What makes a memorable treatment for a TV or film script? Students on our John Yorke Story: Story for Screen (Drama) course have been reading treatments as they start to write their own. Here are their tips on how to keep a treatment focused, confident and easy to read.
Learn to understand storylining over a TV series Master story structure Discover how to diagnose and fix script problems
- Use the present tense so the story feels immediate and engaging.
- Choose good strong verbs to mimic the action in the story.
- Think sparse and economical; no rhetorical frippery. Sentences do not need to be written out in full. You are witnessing an unfolding story and need to provide just the essential words to convey what you see happening before you.
- Stay invisible as a narrator: pass no judgement on the story so as not to distract from it.
- Keep right there with your protagonist, almost walking alongside them, like you are being led on a virtual tour through the story.
- Write mostly action so the structure is clear. Dialogue is less important at this stage, though some bits can subtly set the emotional tone you want to convey.
- Keep backstory to a minimum – it impedes the forward momentum of the present story.
- Bring the tone of the script to bear. Alien II, for example, is tense, frightening and set in an unknown landscape, and the treatment clearly evokes all these things.
- Reflect the pace of the film – gloss over the less important parts so you can give the really important parts more detail and time.
- Make stage directions/setting descriptions minimal – they should give a sense of the setting without boxing things in. There should be freedom to play with this in the direction/production.
- Stay neutral – write as though you’re witnessing the story through fresh and amazed eyes. Your readers will have no prior experience or knowledge of your story world, or where it’s going to take them.
John Yorke is a drama producer, author and teacher who has spent 30 years studying how stories work and why we tell them. His long career in TV drama has given him the tools to identify the underlying shape common to all successful narratives — from drama to corporate reports.
As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has shaped stories that have attracted some of the biggest audiences for drama in UK TV history. He has overseen some of the UK’s most enduring and popular programmes, from Shameless and Life On Mars to EastEnders and Holby City, alongside award-winners like Bodies and the internationally acclaimed Wolf Hall.
His bestselling book on story, Into the Woods, is the basis for our John Yorke Story courses.
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.
- TV Ad Storyboard Template
- How to Storyboard a TV Commercial
- How to Tell a Story
- TV Script Formatting Overview
- How to Write a TV Commercial (Step-by-Step)
- Glossary: Important TV Commercial Script Terms
Writing commercial scripts for TV ads is entirely different from screenwriting a screenplay.
Not only is a video script for a TV commercial only 15 to 90 seconds long compared to the 90 minutes of a feature film, it also follows a different format.
While screenwriting software has largely automated the formatting part of scriptwriting, you can write a TV commercial script with a template. We’ll talk about the commercial script format and give you a free template to download. We’ve also compiled tips for you on how to write a great commercial and explain important terminology.
TV Script Formatting Overview
Television commercials follow a much more concise format compared to feature films. There are two reasons for this: length, and timing.
A TV commercial is short and you have to win over the target audience within 15, 30, 60 or 90 seconds maximum. The pacing needs to be perfect, so a TV commercial script has to convey time well. A movie script alternates dialog and action lines, creating a varying pace. A TV ad separates audio and visual to give a more precise sense of timing.
Like a storyboard, the script gives an overview of events in sequence, though just as descriptions. Thanks to the format, the reader is also able to tell at a glance which elements are paired up together and are happening at the same time. If you’re looking at a script for a TV commercial for the first time, you’ll notice it’s just a short informational header followed by two columns. Let’s go over what goes where!
The heading contains all the important information about the spot or the project:
- Client: Identify the name of the client or the client’s brand.
- Script Title: Clearly describe the advertised product or service in a clever title. If you’re producing a variety of scripts for the client, the individual titles should be unique and clearly announce their differences. You can also give the name of the ad campaign if necessary.
- Your name: The writer’s name and possibly contact information such as a phone number allow the client to quickly reach the person responsible in case of changes.
- Draft number: This is important so everyone is working off the same script version in production.
- Date submitted: The date you sent the script to the client. Length: The total runtime (TRT) of the TV commercial in seconds, commonly 15, 30, 60, or 90 second.
