How is a TV drama script written?

Scriptwriting for film, TV and series: the ultimate guide to successful scriptwriting

Do you have a brilliant idea? and dream of writing a story for a film? Or are you looking for a template for a film script? This article is the ultimate guide to scriptwriting.

In order to write a script, as a beginner you have to know and consider a few things. Whether you want to learn more about storytelling and the definition of turning points, or are looking for tips for writing dialogues or the perfect film ending, or a script template:

We explain in a simple way what is important in writing a successful script and what things you need to consider. So that you don't write your story for the trash, but for the audience and the big screen or the home theater.

You don't get the shortest possible guide to writing a script. But the best possible. Because there are no shortcuts on the way to the perfect film script! I hope you enjoy reading and watching the Videos in this post, when thinking and of course when writing your film or series story!

How is script writing done?

When creating a script, you have to make the inside visible through the outside. That is why you have to show in your script “that the body is the image of the soul” (Wittgenstein). 15 steps lead you successfully to the first version of your work:

  1. Find your story (invented or adapted)
  2. Differentiate between what you want to tell (storyforming) and the way you want to tell it (storytelling).
  3. Develop a strong starting position (premise: what happens if ...?)
  4. Build your story (plot)
  5. Choose the right genre
  6. Create unique characters
  7. Find your narrative perspective
  8. Use the proven 3-act structure
  9. Set turning points
  10. Write the beginning of your story
  11. Understand the middle as a bridge
  12. Surprise at the end
  13. Write dialogues true to life
  14. Put the script (1st script version) aside
  15. Revise and improve! (Writing always means: rewriting)

You will find all of the mentioned stages of developing your script explained and described in detail below. In addition, at the end of these instructions we have summarized the 10 most common mistakes that happen again and again when writing a script!

If you want to find out if you have a talent for inventing and telling stories, write a short story!

Give them to your friends to read or post them online. If you like it, you can always rework it into a film later.

Don't start right away with a 90-minute movie! But first write a few short films. You will learn everything that you will later need for a script for the cinema, television or a series, but in less time.

You also have to pay attention to the question of how do I write a screenplay ?: The form of the screenplay is ideal for filming and expert readers, but makes it difficult to read. A reader who is not used to this form will have limited understanding of your story.

What does a screenwriter earn in a film?

A screenwriter who not yet known is or is just starting to write for films or series as an author, receives between € 15,000 and € 20,000 for a screenplay (cinema film). For writing an episode of a TV series, the compensation is around € 10,000 (per episode). As a writer, you will receive between € 30,000 and € 50,000 for a television film.1 It should be noted that there are significant differences between a script for a series and a cinema film when it comes to remuneration for the author's work.

The average gross salary as a scriptwriter in Germany is around € 3,400 per month. For writing the script, this results in an annual salary of a little over € 40,000 per year. But of course only provided that you find a production company, a producer or a TV broadcaster who wants to work with you and buys the script.2

Source: 1, 2 steuerk Klassen.com, August 2020

The preliminary stages to the film script: synopsis and treatment

No artist paints a picture without making a number of sketches in advance. Nor does an author touch the keys to write a script for a series.

The basic concept for a screenplay is the so-called exposé. It outlines the idea and gives its reader a first impression of the story and its characters.

After the film sketch, the treatment is recorded. This already shows the narration of the story in individual scenes, so it contains all the essential arcs of the story, but not yet any dialogues or further details.

Usually an exposé and treatment are created already in consultation with a feature film production company. Only when the respective level of the paperwork is found to be good by the client can the author take the next step in writing the script.

The advantage of this approach: the scriptwriter does not work in void. At the same time, the producer's risk of financing the development of a film is kept within calculable limits.

Without a writing assignment, an author is of course free to work as he wishes. Nevertheless, we recommend these three steps: from (1) synopsis to (2) treatment and (3) script.

What is a script?

A script is a 90 to 120 page text document. The script will too script or Film script called.

It can be a made up story. Or based on a true story or previously written piece, such as B. a novel, play or newspaper article. If you adapt such a basis for a film adaptation, you need all the rights necessary for editing!

Film is a visual medium. When writing a script, the writer has to show what happens in a story.

Just telling a story is enough Not.

A 2-page inner monologue may work well for a novel. In a script, he's the kiss of death for every movie.

At the heart of screenwriting is the question, how to show a story on a canvas. Central moments can be conveyed by looking at an actor's face. Visual storytelling is imperative.

So a script is like a movie, right? No it is not! The script is a written story. If it is loved by the right people in the film industry, it may later be produced as a film at some point.

