A Quick Guide to Writing Screenplays

by , Friday January 29, 2016
A Quick Guide to Writing Screenplays

Our Netflix writing competition ends in a week! Do you all know the rules when it comes to writing standard screenplays?

A blog by Sanguine

 

Like anything, writing a screenplay can be difficult. There might be rules you didn’t know of, things that you are uncertain of – “Should I do this? Should I cut that?” – but once you learn what to do, it becomes easy, like riding a bike.

 

Perhaps not that easy. But it does give you an idea.

 

So, in this blog, I will write down the “rules” for writing screenplays. Not everyone follows them, but they are considered the standard format. However, Movellas isn’t completely capable of following all of the rules (specifically measured indents for text, for example) so when describing the layout, I will make adjustments to make it easier for users to follow.

 

Characters

A screenplay is more than just the words your characters say. A screenplay tells the actors exactly who their characters are, and how they behave. Is your character a party girl? Include lots of exclamation marks and drag out words if it’s in her nature to do that. Does your character stutter? Write that down. This is a map for the actors to find their characters, and those reading the screenplay will have a better idea of who your characters are if you show them.

 

Editing

The actors in a movie aren’t the only ones to take instruction from a screenplay – post-production is involved as well. Little things, like “fade in”, “fade out”, “dissolve”.  Every time a scene changes, add an editing instruction.

 

Layout

Editing: For the first editing instruction, it is left-aligned and in capitals. For future scene changes, the transition is right-aligned, but still in uppercase.

Scene: In a screenplay, the scene heading comes first. This is just where the scene takes place and what time it is – no frills, like a description – and it is completely in uppercase letters. For example, it might be BAKER’S SHOP – KITCHEN – MORNING. Underneath that comes a short description of the scene. A mouse is skittering across the floor like a majestic unicorn. The description does not have any capitalisation rules.

Characters: For the character’s first appearance in a scene description, the name is completely capitalised, but after that it’s not. When a character is speaking, always capitalise the name and have it centered on the page.

Action: This is the bit underneath the dialogue, and describes how a character is talking. It might be over the phone, behind a hand, or whatever you decide. This should be centered on the page just like the character name, and in brackets.

Dialogue: This is pretty simple - underneath the character’s name or the action, centred, is the dialogue. Don’t use quotes for it.

Typeface: The font for screenplays is Courier 12pt, which is because of its spacing – each letter is the same distance apart – so each page of a screenplay will be approximately a minute. With Movellas, this isn’t possible to reach unless you do a Word document page per chapter or something similar.

 

Unfortunately, in most cases words don’t explain things as well as direct guides, so perhaps an image of a screenplay might be of more help:

      

 

And don’t worry if your screenplay isn’t perfectly formatted – you can’t get it to be perfect on Movellas, so simply do your best and leave it at that! That is, after all, all we can ask for.

 

Thank you to Sanguine for creating the banner for this blog post in addition to writing it :-)

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