- Job ID: Further identifying information.
The Visual Column
The left column answers the question: what do viewers see? Compared to a screenplay, the information in the visual column is what you convey in scene descriptions and action lines with clear and concise writing. The visual language needs to be unambiguous and on point for the target market. Reading your script, the client needs to know you are aligned with their brand and the objective of winning over potential customers.
To repeat, anything visual will be in this column, from shots to graphics and on-screen text as well as camera directions such as close-up or wide shot. Write the visual cues in all caps and be as specific as you need to be. For clarity, shots can be numbered in their order and you can indicate shot length in brackets like so: “(:05)”. You can provide distinct location names if any have been chosen or reference existing visual material such as a tile from a storyboard–some companies even include thumbnails in the visual column.
The Audio Column
Likewise, the right column answers the question, what does the audience hear? The audio column of your commercial script contains descriptions of all audio elements and possibly further information such as length or source. Audio used in a TV commercial can be dialog, voiceover, music, a jingle, sound effects or a tagline.
In the audio column, you write everything that isn’t dialog in all caps. Dialog lines begin with a character’s name, followed by a colon and their line or lines, like so: “TROY: “Hi, I’m Troy McClure.” Ideally, the names for all speakers start with a different letter so you can abbreviate them after the first appearance. To keep the runtime in check, specify the length of audio elements such as effects, jingles and musical cues where available.
As we’ve noted above, the advantage of the two column layout is the sense of timing, so make sure that visuals and audio line up horizontally in their respective columns so the shot description and the corresponding audio begin on the same line.
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Write in the direction of a TV sale.
Television writing is an art.
This class is for writers at every level. Maybe you’re starting your first TV script, maybe you’re a a pro in need of a fresh eye, maybe you want to write a pilot, maybe you want to write a sample so you can land and agent, or maybe you need a sample for a TV staff job.
Whatever your goal, you get personal coaching and attention on your project.
A group environment is essential to this class so writers can absorb even more information by observing each other’s projects and the guidance given by the instructor. You get two classes for the price of one!
This TV Writing Class teaches structure, character arcs, A-B-and-C story lines, cadence, composition, typography, page length, (which depends on what style of script you are writing) serialized story, enclosed story, beats, why act-breaks exist, joke writing, how to define a character’s voice, lead characters, supporting characters, guest characters, themes, style and most importantly how to use your own unique voice to nail your TV script. One might ask how all this can be taught in 8 weeks? The answer is simple, these rules come with the territory. They are organic to writing a TV script. When learning to write a TV script you naturally learn all the above and more. The class will be entertaining as writers work in comedy, science fiction, horror, drama, variety, law, medical, satire, sketch or a combination of styles. Producers who are hiring, or agents looking for new clients know within five pages if a script looks amateur. This TV script writing class makes sure your work has all the elements of a professional script. It’s your teacher’s passion to make sure of it. So let’s get your writing in the direction of a TV sale, give you the support to do so and teach you the rules of the game. Let’s play hard and have fun.
Models of TV categories covered:
One Hour Single Camera: Like, “Homeland,” “Parenthood,” and “Scandal,” which include five to seven act breaks. Cable scripts have less acts in then than Network, which include “cold openings” and “tags.” You learn what act breaks, cold openings and tags look like. Did you know that Single Camera looks more like screenplays?
Half-Hour Single Camera Comedy or “Dramady: Like, “Girls,” “Modern Family,” and “Californication,” have two or three act breaks and are half the length of One Hour scripts. Like the One Hour this genre also resembles film scripts on the page. You will learn how they conform to the needs of Network and Cable outlets.
Multi-Camera-Comedy/Sitcoms: Like, “Guys with Kids,” “Mike and Molly,” “New Girl” Sitcoms are completely different in appearance on the page than a Single Camera script. Sitcoms are filmed before an audience. You’ll learn why sitcoms are so different and why.
Hybrid Half-Hour: Like, “How I Met Your mother,” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Hybrid shows are filmed partly before a live audience and are also “pre-taped.” You will learn how to deliver a hybrid brand.