Yes, writers should think of their script as a film. Which means writing visually, externalizing actions and conflicts, and choosing form and function appropriately. Nonetheless, the story has to be told first.

This means that the author's narrative intentions in the script and when writing the screenplay must be crystal clear. All ideas connected with the story and the plot itself must be absolutely understandable and transparent for the reader. Likewise the individual scenes, moments, the subtext (more on this later) and emotional nuances.

When I say in a novel that two characters fall in love, the reader will believe me. In the film, where you see these characters, where they come to life, their motives have to be much more plausible.
Thomas Meyer

At its core, a script is the blueprint for the film, which is the first to emerge from it in a next step. Later, the professionals on the film set, including the producer, director, set designer and actor, translate the scriptwriter's vision. This with their individual views and talents. That's why the scriptwriter must always be aware that making a film is ultimately a collaborative art.

Instead of writing a story for a reader, as a writer you are writing a film for a producer. Instead of telling a story, you use your film script to explain a film.

Template for writing a script: template / example

American Beauty is an example, written by Alan Ball. It was filmed by Sam Mendes with Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening and Thora Birch. The film based on it received 5 Oscars. Including the one for the best original script.

Here you can find the script as an example and as a template

American Beauty screenplay by Allan Ball

The role of the story in scriptwriting

Films are unthinkable without a dramaturgy. Movie story ideas have to be dramatic. Drama literally means “action” (to act, to initiate an action).

The following questions will help you recognize the dramaturgical potential:

  • What is the central dramatic plot of the idea?
  • What is the main conflict in the story?
  • Do you send viewers and characters in your film on a unique journey in a convincing way?
  • Is your story and the universe in which your characters move strong enough to captivate the audience for 90 minutes or the duration of a multi-part TV series?
  • How interesting is the universe your story takes place in? What do we as viewers need to know and what not? Creating a coherent world is crucial for both motion pictures and television series.

As a writer, you have to know all the rules and backgrounds that apply in the universe of your story when writing a script. Conversely, your audience only needs the information that creates tension and helps understanding. Too many details and background information are confusing.

What kind of story do you want to tell? Can you say what it's about in a single sentence? Are you using a recognizable genre like thriller or romantic comedy?

If you are inspired or influenced by a typical constellation (unhappy love, struggle for freedom, etc.) or a historical story, how does your idea differ from it? Do you have a new perspective on scriptwriting? Do you open up new perspectives for the audience.

It is also crucial how the experience feels to the audience.

  • What's the tone and feel of the story?
  • Is the movie experience consistent and coherent for the viewer?

There is little worse than a horror movie suddenly turning into romance (or vice versa). Clashing genres only work if handled intelligently.

Also the emotional responsethat you want to produce with your film is important when writing a screenplay. What reaction are you looking for? Something so poignant that it makes the audience cry? So funny that the laughter never stops in the cinema? So terrifying that your hair stands on end?

You need to be able to explain why it is important to script your idea now.

  • Is it something that keeps you up at night?
  • As an author, do you really get under your skin?
  • What is it really about?
  • What is your subject
  • Why is the audience interested in it?
  • Who should want to watch this?
  • What are you trying to question?
  • What do you hope to communicate?

Don't write anything that doesn't burn in you! Because then your writing will in the best case only be competent. That is not enough. You have to be passionate about your story when writing a script!

Storyforming and storytelling while writing a script

There is an important difference between the structure of a story and the way it is told. Any communication between a scriptwriter and his audience consists of two parts: storyforming and storytelling.

Storyforming is about creating a script. The focus is on the actual dramatic structure. The blueprint that contains the essence of the entire story. Conversely, storytelling deals with the specific way in which the author brings this structure closer to the audience.

You have to know that

  • To write a script, you need three things: talent, knowledge of the mechanics of storytelling in film, and perseverance.
  • A professional screenwriter usually works between 6 months and a year and a half on a screenplay for a motion picture.
  • There's a reason Hollywood film writers are among the most suicidal professionals. A rule of thumb is that only one in a hundred scripts will make it to film. It works - mind you! - to experienced authors.

A script example:

Storyforming the story requires a scene in the script that describes the struggle between morality and self-interest. The author invents a man who takes candy from a baby. Another screenwriter shows the member of a stray tourist crowd in the desert hoarding the last available water for himself. Both what is to be illustrated and the way in which it is illustrated fulfill the task of the story in both stories.

