This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD. Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014.
There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 364,597 times.
Whether you’re writing a novel, a screenplay, or a stage play, dramatic monologues are important tools for furthering character development and shedding light on the major themes in your story. A dramatic monologue is typically a long excerpt in a larger piece of writing that reveals the character’s thoughts and feelings, but should not slow down the pace of the larger piece, only further it.  X Research source
Understand the role of the dramatic monologue in theater. A dramatic monologue in theater is an uninterrupted speech made by a character and is an expression of the character’s inner thoughts and feelings.  X Research source
- A monologue differs from a soliloquy  X Research source in that a soliloquy is literally a character talking to him/herself. A dramatic monologue has an implied audience, as the character will usually be speaking to another character in the monologue.
- You are likely familiar with the famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, (“To be or not to be…”) but the play also has a number of dramatic monologues, including one by the ghost of Hamlet’s father.  X Research source Addressing Hamlet in the dramatic monologue, the ghost begins by identifying himself (“I am thy father’s spirit”) before revealing to Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother, Hamlet’s uncle, and the crown was stolen from him:  X Research source
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown. Thy uncle,
Ay, that incestuous, that adulterous beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts–
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce! — won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
Understand the role of a dramatic monologue in poetry. A dramatic monologue in poetry, also known as a personal poem, shares many characteristics with a theatrical monologue. There is an implied audience, there is no dialogue, and the poet speaks through an assumed voice, like a character.  X Research source
- The monologue is dramatic in that is is meant to be read to an audience. In poetry, a dramatic monologue allows the poet to express a point of view through a certain character.  X Research source
- Robert Hayden’s Night, Death, Mississippi is a good example of a dramatic monologue in poetry, as the poem adopts the voice of an aging KKK member, listening to the sound of a lynching outside but too old to join the other KKK members.  X Research source With a stanza such as:
Christ, it was better
than hunting bear
which don’t know why
you want him dead.
Analyze a monologue. Try to do more than read it over and instead, consider how it is working from a craft perspective. You may ask questions such as:  X Research source
- To whom is the speaker addressing in the monologue?
- What does the speaker want from the addressee or receiver of the monologue?
- Why is the speaker performing the monologue at this point in the story?
- How does this monologue affect the overall plot and/or development of the speaker, as well as the other characters in the scene or in the story?
- What kind of language or description is the speaker using? What gives the speaker a unique or distinct voice?
- If we look at Jules’ shepherd monologue in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” as an example  X Research source , the monologue occurs at the very end of the film, in the climax of a scene: the robbery of a diner.
Jules: Well there’s this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
You know that voice.
That voice in your head that you’re using to read this right now.
How do we get that voice on to the script in a way that readers will understand?
How do you write an interior monologue in a script? You write an inner monologue in a script by First writing your character’s name followed by “(V.O).” Which stands for voice over. After that, you then write your monologue as normal dialogue. For example:
Now there are multiple ways to write this that could add some flare to your writing. Check out those examples below.
Different Ways of Writing an Inner Monologue
Yes, there are different ways to write an inner monologue. The first way is shown above and is a great basic example. We have some better script examples we can pull from recent famed Netflix dramas. One is “You” the other being “House of Cards.”
“Characters name” Thoughts
As we can see the inner monologue is more of a character in itself. It’s written as its own voice a lot of the time separate from Joe Golberge the main character. Throughout the series, you can hear this voice and then see Joe spring into action after his thoughts made a decision.
One way to justify the use of the interior monologue is to make it its own character. This script almost needs this voice in order for the story to work.
(to the camera)
The monologue is italicized
The formating here comes from what we are used to seeing in novels but it works all the same.
This example in House of Cards doesn’t feel like a new character but instead Feels like a different side of the same person. This version is still an inner monologue because only us the audience can hear it.
Throughout the series sometimes the main character Frank would be in a room full of people and even then the only people who hear this version of him is us.
One thing you can see from the two examples above is the inner voice is clearly defined formatting wise. There isn’t a question whether this is something everyone in the world can hear or only the audience. We know only we can hear it. Keep that in mind when writing.