Half-Hour Animation: Like, “Family Guy,” or “Archer,” or “The Simpsons” use of the direction in this style is crucial – more so than any other TV script. This will be examined if anyone in class is working on animation, or has questions about how to write in this style.
Half-Hour Sketch Comedy or Variety: Like, “The Whitest Guys You Know,” or “Portlandia” or “Key & Peele,” these shows don’t seem like they have rules, but they do. The subject matter can be as wild as you want, but the script must be polished.
Instructor – Shawn Schepps
SHAWN SCHEPPS – is a Los Angeles native. She began her career as a child actress in such shows as, “The Brady Bunch.” As she got older she appeared in, “The Terminator,” “Racing with the Moon,” and “The Golden Girls.”
Shawn started writing plays and musicals. Her first play, “The Steven Weed Show” was performed in Edinburgh and New York. Her play “Group” was performed in New York, at The Montreal Comedy Festival, and The Aspen Comedy Festival.
While writing and producing theater, Shawn wrote, “Encino Man.” Thus began her writing and producing career with films like, “Son-In-Law,” “Drumline,” “Lip Service” and recently, “You and I” directed by Roland Joffe.
Shawn’s television writer/producer credits include, “Drop Dead Diva,” “Inconceivable,” and “Weeds” which she spent two years writing, producing and acting in. Shawn has worked for every major studio like, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Disney. She has been on shows and written pilots for major networks like, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBW and CBS. She has sold and developed to cable outlets like HBO, Lifetime, Showtime and more.
Shawn has taught writing all over the country.
Do you know how to use the Command Prompt? If you do, you can write a batch file. In its simplest form, a batch file (or batch script) is a list of several commands that are executed when you double-click the file. Batch files go all the way back to DOS, but still work on modern versions of Windows.
PowerShell scripts and Bash scripts may be more powerful, but batch files can still be plenty useful if you need to run basic Windows commands.
Batch File Basics
A batch file is simply a text file saved with the .bat file extension. You can write one using Notepad or a more advanced text editor like Notepad++, but don’t use a word processor like Microsoft Word.
Let’s create a simple batch file. First, open Notepad. Type the following lines into it:
Next, save the file by clicking File > Save. Give it any name you like, but replace the default .txt file extension with the .bat extension.
For example, you might want to name it hello_world.bat .
You now have a batch file with the .bat file extension. Double-click it to run it. This particular batch file sets ECHO off (which cleans up the output by hiding the commands from being printed at the prompt, prints the text “Hello World” to the screen, and then waits for you to press a key before it ends.
If you didn’t add PAUSE to the file, the batch file would simply run its commands and then automatically close. In this case, it would print “Hello World” to the window and then immediately close the Command Prompt window. When you want to quickly run commands without seeing the output, you can omit this. If you’re running several commands, you could place the PAUSE command in between them.
Writing a More Complex Batch File
It’s fundamentally simple to create a batch file. The only thing you need to change is what you type into Notepad. To run several commands, you type each one on its own line and the batch file will run each one in order.
For example, let’s say we want to write a batch file that runs several network diagnostic commands. We might want to run ipconfig /all to view network information, ping google.com to see if Google’s servers are responding, and tracert google.com to run a traceroute to google.com and see if there are any problems on the way.
In the most basic form, we could simply place all those commands in a batch file, one after the other, like so:
When we run this file, we’d just see the output of each command right after the other. But this isn’t necessarily the ideal way to write a batch file.
For example, you might want to add comment lines. Any line that begins with a :: is a comment line and won’t be executed. That makes them a useful way to explain what’s happening in the file for anyone you might give it to–or for your future self, who might forget why you put a certain command in there.
You might also want to add the “ECHO OFF” command to the beginning of the file. This is typically added to the start of most batch files. When you do this, the commands themselves won’t be printed to the Command Prompt, but the results will be. For example, you’ll see the network connection details but not the “ipconfig /all” line. Most people don’t care to see the commands, so this can clean up the output.