Another way to visualize the difference is to imagine three different artists, each painting a picture of the same rose. One might paint like a Picasso, one like a Rembrandt, the third like Van Gogh, but everyone describes the same rose. Likewise, different writers will tell the same story in dramatically different ways.

Working out the right premise as an author

Before building the script comes the premise.

The construction of a powerful dramatic narrative always begins with an assumption. The premise is the catapult for your story. It always starts with the question "What happens if ...?" The Duden defines the term as: "first sentence of a logical chain".

Many premises start out as a very general idea or concept - e.g. B. a basking shark attacks a bunch of swimmers and the protagonist has to kill the shark. That sounds cool, but it's too general to work - it lacks detail and specificity.

Unfortunately, this is also where many aspiring screenwriters stop thinking about the premise any further. You never develop the ideas beyond the first big lines. This is how scripts emerge that are characterized by shark-versus-man and human-versus-shark action, but never really tell stories.

New writers are often afraid that everything has been said before. Of course it did, but not from you.
Asha Thorn Festival

If you're thinking about a premise while writing a script, you have to about the general go out. You have to make your concept as detailed and specific as possible. This so that your premise correctly maps the arc of the entire story you want to tell.

In the case of our example for a script (based on the feature film "The Jaws" by Spielberg):

When a giant shark attacks a swimmer in the waters of a small New England beach town, the local police chief wants to shut down the beaches and hire a professional shark hunter to track down and kill the animal. But city leaders, concerned that news of a shark attack could scare off summer tourists and put the city's income at risk - urged the man to remain silent.

He agrees. After the shark kills more tourists, the police chief finally turns against the mayor, closes the beaches and goes on a hunt for the predator.

This is a much more powerfully developed and much more specific premise that not only reflects the idea but also gives a sense of what the movie will feel like. An author can work with a premise formulated in this way. On such a basis, as an author, you can write the script with a clear conscience.

How do I write a script? 10 tips from writer and cult director Quentin Tarantino (video in English) | © Outstanding Screenplays / YouTube

Work out your film or series plot

Once you've worked out the detailed premise, you're ready to start building your plot. The plot is nothing other than the dramaturgical course of action. It does not show a snapshot, but the development of a story through the course of a story. When writing a script, there are certain elements that every plot must contain:

Usually they are

  1. a promising incident
  2. a first major conflict
  3. an ascending plot curve (with tension, surprise and reversals)
  4. a second major plot curve
  5. a highlight
  6. the resolution

Specifically, it can look like this for the main character in your film script:

  • The protagonist (the main character) is introduced to his specific world.
  • Something happens (the “triggering” incident) that provokes a crisis that sends the protagonist and the narrative in a new and entirely unexpected direction. This is the first major plot curve.
  • As a result of the crisis, the protagonist develops a strong goal.
  • The protagonist sets out to achieve his goal. On the way there he encounters and overcomes a series of increasingly difficult obstacles, usually also the resistance of a strong opponent (who also has a goal - one that is just as strong as that of the protagonist, but in direct contrast to it).
  • When the protagonist overcomes these obstacles, he gets closer and closer to his goal.
  • But then he encounters an obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. This obstacle often comes as an unexpected surprise.
  • The protagonist's search derails while trying to overcome the hurdle.He fails. Seemingly permanent. All hope seems to be lost. That is the second major plot curve.
  • When things seem to be stuck in a dead end, something happens that inspires the protagonist to rediscover himself and to reflect on his original goal. With renewed strength, the protagonist finds a way to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacle (often through a culminating showdown with the opponent). Finally he reaches his goal.
  • At the end of the story, the protagonist - as a result of his experiences in the story - experiences a profound and lasting transformation (he fulfills a dream; solves a long-standing problem; has a change in attitude, philosophy or personality; etc. .)

Once you have worked out the plot, and only then can you further structure your plot when writing the script.

Select the genre for the script writing

Genre categorizes movies. This categorization enables the viewer (and, when writing a script, the scriptwriter) to know what kind of film he is getting into. The classification of a film in a certain genre or a certain category does not reduce the quality of the film.

Genre has nothing to do with originality or creativity. Categorizing a film in terms of genre indirectly helps shape the characters and story of the film. The design determines the action and the best setting.

Genre is defined by four elements or parts:

  • character
  • history
  • plot
  • Setting

You can remember this with a simple formula:

Story (action) + plot + character + setting = genre.

These core elements differentiate the genres from one another.

Some genres have their own sub-genres. Well-known genres are crime films, war films, westerns, spy films, adventure films, science fiction, horror, fantasy, biographical films and mystery films. Drama can also be viewed as a genre. Not all authors agree with this, however, because the subject areas of a drama are very broad and general.