Why you should or shouldn’t use interior Monologue
Now let’s go into detail on the pros and cons of using this technique for your next script. Not every script needs this.
Why You Wouldn’t Use It.
1.) Actions speak louder than words (Show don’t Tell)
One of the most important rules in screenwriting is to show don’t tell. The rule is meant to force writers to write visually. When you use inner Monologue you run the mistake of adding more than is necessary making for a boring script.
This is why the two examples shown above have the interior monologue function as part of the show and not something the writer threw in to get a point across.
2.) Too much narration
David Mamet a teacher of screenplays tells us that narration can kill a script faster than anything. Your screenplay can turn into a weather forecast giving the audience everything they need to know before any of it happens.
3.) Breaking the fourth wall
Every use of the Interior monologue is breaking the fourth wall. Because you are addressing the audience only. When you break the fourth wall its extremely hard for directors to get the audience back into the story once the allusion is revealed.
So if not done right it could be the reason a reader didn’t pass your script along to the producer.
Why You Would Use It.
1.) Character development
Both examples of the inner dialogue given above show character in a way that works well for the story. Think to yourself how does displaying an inner monologue good for the character. What is adding to the character that I can’t show anywhere else?
2.) Great way to show perspective (POV)
Having your character monologue is a great way to show their point of view or POV. It’s literally what there thinking. You can show how situations make them feel on the inside. Which is relatable to most people.
Exposition is something all writers struggle with. Inner monologuing gives a writer another way of spitting out exposition. This way you can separate the exposition throughout more characters if you count the voice inside your character’s head as a character itself.
When Should You Use The Interior Monologue?
Even though it’s inside someone’s head it’s still dialogue. And the dialogue is best given at the hight of conflict. Its the “Oh shit” moments or the “fight or flight” moments. The moments when steaks are at its highest. That’s when a line or two coming internally would really stand out.
We have covered all the bases of using inner monologues. From how to format one. The different ways its formated and used in scripts today. Even to when and why you should use it. But remember before you use any technique in writing ask yourself does this serve the story or is it serving me?
For more formating tips please check out the formating section below.
Every time I learn something, you do too. It’s that simple.
Watching a play can provoke many emotions: happiness, sadness, even anger. You get far more creative license writing a play than you would a screenplay (compare Posh to The Riot Club, and you’ll see what I mean).
However, writing a play comes with its own challenges. You’re limited to setting, and staging some things (such as magic tricks) can be difficult. But they’re not impossible. A lot can be done with modern technology and a good imagination, so keep an open mind when writing but remember to be practical.
Much of the staging will be up to the director and set designer, but if there are certain things that are required (such as a door that opens and closes, or a table), make sure it’s included in the descriptions.
How to write a play
1. Create an interesting plot
If you don’t have a plot, you don’t have a play. The plot leads your story, taking you, your audience and your characters from the beginning to the end. It doesn’t have to be linear, but audiences should be able to follow it.
2. Add an appropriate subplot
If you’re writing a longer play, consider a subplot.
One of my favourite subplots is in Twelfth Night, when Maria and co. trick Malvolio. It’s an equally confusing plot line, but offers a different kind of humour to the main plot. Maria and co. intentionally deceive Malvolio, as they feel that he deserves his comeuppance. Viola, meanwhile, thinks life would be easier as a man and does not intentionally set out to cause any harm. The two plots work together to entertain/horrify/amuse the audience.
3. Decide on your structure
Stage plays are divided into acts, and each act is divided into scenes.
Writers used to go by the three act structure, but more recently writers have deviated away from it.
You have limited physical space with a stage play, so keep this in mind when structuring your play. You can only have a handful of locations compared to a novel, where you can have as many locations as you like. In a play, the more locations you have, the more difficult you make it to translate on to stage. No matter how great your story, if a company/director can’t envision how to stage what you’ve written, they’ll be less likely to want to bring it to life.
Go for locations that are easy to set up and for people to visualise when reading your script. The more complicated you make your structure and set design, the harder it will be for people to follow.
4. Decide how you want it to look
The design of your set can dramatically alter how actors perform your play.
There are several different types of theatre stage, so choose one and create a set around it. If you struggle to visualise your set, draw it out. This will help you to visualise it and give you a reference guide.
