It’s not fair, really. Books are allowed to put on paper eloquent words that paint a picture that is sometimes breathtaking. For example:
It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude: on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea.
Chapter 51 of Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
Screenplays, however, are much more boxy. While some screenwriters can wax eloquent in their work, most screenplays end up sounding more like this:
REVERSE SHOT ON THE BACKS OF GERALD AND SCARLETT
Looking at the land. Gerald puts his arm around her. CAMERA RETREATS BACK, BACK, BACK, until we have the tiny, silhouetted figures of Gerald O’Hara and his daughter gazing over the lands of Tara, beautiful in the sunset, to the thematic musical accompaniment which we will use for Tara throughout the picture.
Gone With The Wind (1939)
A script is meant to be the technical instructions of what you are seeing on screen. It includes dialogue, as well as actions for the characters and what the camera sees. It’s like explaining a scene as plainly and bluntly as possible to someone over the phone.
Watch this video and I’ll show you my script, and talk a little about diagramming.
I explained a little bit about diagramming in the video. Diagrams can also help when outlining (see previous blog for more information about outlining). Many of us video producers are visual thinkers, so having a visual diagram to go along with your script can be very helpful.
As far as typing up a script, in the video I used celtx.com because it is free, and if I wanted to expand my account with them to be a paid account it would come with lots of other helpful movie-making tools. Other screenwriting software is out there such as Final Draft, and Movie Magic Screenwriter. As I mentioned in the video, using screenwriting software rather than just a text editor helps you to time your movie correctly and format it in a way that fits the standards.
What have you found useful in writing scripts? Let us know in the comments!