Each genre has its own specific rules. To get your scriptwriting plot on paper, you need to understand these conventions.

At the Western film as a script example, the main actor or protagonist is an individualist who rides into town for a reason. The characters and the stories are simple. The interest is in the developing story, which has many elements of action.

Not so War Movie. It revolves around the inner conflict with the main character's handling of the war. The characters and the story deal with central issues such as loss, death or freedom. The action can also take place far away from the front.

The horror film is also about internal conflicts. These do not have to be resolved to restore the external state (peace), but to defeat the monster.

Many films use different genres (so-called genre mixes). The adventure film can also be a spy movie. The crime thriller is also a science fiction film. Usually one genre is in the foreground.

Film noir, thrillers and action films are actually no Genres. This is more about that style the director. These types of films are characterized by their staging, camera work and editing. You accentuate a film genre but don't define it.

Musicals and animations are also not considered genres, but a type of staging. Nevertheless, this type of film has also been referred to as a genre for decades.

Films have their own personality. Every film is different!

A film that follows a genre helps the film find its audience. Genres are labels that make orientation easier. You can find more details about genre here.

Development of unique characters for films or series

All ideas are only as good as the characters who drive them. Characters are the people (also called movie characters) that appear in your movie. They are the criterion that separates great scripts from only competent scripts - and the talented writer from the craftsman.

There are a ton of things you can work on to improve and refine the script and your craft: structure, dialogue, formatting, scenic writing. If the characters don't work out, scripting will not only be a cramp for you, but a struggle as well.

Characters have to drive everything that happens in your movie. Whether the main characters are humans, aliens, animals, or robots, to write great characters you need to know what the world looks like from their point of view.

You have to step in the shoes of the movie characters and see the world from their own perspective. Only when you know this can you know how the characters instinctively act and react in any situation. This gives rise to authenticity. Regardless of whether you are writing a drama or a comedy.

Convincing characters are always active. Not passive. You're always on some kind of journey - physically, emotionally, psychologically, or otherwise - always trying to do, or get, or achieve something. This results in dilemmas, decisions and conflicts.

Good characters are the nourishment you need as a screenplay writer for your film script.

The main characters in your film cannot be like any other character. Even if they can have traits and facets that we recognize in other characters (and people). Something must raise it above average. This quality makes her the main character.

  • What is special about the characters?
  • What are the things that make them unique?

Your characters need to be emotionally engaging. As viewers, we spend a lot of time with your characters. We'll see what they do next.

The cinema audience wants anxiety to have the safety of the movie characters. Or about their mistakes laugh.

The audience doesn't need to like or admire the characters. Protagonists who do very bad things can be engaging and most compelling characters in a movie. But for this they need an emotional life that we can empathize with. Characters need vulnerability - a crack in their emotional armor or an Achilles heel, a blind spot that makes them universally human.

Characters are the heartbeat of every great movie idea, story, script.

Even if you might not be able to get all the things right in your first script when writing a script, if there are characters that we as an audience really want to spend time with, then you already have something very special.

How do I write a script? 10 Tips for Scriptwriting by Martin Scorsese (video in English) | © Outstanding Screenplays / YouTube

Why choosing a narrative perspective is key when writing a screenplay

The narrative perspective refers to the point of view from which you are telling the story to your reader. There are different types of angles on each story. When writing the script, you have to decide which one is right for you.

Remember: you cannot write without perspective. You can only decide whether the perspective on the events is chosen consciously or unconsciously.

  • An objective narrative style is neutral. She looks at the story in your script from a factual point of view.
  • The subjective narrative perspective tells the story from the perspective of a person in your film. It is more emotional than the neutral representation of the events. That is why you can find them almost without exception in every feature film.
  • If there is a narrator, he usually speaks as an omniscient person about the events.

Your script can also switch between different narrative perspectives. In assembly, this is often reflected in the use of parallel assembly.

For one Short film It is best to take a character's point of view and stick to it - sticking to a single narrative perspective. In most cases, the point of view of the character that the reader can identify with most easily.

This also applies in general and for Feature films: Children's stories usually have a narrative perspective and a leading actor about the age of the target audience, and most (if not all) stories from films and series that are aimed at female audiences are therefore scripted from the A woman's point of view.

In a longer storyline, if the story requires, you can switch between the points of view of several characters. Please note the emphasis in the previous sentence: "If the story requires it". Even if it doesn't look like it at first glance, this decision is as critical as it is important.