So here’s what that might look like:
There are other directions you could go with a batch file like this. For example, you might want to have your batch script run the above commands and then dump the output to a text file you can view later. To do so, you’d use the >> operator after each command to append its output to the text file. As we’re going to read the output from the text file anyway, we can omit the PAUSE command.
After you run the above script, you’d find a file named results.txt in the same folder as the batch file with the output of the commands. The Command Prompt window will automatically close once the batch file is done running.
The example we’re using above relies on actually printing information to the Command Prompt so the user can read it. However, many batch files are designed to be run non-interactively. For example, you could have a batch file that deletes multiple files or directories whenever you double-click it. You’d just need to use the del command to delete files or the deltree command to delete directories. Remember, you’re just using the same commands you’d run in a Command Prompt window.
Fundamentally, that’s the point of most batch files–just running a few commands one after another. However, batch files can actually be significantly more complex than this. For example, you can use “IF” statements along with the “GOTO” command to check the value of something and then skip to different lines depending on the result. This is more like writing an actual small program than a quick and dirty script. That’s one reason why .bat files are sometimes called “batch programs.” If you want to do something more complex, you’ll find plenty of guides to doing specific things with batch programming online. But now, you know the basics of how to throw a simple one together.
Screaming in a script can be a powerful way to show emotion and shock the reader. Mostly done in horror but also popular in suspense and for that cometic moment. If you think about it a script is just words on a page. So we the screenwriter try to spice things up and make it as visual as possible so it sounds more like reading a movie than a novel. The number one way to do that is by writing emotional acts instead of descriptions.
How to write out screams? You can write a scream by simply writing in the action line (Character name) SCREAMS. For example,
“Meg runs through the door with the birthday cake. Johnathan SCREAMS.”
Just like in the English language there are many ways to say the same thing. The same is true for screenwriting. So below are all tree ways for writing screams in a screenplay.
Table of Contents
Top Three Ways to Write Screams in a Script
1.) In the action line. After reviewing many scripts this is one of the most popular forms of writing screams and its recommended over the other two.
2.) In the parenthetical line. What is a parenthetical line? Simply put it’s a line that explains what’s happening. Take a look at how it’s written with a scream below using the same example.
Did you notice the change with this version of the example? You have a little more control over how the reader hears the scream but only using dialogue if you needed that extra bit of control.
3.) In the dialogue line. This version gives you more control over how the reader hears the scream. Most people struggle writing this way because it forces the writer to write out sound effects. Take a look at the example below.
Now that you fully know all three ways to write screams lets look at some different ways to spell screams in a script.
How do You Spell Screaming Sounds
Don’t worry your not the only one a lot of writers especially first-time writers struggle with writing sound effects. We hear things like footsteps, objects moving and outdoor noises every day but when asked to write them we hesitate to find the words.
The most popular ways to spell a screams
When your character surprised by something that just happens.
When your character is attempting to pull, lift, bend or do anything physical such as sports.
When your character is hurt in some way.
When your character is scared and you want to send a shiver down the reader’s spine.
Like with any technique its best not to overdo it. Don’t have your characters screaming every page. Doing this lowers the reader’s shock of the effect you’re trying to give.
Ok, here’s a short one for today folks no need to overdo it.
Have you ever tried to write a script?
Or have you hit the record button on your computer only to instantly realize you don’t know what to say? Without a script, you may feel like you are treading water, floundering.
It can be, well, kind of awkward.
But it doesn’t have to be.
An unscripted video wastes time, effort, and is painful to watch.
The first thing you want to do before you create a video is to write a script, even if it’s brief. And although writing a script can seem daunting, don’t worry. You just need a starting point.
Writing a video script is a lifeline for anyone to be more confident and articulate when recording their video.
The reality is, whether you’re writing a screenplay, tv show, a movie, or a simple explainer video, a good script makes all the difference.
They all contain similar types of information, like who’s speaking, what’s being said, where it’s being said, and other critical pieces of information.
Now, all this information can be super helpful, however, if you’re not creating a film that’s for entertainment you probably don’t need all the nitty-gritty details.
