right circles. This article with give you advice on how to formulate and materialise ideas, and some brief guidance on proper formatting.
1- If working from scratch, I always find it best to envisage the hook of the general story. What is it that makes this story different to what has been done before? Occasionally a short story may be written around an interesting central character where you would present him/her with events in order to share their journey. If you’re having difficulty with ideas, it’s a good idea to simply put pen to paper and start brainstorming. Once your ‘quarter ideas’ are more tangible, they are much easier to develop.
2- Appreciate the medium for which you’re writing as it will greatly influence the project’s feasibility. If writing a script for a film, how much will it cost to make? If writing for the stage you generally should not try to write something that has a huge historic time frame (actors ageing etc), and you should be aware of what is feasible to deliver to a live audience. If writing a series for the TV, do you envisage it being pre or post watershed? Do your research!
3- Plan; in general, you should have a fairly decent idea of how the story will pan out before you write it. Although you do not wish to limit length of particular sections as you would not want to unnaturally jump between them, I find it useful to plan the flow (the order and feel) of the story as well as the story dynamics (where dramatic or suspense parts will be). A traditional story will involve: an introduction to the characters, start, middle and climax of action, the conclusion of action, and then the resolution (conflict is resolved or a lesson learnt). Although it’s important to have an original plan, allow yourself room to manoeuvre should your pen/keyboard take you elsewhere.
4- Wherever possible, write from experience. Some of the best pieces are written from personal experience as you have a real involvement with the characters, places and or events. The completed story would most probably not have actually happened in real life, however writing characters and locations from memory will provide for a fuller and more believable feel to the piece.
5- Just start writing; it’s the hardest tea easiest step! If you’re having difficulty with where to start, just put pen to paper and see where it takes you. It is often a good idea to revisit the first scene once you are up and running as a powerful script should snatch the audiences’ attention from the offset, but concerning yourself with this before you have even started writing will greatly slow your progress.
6- Get you style right- scripts are written in Courier font, period! Different formats are expected for different types of script. There is much information on how to format a script online, and when I started writing, I found the BBC’s version to be particularly helpful (search “format a script BBC writers’ room”). Should you be like me and want things auto formatted, find yourself a copy of the old Microsoft Word (2003), and then search for “download ScriptSmart Gold” (although please use a reputable source). This neat little macro will format the pages for you dependant on what type of script you’re writing! Yes you may have invented your own smart little way of writing script, but professionals who read submitted scripts read hundreds a day and are incredibly fussy so be sure to conform!
7- If you’re stuck for ideas or direction, do not get caught up in frustration, just keep writing! You can always re-visit areas that you’re not happy with at a later date once you get your story back on track.
8- Once you’ve finished and initially proofed the piece. Sleep on it and then revisit. The longer you can sleep on it the better (there’s something to be said here for getting an assignment done as early as possible so you have plenty of time to gather your thoughts before re-drafting). Also, get the opinion of an educated someone who you can trust who will give you an honest critique and who you’d be happy to receive harsh criticism from. You do not need to adopt every amendment they suggest, but just remain open minded and give each of their suggestions some thought.
Never make characters perfect as otherwise they will be boring!
Read! The more you scripts you read the better the writer that you’ll become.
Although there is a trend for many stories to not adopt the traditional flow of storytelling, this takes great skill and experience. Do not leave the audience confused. Keep it simple!
If you’re writing emotively, put yourself in the place of the characters. Perhaps there might be a certain memory or song that may help you empathise with the character during an emotive event?