Jumping back and forth between angles and characters can be a difficult endeavor, especially for beginners. Therefore, do not take lightly working with different narrative perspectives.

If you want the audience to identify strongly with your main character in order to experience the events of the story as they experience that character, you have to try to stay in that character's point of view for the duration of the story.

If you want the viewer to understand why this main character is in danger without them being aware of it, then you may need to access another person's point of view as well. The same applies if you want to show two sides of the same story (e.g. from the opposing perspective of two lovers). Or if, for the sake of clarity or for a better understanding, you want to tell something that happens but that your protagonist doesn't know about.

Either way: from the perspective of each character, you can only report what this character can directly experience. Or what he deduces from the reactions of other characters or learns from talking to other characters.

Structure: Use the 3-act structure when writing scripts

Effective dramatic stories follow building a basic structure in the script. This three-part structure is not a surefire recipe for success. But it helps to think through your story logically and according to dramaturgical criteria. If you fail, you will likely hit a wall with the story too.

The classic 3-act structure divides the plot into three acts. The classic three-part film dramaturgy is structured as follows:

1st act

  • The world of history is presented.
  • The protagonist is introduced.
  • The starting point of the protagonist's dramaturgical arc is presented (e.g. if the protagonist changes from a coward to a hero in the course of the story, the first act will introduce the protagonist as a coward. This is the only way to call to action later) .
  • An incident serves as the trigger. It leads to the first major plot curve - a crisis that steers the protagonist and the narrative in a new and unexpected direction.

2nd act

  • The first big challenge presents the protagonist with a dilemma that he has to solve.
  • To solve this dilemma, the protagonist develops a goal that he wants to achieve.
  • The protagonist develops a plan to achieve his goal.
  • He begins to carry out his plan.
  • The protagonist finds it difficult to carry out his plan at first, but eventually finds his way and makes progress.
  • As the protagonist carries out his plan, he encounters and overcomes a series of increasingly difficult obstacles, usually also the resistance of the antagonist (who can be a person, but can also be circumstances or the inner demons of the protagonist).
  • When the protagonist overcomes these obstacles, he gets closer and closer to his goal.
  • At the same time, he begins to transform himself from who he was at the beginning of the story to who he will be at the end of the story.
  • But then the protagonist encounters an obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. His striving to achieve his goal seems to fail permanently.

3rd act

  • All hope seems to be lost.
  • But then something happens that re-inspires the protagonist.
  • The protagonist continues his original plan with renewed vigor. Or he gives up and develops a completely new approach.
  • The protagonist finds a way to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacle, usually through a culminating showdown with his opponent.
  • The protagonist eventually reaches their goal (or fails to do so if that's what the story requires) and completes their personal transformation.
  • As the story dissolves, the protagonist does something that shows the profound change he has undergone throughout the story.

Any creatively successful dramatic narrative from Hollywood usually follows the paradigm of the 3-act structure. If you don't believe it, choose a large film and analyze its structure and structure!

Set Turning Points / Plot Points

Turning points (also as Turning Points or Plot points known) can take place in the plot or emotions of a character in scriptwriting. They designate that moment in a scene in which the action is a new twist takes.

Turning points and sharp changes of direction can also occur without direct confrontation. This is why turning point scenes in characters can also be their own findings that change the character's behavior. This can be an important decision making. Or it is the moment when a character realizes the truth about a situation but does not yet act.

The point in your narrative at which the protagonist or narrator reaches a turning point is determined by the dramaturgy and structure of the script - and at the same time is interrelated with these factors. The turning point and the dramaturgy influence each other.

Of course, a turning point must precede the plot organically. Otherwise a turning point is not credible. If you tell about a police chief who is terrified of the water and who nevertheless decides to fight the great white shark at sea, you have to show us not only the fear of confrontation with yourself beforehand, but also before Above all, the factors that cause the police chief to rethink are credibly represented.

Movie scripts usually have between 90 and 120 pages. There is usually a case of screenwriting five important events - or just: turning points.

The first turning point usually occurs after about fifteen minutes of action. Then we are on about page 15. It is the first major turning point in history. This is indicated by a triggering event.

The normality of your main character's life is thereby radically broken. This starts the big dramaturgical arcs that suck the viewer into the action.

  • Towards the end of Act 1to page 25, comes the first plot point. So far the story has gone in a certain direction, but now it is being grabbed, shaken and put on the course that will shape us until the end of the film.

At the end of the first act it becomes clear to the viewer what the main character has to do to put his world back in order.