Make sure that the stage layout is easy to follow in your stage play, though: you don’t want to confuse set designers about how your play should look.
Try not to have too much going on at once—the more complicated you make the set design, the harder it will be for people to understand when they read your script. It will also make it more difficult for the audience to focus on what’s going on—you want them to focus on the actors, not their surroundings. You also want the audience to use their imagination to visualise what the characters see.
An eye-catching but not distracting backdrop can work better than lots of props on the stage, and is cheaper to produce, too. If you’re setting your play outside a coffee shop and the actors don’t go inside it, consider using a backdrop of a row of shops instead of creating the whole street/shop front. This will be much cheaper to produce, and therefore make your play more attractive to those who can bring it to life.
5. Know your audience
Your audience is important for a play because you need to be able to market it.
Think about the age, gender, demographic, class, background, education, and anything else (no matter how trivial it may seem), when picturing who you’re writing for. Come up with your perfect audience member, and tailor your script to them. The narrower your imaginary audience is, the easier it will be to write your script.
6. Lay it out correctly
Make sure your play is laid out correctly. There are different ways of laying a play out depending on if you’re British or American, or whether you’re a writer or an actor. For a writer in the UK, this is the one you should use.
Also make sure you don’t confuse a screenplay layout with a stage play one.
7. Create interesting characters
Like any other piece of writing, each of your characters should be unique and easy for the audience to identify. They also shouldn’t be walking stereotypes.
Many of your audience won’t be able to see your character, so it’s particularly important that they stand out in the way that they speak because there will be less visual cues, especially for those high up and/or with poor eyesight. The way your characters speak can tell your audience a variety of things including their class and educational level, and it’s therefore important to get this right.
8. Make your characters’ gestures grand
Facial expressions should be used sparingly when writing a play.
[bctt tweet=”Facial expressions should be used sparingly when writing a play.” username=”KristinaAdams”]
Saying that your character ‘raises an eyebrow’ is fine for a novel or screenplay, but this is a play: even the audience in the front row will struggle to see a raised eyebrow.
Write your stage directions so that they can be seen even from the gods. Use body language over facial expressions to show how your character is feeling: your audience will read it better than facial expressions anyway.
The way that you phrase your characters’ sentences should show the reader of your stage play exactly what your character is thinking/feeling. The actor will then be able to easily translate this on to the stage, using the tone of their voice to emphasise the dialogue.
To write a stage play, you have to be able to visualise how your play will appear on stage to audience members all over the theatre. Once you get into that mindset, it becomes easier.
If you’re struggling, watch a variety of plays at different theatres to see how things are done. Every theatre, writer and director handles situations and stories differently.
Over to You
How do you find writing stage plays? What do you think are the most important ingredients? Let me know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this, you’ll enjoy the rest of the Ingredients series, too:
4. Stage plays (You’re here!)
Explanation of basic rules how to write a monologue
When you write a monologue script, try keeping it simple and easy. There are various monologues, and each has its specifications regarding presentation and style. Therefore, when writing, those are simple steps to be considered. For example, dramatic monologues are somehow tricky to write as details of characters should be clearly stated. You may write a monologue to add details to the play or to increase the quality of the play overall.
These are the various steps to follow while you write your play:
- Figure out the monologue perspective.
To find that distinct of your character’s voice, the monologue should be written with an angle or the idea of only one voice being superior to the audience or another actor in your play. That is how you give purpose to a monologue; just by focusing on the point of one voice.
Monologues have two important purposes; you either write it to give your weak character in your play that position of expression or to be seen and heard at last or giving that main voice to have their say in a play. The reason for a monologue presentation could be; a story, secret, an answer to a question or an emotional release by a character.
- Determine the purpose of the monologue.
As said earlier, the purpose of a monologue includes; a story, secret, an answer to a question or an emotional release by a character. Determining the monologue’s purpose gives a clear revelation to the audience that can’t be determined via dialogue or through character interaction.
The monologue however done solo should add tension or that emotion to the audience to create liveness or a new insight into an existing issue. This is a major part as it creates that touch of affection from the speaker or character to his or her audience.