  • The focus of the script is for every scriptwriter when writing the anchor in the open sea of ​​the second act. Here follows another turning point. This time the main character's needs are brought to the fore. Often this is done through the introduction of a new character, forcing the lead actor to sharpen their focus on the goal.
  • At the end of act 2 and at the beginning of Act 3 we come to a crisis point, Plot Point II. For now, the main character in your script has had enough of all the obstacles that are put in their way. Your world is a dark place with little light. That forces the lead actor to take action to solve his problem.

Usually an internal or external clock “ticks” in the first one. The time that the main character has to complete his mission is running out. He has to start focusing on his goal.

The climax is the biggest scene in the film. It is the final battle between right and wrong, good and bad. The main character will regain control in act 3, save yourself and the world and solve all problems in a dramatic way.

As a screenwriter, how do I write good scenes for film and TV?

A scene is the combination of time, place and setting with which you frame and show an important moment or event in history. In order for your story to move forward, scenes are inevitable. Scenes in which things are only explained are not scenes because nothing really happens.

Readers and audience experience a story because the author seduces them on a journey while writing the script. Each author works with a structure made up of different files (there are usually three).

In film dramaturgy, the act is a noticeable shift or split in the dramatic flow of a story. It is determined by the convergence of the dynamics of character, theme and plot. Each act is made up of a certain number of scenes.

Something significant has to happen in every scene - no matter how catastrophic, how tiny and subtle.So ask yourself: how does this scene advance my story? What significance does this scene have for history? If you can't answer either of these two questions, tilt the scene.

Scenes depict the conflicts and tensions, dilemmas and decisions, actions and reactions of the characters that drive the story. But scenes are not just about what is explicitly shown. Writing great scripts requires subtext: things that go on beneath the surface of the story, silent conversations that exist beyond what is being said.

How do I write a script? Damien Chazelle talks about his work as a writer on the films La La Land and Whiplash (video in English) | © Outstanding Screenplays / YouTube

Before each scene you want to write, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How does this scene affect the characters in the film?
  2. How is the scene linked to the previous plot elements?
  3. What consequences does the scene have on the subsequent events in history?
  4. What influence does the scene have on the entire universe of history?
  5. What happens in the scene beneath the surface and beyond the text?

Scenes are not isolated parts. The comparison with the preceding and following scenes is crucial. The position within the story and the effect on the other scenes is always part of the function and effect of a scene.

If all of your scripted scenes look, sound, and feel the same, then your story will get boring. Each scene needs a specific and unique purpose in the story. Only when you can name the function of each scene are you on the right track!

How do I write good dialogues?

Always write the dialogues at the end. Everything that pictures can say, you have to say with pictures. Dialog has a different function. He is neither voiceover nor the voice of the narrator.

Dialogue is not just about What the characters say. Is more important how they say it.

What matters is what a character expresses through what it says. Dialog is not just logical. It mustn't be.

Characters, like humans, do not express themselves in a perfectly coherent grammar. Spoken language is not written language!

A good dialogue makes it clear what people are not saying. "
Robert Towne

Great characters have a recognizable voice in a movie script.

  • Tonality, grammar, details and ticks are part of the figure and its expression.
  • Dialogue has to be individual. He is an integral part of the character. Strong character voices are authentic.
  • A character's voice is not a mouthpiece for anything else (not even for the scriptwriter). Unless being a mouthpiece is an integral part of the character and story. Avoid characters who make long speeches or make big statements that don't sound true.

If your character has an accent or speaks dialect / slang, write it that way. But be economical and specific with it! When this character first appears in your script with dialogue, mention their accent.

But avoid strong or illegible Accents. You write so that the reader understands you! Professionals like to use only a few selected, typical words and terms that only this dialect would use.

If the only reason for dialogue in scriptwriting is to convey information, think again. That is not the job of dialogue. Dialog isn't just about the words on the page of your script.

It's about the things that Not be said. The "spaces" between the words are important, the subtext is decisive. It is the silence that speaks volumes.

Scriptwriting: Getting started with the story

Knowing where a story that you are telling begins is inextricably linked to the end of the story. You don't have to know all the details of the ending. But you have to know where the story is going.

What kind of ending are you trying to get? Tragic, funny, romantic, exciting, terrifying, bittersweet, ambiguous?

Knowing where you are going means you can craft the best, most engaging, and meaningful scene to start with.

The task of the beginning of a story is to get the audience's attention immediately. The beginning must "touch the ground under the feet" of the spectator. That doesn't mean it's an action sequence - it means starting the story by showing the characters in action. Make it clear who the characters are and what they do.