For example; if a character does not speak in the first part of the play, it is important for him or her to give an explanation why the play did not involve him in the first part. That serves an important part in the monologue.
- It is also important for you to discover who will be addressed in your monologue.
Framing a monologue involves you figuring out your speaker’s audience or who your character will be specifically addressing in the play. If the speaker will be addressing himself, the better for you as the writer. But mostly the speaker addresses himself or herself in the play. Both of these important details enable you to easily structure your monologue. When a monologue is purposed to address a specific character, this is often considered when the speaker wants to express his or her feelings or thoughts about an experience to the audience.
- The beginning, middle and end of monologue should be considered.
For a monologue to be really good; it’s beginning, middle and end should be distinct. Just like every other story, a monologue should also include aspects like shifting of beginnings to end of stories that should be clear. Every beginning and end of your monologue should be purposed. Here are several ways you can achieve a beautiful monologue;
You can clearly outline your monologue including each stage; the beginning, middle, and the end. Clearly outlining means noting what happens in every stage of your monologue.
Alternatively, you can also write the first and last lines as your beginning and end of your monologue; then you pick from there by building upon your content between to frame ideas and thoughts for the monologue.
- Try going through other monologues.
Just like writing any other piece, writing a monologue requires experience, and were not to find it but to go through already written articles. This gives you a better and wider scope of aspects in monologue writing such as structure and many other things that should be considered.
Writing a monologue is a difficult and time-consuming task. Choose one of the writing partners to cope with this problem:
Here’s another in a series of posts about how I approach writing a script. Previous posts:
Today Part 6: Outline
I start by transcribing the content of the cards into a new Word file called Story Outline.I generally will have written down notes and ideas on the cards related to each scene or beat, so that information goes into the outline as well.
[Note: There are many software programs that exist nowadays that are built for outlining.]
The goal here is to create a blueprint with Scene 1, followed by Scene 2, Scene 3, all the way to the last scene and FADE OUT.The hard work here is to make sure as best as I can that the story tracks and handles all the subplots.A final consideration is to think about the transitions, how to make each shift from one scene and sequence to the next is as smooth and seamless as possible.
Apart from locking down the story’s structure, I also think about every scene, asking a series of questions:
* What is the point of the scene?
* What is the scene’s Beginning, Middle, and Ending?
* What characters should be in the scene and why?
* What is the conflict in the scene?
* How do I enter / exit the scene?
That can change in the actual writing of the script — as well as scene order — but I like thinking through my scenes in advance.
My outlines can be quite long. I just pulled out one from my files that is 32 single-spaced pages. But then, I like to throw in everything I dredge up for each scene: images, bits of dialogue, Internal World dynamics, transitions, and so on.
Okay, now I want you to take a deep breath and realize something: All that — story concept, brainstorming, research, character development, plotting, and outline — and I haven’t written one word of the actual script. I have found doing the hard work up front — prep-writing — gives me more room for creative thinking in my page-writing process.
Let’s me be clear: I am not saying that every writer has to work this way. Each writer has to find the approach that works for them. For example, Neil Simon eschews outlines:
When I started, I got out the yellow legal pads and I outlined the entire play. Then I started to write the play, and the characters started to want to drift off where they wanted to go. So I pushed them back into the outline, and they say, We don’t like it in this outline, we want to get on another yellow pad. This yellow pad stinks. So I just kept trying to force them there, and I realized I couldn’t do that.
At this point, I don’t make outlines at all. I make an outline only in my mind. If I can say two or three sentences about the play, then I have a play.
That’s as much of an outline as I need, because when I write something I want to be as surprised — and this goes for screenwriting too in terms of the original screenplay — I want to be as surprised as the audience is. If I know everything beforehand, it becomes a job. Just let it happen and see where it takes me.
Okay, that’s one extreme. Conversely, there’s writer-director Paul Schrader, who is known to craft such extensive outlines that he can predict within a quarter-page how long each scene is before he writes it. His take:
Question: Do you still outline it in one page?
PS: Yeah. And then re-outline it. On this one I went right from the outline to the script. But usually, if I have any concerns about whether the idea is really going to work, I then go into a sequential breakdown.
All a sequential breakdown is…. let’s say in an average movie there are anywhere 45–55–60 things happening. That’s your outline, the list of things that happen. That’s not the list of shots, or the list of scenes and drive-ups, just the things that happen. Like, they meet at the Chelsea Hotel, returns to office, make phone calls, whatever.
So you take each one of those items on your outline and make it into a paragraph. So now you’re starting to include dialogue.
Question: 5–8 lines?
PS: Yeah. So now, instead of a one page outline, you have about a 15 page, single-spaced breakdown. And if your idea still survives all of that, then there’s a pretty good chance it ll work. I’ve had idea that have worked at an outline stage, but died at the breakdown stage.
And when an idea dies on you it is, in fact, one of the best things that can happen. Because you’ve just saved yourself an enormous amount of time and grief. Some ideas just don’t want to be written. They don t want to be written by you. Some ideas have fooled you into thinking that they have more power than they, in fact, do. If you find that out after writing a first draft, you’ve wasted a lot of time and you’ve also lost faith in yourself because you believed in something and you couldn’t pull it off.
So two extremes. And a writer must find their own approach, there is no “right” or “wrong,” just what works for you.
That said, I do encourage all aspiring screenwriters to try an immersive prep-writing approach, like the one I’ve laid out so far in these 6 posts, at least once. If it works, great. If not, you’re free to track down Neil Simon and kick it free-style with him.
You can read the complete interview with Paul Schrader here.
Has your child been bitten by the drama bug and thinks he’s ready for Broadway? Many kids in middle or high school have seen and read some plays and maybe even acted in productions. A budding writer may also want to try his own hand at playwriting. Here are some basic playwriting tips.
Start with an Idea. Find an idea for the basis of a play, usually with a plot and storyline that involves a series of events. A play can be about something that really happened or something fictional. Anything from a news story to a photograph to an interesting person might spark an idea. Lots of good first plays are short, around 8-10 pages.
Determine the Conflict. Think of a conflict, or a main problem that the characters face, which will be central to the plot, to make it more dramatic. A play’s plot usually proceeds in the following way: (1) the beginning describes the characters and conflict, (2) characters try to solve the problem, creating the rising action, (3) their action leads to a climax, or turning point, and (4) falling action leads to a resolution that sums up how things end. For an exercise in structure, have children write a one act play with four scenes, using the numbered list above as an outline.
Setting. The setting of a play is where it takes place. This could be a historical era, a foreign country, a single room or even inside a vacuum. Scene changes are a good time for characters to switch locations.
Characters. A writer’s first play should probably have somewhere between three and eight characters. Each character wants something and has a goal or objective. Kids can list each character and give detailed descriptions for each one, including their name, age, physical appearance, personality, hobbies and interests, fears, secrets, abilities, motivations, occupation and relation to other characters. Even if the characters are animals or inanimate objects, they’ll still have unique qualities.
Dialogue. A play is nothing without dialogue, the conversations characters have! Dialogue should move the story forward and reveal the characters’ relationships to each other, and also show their moods and personalities. Dialogue should sound believable and real—there can be pauses and contractions, just like in everyday speech. It helps to study real-life conversations and practice reading dialogue aloud to see how it sounds.
Format. Using the correct playwriting format helps put all these aspects together in an understandable way. An example of playwriting format follows below. Note that when writing character descriptions, the more detailed they are, the more depth actors can give to their performance.
THE SNOW DAY
By Elise Williams
Cast of Characters:
SUSAN, a friendly, 30-something mother
JANE, her 13 year old daughter
CHLOE, Jane’s best friend, also 13 years old
SAM, Susan’s husband and Jane’s father, worried about work
JOE, a 13 year old neighbor of Jane, sometimes teases her
The play takes place in a suburb of Boston during a particularly snowy day when schools are unexpectedly closed.
Stage Directions are messages in parentheses, aligned to the right margin, from the playwright to the actors and crew telling them what to do and how to do it. They should be brief, and written in the present tense. They describe action and visuals, not inner thoughts. Character names are written in ALL CAPS. For example:
(Early morning, snow falling. Sidewalk in front of a suburban house. JANE appears in front of the house bundled up for winter weather and wearing a backpack. SUSAN comes out of the house and runs to catch JANE.)