With scriptwriting, don't worry about preparing the story. Do not try to "set it up" or artificially introduce the characters. Start right in the middle of the life of your main characters. The only exception are "Once upon a time" -style stories.

Be careful with backstories. As a narrator, this is all too easy to get caught up in. Don't explain too much and too clearly what has happened before the audience is immersed in your story.

If there is something important that the audience needs to know about the past, bring it to the present plot and drama of the story. Find a focused introduction to the story. You don't have to immediately introduce every character, topic, and plot.

At the beginning, introduce us to those people in your story who we as an audience really need to be interested in your story! Only afterwards do you have to advance the story, you can surprise the audience and shift up (or down) a gear. Get the script written for you something significant come up with the beginning of your story.

For example, you can let your characters step out of their comfort zone:

  • Make them want something unattainable.
  • Show how the characters fail.
  • Ask them a problem.
  • Or present them with a dilemma.
  • Make their world different. Give them reason to act. Be it to keep a small, but personally very intimate, important thing secret or to save humanity as a superhero.

You see, the most important thing is that you think through and plan your story carefully before you start writing.

Make sure you know how and where your story begins, what happens between the beginning and the end, and how the story ends. Sketch the process in rough lines of action. It's like a puzzle. Ask yourself in which order you put the pieces together.

Think about when the viewer will recognize the first patterns. Consider whether the viewer should be wrong with his conclusions or whether his findings should lead in the correct direction.

Get out of your computer, take a walk in the woods and look at your characters and ask yourself if they are driving the plot forward. If that's not the case and your characters are being driven by the story (rather than the other way around), then something is usually going wrong with your story. If you already recognize this now, you can take countermeasures.

How do I write a script? Interview with Taika Waititi (director of Jojo Rabbit) about scripts (video in English) | © Outstanding Screenplays / YouTube

Scriptwriting: The middle as a bridge

A good start can be exciting without us having to recognize the reasons for it and the motivations of the characters. That has to change in the middle part of the script at the latest. If I fail to understand the starting position and basic constellation of the characters for too long, as a viewer I lose interest in the further development of the story.

In many scripts and stories, the biggest challenge is in the middle of the story. The middle is the stretch that connects the beginning with the end.
The middle part of a script usually takes up more time and space than the beginning and the end combined. Making this bridge dramatic or comedic takes a lot of thought, even more planning, and quite a bit of effort.

When figuring out where to start and where to go, you have to find the most appropriate way for your characters to get from one point to the other.
In the action film genre, one expects top-class action, tension and danger on this path from beginning to end. If it is a detective story, the viewer wants to get closer to the solution step by step. In a love story, we assume that the obstacles on the way to love blooming are overcome.

When writing a screenplay, it is important that the author moves the characters from the beginning to the end of the story not just along a straight line lets go. The shortest route is not the most exciting.

The characters are allowed to travel to their destination not too easy fall. A certain “mess” is quite tense. But unlike his characters, the author must not get lost.

As a scriptwriter, you can manipulate characters, events, actions and consequences, but you have to keep them under control at all times over all phases of the script development.

You always have to lead apparent incoherence and confusion to a climax and an end. You can (yes you have to) make things difficult for the characters. At the same time, it is important to maintain the dynamic of the story for the audience. So the “mess” needs to be carefully planned.

Don't forget to surprise the audience.

  • What do viewers want and what do they have to see?
  • Which text passages can you omit?

Get the audience to see the story, characters and events in a new light!

You have to inspire your viewers and readers! This is your job as a scriptwriter.

  • Do the characters develop and change sufficiently?
  • Are your characters trapped in their behavior in an entertaining or tragic way, but still want to escape their fate?
  • In your story, does your journey take you across valleys and peaks, into dead ends?
  • Are there moments of clarity that trigger a domino effect? H
  • Do behaviors and actions have serious consequences for your characters?

If you cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, your story will "stick". And your audience too.

Scriptwriting: In the end there is always the end

One of the big challenges in scriptwriting is the end of the story. In many cases this is a disappointment. Banal, unsatisfactory and predictable.
What effect are you trying to achieve on the audience with the end of your story? Do you follow the starting point and the journey you made with us and the characters?

Good endings feel inevitable. They are what must follow after everything that has happened before.

The end cannot be predictable. It comes as a surprise. If we can foresee what's going to happen and how we'll get there, then this is it no Surprise. It's just boring.

Ask yourself: does the end really offer what you imagined in the beginning? Or are you just happy to be able to complete your story after 90 script pages?