Jane, wait! The radio just announced that your school is closed today because of snow!
Really? You’re not just teasing me, are you? Do I really get a snow day?
(CHLOE enters, also wearing a backpack, and walks over towards JANE.)
Hi Jane, what’s going on? Aren’t we walking to school together today?
Conclusion: Notice in the format above that the character’s names are ALL CAPS, bolded, and centered just before each character’s line of dialogue. Stage directions are at the beginning of a scene and anywhere else where action, props, or descriptions need to be explained for the cast and crew.
If a child writes four scenes in the format above, using the plot structure described above, bravo! He has written his first play!
Let Your Inner Child Onto the Page
Richard Lewisohn/Getty Images
- M.A., Literature, California State University – Northridge
- B.A., Creative Writing, California State University – Northridge
This is a near-and-dear subject for me. Over the past ten years, I have written many plays for children. I highly recommend this emotionally rewarding writing experience. To start you on your journey into youth theatre writing, I humbly offer the following advice:
Write What You Love
This is true for any genre, whether it’s poetry, prose, or drama. A writer should create characters he cares about, plots that captivate him, and resolutions that move him. A playwright should be his own harshest critic and his own biggest fan. So, remember, choose topics and issues that generate passion within you. That way, your enthusiasm will cross over to your audience.
Write What Kids Love
Sadly, if you love the politics of 18th century Europe or doing your income tax, or talking about home equity loans, that passion may not translate into the realm of Kid-dom. Make sure that your play connects with children; In some cases that might mean to add a dash of fantasy, or to unleash your comic side. Think of how J.M. Barrie’s classic musical, Peter Pan delighted a generation of children with its magic and mayhem. However, a children’s play can take place in the “real world” too, with down to earth characters. Anne of Green Gables and A Christmas Story are excellent examples of this.
Know Your Market
There is a popular demand for youth theater plays. High schools, elementary schools, drama clubs, and community theaters are constantly looking for new material. Publishers are anxious to find scripts that have compelling characters, clever dialogue, and easy-to-create sets.
Ask yourself: Do you want to sell your play? Or produce it yourself? Where would you like your play to be performed? At a school? Church? Regional theater? Broadway? All of them are possibilities, though some are easier goals than others. Check out the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. They list over 50 publishers and producers.
Also, contact the artistic director of your local playhouse. They might be looking for a new show for kids!
Know Your Cast
There are two types of children’s plays. Some scripts are written to be performed by children. These are plays that are bought by publishers and then sold to schools and drama clubs.
Boys often shy away from drama. To increase your chances of success, create plays with a large number of female characters. Plays with an abundance of male leads don’t sell as well. Also, avoid extremely controversial topics such as suicide, drugs, violence, or sexuality.
If you create a children’s show to be performed by adults, your best market will be theaters that cater to families. Create plays with a small, energetic cast, and a minimal number of props and set pieces. Make it as easy for the troupe to stage your production.
Use the Right Words
A playwright’s vocabulary should depend on the anticipated age of the audience. For example, if you want to create a play to be viewed by fourth graders, research age-appropriate vocabulary and spelling lists. This is not to say that you should completely avoid more sophisticated words. On the contrary, when a student hears a new word in the context of a story, she can increase her lexicon. (That’s a fancy word for one’s personal vocabulary.)
Play adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are a good example of writing that speaks to children using words they can understand. Yet the dialogue sporadically incorporates elevated language without losing its connection with the young audience.
Offer Lessons, but Don’t Preach
Give your audience a positive, inspirational experience complete with a subtle yet uplifting message.
The play adaptation of The Little Princess an excellent example of how important lessons can be infused into a script. As the main character travels from one whimsical planet to the next, the audience learns the value of trust, imagination, and friendship. The messages subtly unfold.
If the script becomes too preachy, it may feel as though you are talking down to your audience. Do not forget; children are very perceptive (and often brutally honest). If your script generates laughter and thunderous applause, then you will have connected with one of the most demanding yet appreciative crowds on the planet: an audience filled with kids.
W ith an increasing presence of technology in film, it is important to understand how to write text messages in a screenplay. Text messaging has become not only commonplace, but necessary in day to day communication for most people. It is only appropriate that this form of communication comes up in the lives of a story’s characters. Let’s take a look at how screenwriters write a text message in screenplay format and understand a few techniques that will help you become an expert at screenwriting text messages.
How to Write Text Messages in Screenplay
Two rules of screenplay formatting
There is not one single method to write text messages in a screenplay. However, every screenwriter should always follow two simple rules to screenplay formatting in general.
- Be clear
- Be consistent
These rules apply across all movie genres, whether you’re formatting a montage, or deciding how to write sluglines. As long as you abide by these two rules, you’re all set.
How can you tell if you are being clear? One trick is to read the scene out loud. If there seems to be any confusion or lack of clarity when you reach the section in which text messages are inserted, you should reassess your format.
Once you choose a format, be consistent in how you write a text message in screenplay format for the rest of your script. The great thing about using screenwriting software like StudioBinder is that all of the formatting is built-in.
StudioBinder Screenwriting Software • Subscribe on YouTube
Now that we have the ground rules established, let’s look at some examples of how to write text messages in a screenplay. We’ll start with some quick, original examples and then we’ll look at some feature films and how those writers pull off a text message in screenplay format.
How to Write Text Message Using Descriptions
Formatting a single text
The first method screenwriters use is stating the text message within a script’s action description. This is useful when only one text is read or shown rather than a conversation unfolding. We created a few examples of how to show a text message in a screenplay.
Two versions of texting in the description
You’ll notice that the first options keeps the entire text within the description, while the second option uses a sub-heading first. Version 1 works from a clarity standpoint and Version 2 might work better in a shooting script, where shots and camera direction are typically found.
Again, there are no “rules” to follow, per se, but remember that every line counts. If your script has a lot of texting, and you use Version 2 every time, you’ll add extra and unnecessary pages to the total page count.
Writing Texts Using Dialogue Blocks
Formatting texts as dialogue
How do you show texting in a screenplay that involves a two person dialogue? This can also be done a few ways.
Standard dialogue blocks can be used as long as you properly clarify in each block that the dialogue is still through text messaging. It also helps to italicize any text messages to differentiate it from normal dialogue.
Texting as dialogue
Another popular way filmmakers are utilizing text messaging is through on-screen text graphics as the characters are texting. How do you show texting in a screenplay that utilizes these animations? Simply clarifying that “chyrons” appear on screen will clarify.
Visual texting on-screen
Again, there is not one way to format a text message into a screenplay. These are only a few examples of how to be clear with texting in a scene. Find what format works for you and your screenplay best and stick to it.
Examples of How to Write Text Message in Screenplay
How Hollywood scripts format texts
Screenwriters often write text messages into their screenplay based on how the page might read. Although the following techniques may differ in format, they are all great examples of how to show text messages in a screenplay with clarity and direction.
Screenwriting text messages can often include a layer of subtext within the text messages. Including how characters react to texts will keep your texting scenes clear and interesting. We imported some feature scripts into StudioBinder’s scriptwriting software so we can take a look at how the pros format a text message in a screenplay.
Here’s a great example from a scene in The Spectacular Now — notice how the text messages and reactions are blended together to give depth to the conversation.
The Spectacular Now Example • Read Full Scene
Other screenwriters show how to write a text message in a screenplay format based on how the text might appear visually. This can be important when a text message is typed out on screen. Here’s a fantastic example from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a film which raised the bar on how to use on-screen graphics.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World Example • Read Full Scene
Some screenwriters demonstrate how to write text in a screenplay using only descriptions. This can be helpful if an internal or external conflict develops as the scene goes on. Here’s our final example on how to write text messages in a screenplay.
The scene is from The Fault in Our Stars and it also uses the action/description lines to include the texts. This scene also highlights the intimacy that can be written into moments where characters communicate without actually talking.
The Fault in Our Stars Example • Read Full Scene
Analyzing some examples of how to write text in a screenplay can help you incorporate them into your story effectively. In this video, Every Frame a Painting takes a look at effective and not so effective ways movies have incorporated text messages in the past.