Great movie endings satisfy audiences. That doesn't mean just making the viewer happy and being obvious. That satisfaction comes from not having frustratingly open or ambiguous endings.

The perfect Ending a movie means bringing your characters to a point of understanding and self-realization. You can keep comedy characters trapped in their shortsightedness. Great endings are always the result of all the actions that preceded the ending.

Bad films fizzle out in the end. They just stop with no real sense of completion or satisfaction.

  • Great ends create an echo.
  • Bad ends implode. They annoy the audience instead of respecting them.

In the end, when the viewer turns off the television or leaves the cinema, the end is remembered. It is the last and most recent experience that he takes away from your film. This also applies to the reader of your film or series script. But this also decides whether your words will ever become film images at all.

What does texture mean in scriptwriting?

The word texture describes the nature of a surface. When writing a script, you can give the reader (and later the viewer) a sense of closeness to life, the world and the authenticity of your characters in your script with the right description and concise details.

  • Some authors use a lot of descriptions to create texture, while others use very little.
  • There is no right way.
  • But if you use so many descriptions that the momentum of the story wears off, that's too much.
  • Long descriptive passages often attract too much attention from the reader. They distract from the story.

To tell every detail of the description and background of a character, including the number of freckles on the ear and where the person bought their blouse (Galeria Kaufhof Berlin-Alexanderplatz, reduced from € 78.00 to € 38.00 due to a slight stain on the sleeve) is unnecessary.

Sometimes authors choose to add credibility to their story by adding lots of details. We how to defuse an explosive treasure in an unconventional way or how to pilot an airplane as a layman. Sometimes these details are important for the development and traceability of a story. Still, scenes with technical information should be kept short.

If there are so few details that the characters or settings are bland and imperceptible, then that is not enough. In this case, the reader emerges from a scene and has no idea of ​​the age or the physical appearance of a character or his attitude to life.

Apart from reducing the length of such descriptions, you can significantly improve the texture of scriptwriting by paying attention to the choice of words.

  • Read your script once through completely and circle any words that could be stronger.
  • Then replace one half and delete the other half.
  • You shouldn't rely on an online thesaurus for this. Otherwise you run the risk of replacing a boring word with a more complex and even more boring one.

The word to search for is often not a synonym. But a word that has independence and expressiveness.

A common reason a passage can get stuck or lose focus is because the author is burdening it with too many adjectives. The beginner thinks that if one adjective is good, then three adjectives must be even better. This is wrong! Grouping adjectives together will cause them to battle your words against each other, one devouring the other until there is no effect left.

If you combine several adjectives, at least two of them usually have a similar meaning (example: "She was a quiet, introspective, shy girl").

Creating a script means: rewriting

You worked out your idea, figured out what a brilliant experience it is, creating characters and writing a script. Your story is neatly structured, brought to life on stage and the characters come to life with love. You have a script in your hands and it feels good.

Still, you don't have more than a draft! That's exactly it: a design.

This is a dangerous moment for you and your film. Now you have to step on the brakes. When writing a script, you got too close to your script to judge it harshly and critically.

Writing a script is rewriting - whether on the page or in your head, over days, weeks, months or years. To write and rewrite, you have to give your story time and space.

Print out your script, put it in a drawer or on a shelf, and force yourself, the writer, to leave your script alone for at least a few weeks, if not longer. You need to be able to read it fresh and new later. To lose your subjectivity, you need time. Only then are you ready to look at your book as objectively as possible.

Screenwriting is like ironing. You go back and forth a little and smooth things out.
Paul Thomas Anderson

That is not easy. But you have to do it. Do two things the first time you hold the script in your hand after the break.

  • First, you look for a quiet, undisturbed room. There you read your script in one go. Without stopping to take notes.
  • Read your script like someone would other would read your work without prior knowledge. Then honestly ask yourself what you are thinking, what you are feeling.

See if the story works for you. Think about where potential problems are and whether your message in the film is clear enough.

  • Second, you put the script away for at least another day. Then you sit down and start «digging». Make notes about scenes and lines on each page. If there is someone you can trust, ask for honest, intelligent, and useful feedback?

Read your script aloud to yourself. Let the characters speak and speak with their voices. Writing a script always means reading.

When you're starting to use the big red script builder (red is a good color for this job), don't look at individual words. Screenplays are not novels, short stories, poems, or rhetoric. One word alone does not count.

How do I write a script? Perfectionist David Fincher on the art of writing a film script (video in English) | © Outstanding Screenplays / YouTube