You only need a few simple steps and tips to write a great, easy to understand video script.
Video Script Template: Our free script writing course breaks down how to write a script and gives you a perfect script template for all of your video projects. Get started today.
How to write informational or instructional video scripts
Another type of script format is for informational, like product demos or explainer videos. These can be great whether you need to show off products or services.
You can format your script in a variety of ways, but generally, you need to have the same information.
Your script should include a few components:
- the words that will be spoken
- information about the words
- where they are said
- how they are said
- and any other helpful information information
You may also want to include an easy way to reference each line or sentence.
When you write a script, you can use whatever format best works for your needs.
I’ll walk you through just one example of a script that works particularly well for screen recording videos, animations, and videos that are mostly voiceover.
Step 1. Find a good spot to write a script
When it comes time to write your script use any tool you’re comfortable with, including pen and paper.
And maybe choose a writing environment that’s comfortable for you, a place you can focus and be creative. When you write, consider what you don’t have to say out loud. A lot of your message will be shared through visual components.
Keep your writing conversational and think about the words you’re choosing.
Step 2. Be conversational
Scripts that we like tend to use words that are specific and focused. You should probably avoid buzzwords cliches and generalizations. You want your audience to clearly understand you but not roll their eyes.
Step 3. Tell a story
When you’re trying to explain something clearly make sure to follow a good story structure. Make sure your script, no matter how short, has a beginning, middle, and end. That will give the audience watching your video a familiar path to follow.
And who doesn’t love a good story?
Step 4. Edit
As you choose your words, make each word work for a spot on the page.
They need to have a purpose.
Once you have your first draft go through your script and start editing, rearranging, and cutting. Cut out as much as you can. If it’s not moving you towards your goal consider cutting it.
Step 5. Read your script out loud
I usually like to read my script out loud but make sure my message flows. It’s good to get away from people to make sure you know you can practice in peace.
I recommend you read your script out loud at least one time before recording or moving on in your process. Even if you’re not the one who will read it, this is a way to make sure your message flows.
Words that flow on paper don’t always flow when they’re said out loud. You may find that there are changes you need to make based on how difficult particular phrases are to say.
It’s easier to change it now than during recording.
Step 6. Get feedback
So, you built your script, you’ve read it out loud, you probably think you’re done right?
Finished? Well, not so fast.
If you haven’t you also need to ask someone not involved in the writing to read the script.
Even if you are seeing an angry mob, it’s most likely your imagination running wild.
Don’t get me wrong, most people will want to tear your script apart. But I found as much as it hurts sometimes, it has always made my scripts better.
You can get your feedback through email, Google Docs, or other online methods, however, my preferred method is the table read.
Step 7. Set up a table read
For the table read gather your reviewers, and whoever you choose is up to you, but make sure that our individuals who will contribute and have the project’s interests in mind.
Gather your group, and read through your script out loud. As you read watch their faces, listen to their comments, take it all in. Now’s not the time to defend your decisions but ask questions and get clarification.
If the conversation gets stuck there are a few questions to have in your back pocket:
- Is the message clear?
- Does the script make sense and achieve its intended goal?
- Were there words that they would change?
After you get the feedback, decide what feedback to incorporate. You can take a little or a lot, it’s up to you.
Even after running the table read you may want the person recording the script to review it as well. Ask them to read it out loud. They may find parts of the script to be a mouthful.
In an ideal situation, you’ll be there listening and making notes. As they read it out loud make adjustments on emphasis and word choices if needed. And as you listen you may find things you can clarify or points you’ve missed.
Whether you make a YouTube video, an instructional video, or another type of video, a good script will save you from many problems. Most of all, it will keep you on track and make your message clear.
Oh, and after this entire blog post, if I still haven’t convinced you to write a script, you can always create a basic outline. And that may be just enough to keep you afloat.
Video Script Template: Our free scriptwriting course breaks down how to write a script and gives you a perfect script template for all of your video projects. Get started today.
Why radio scripts?
Writing radio scripts for your live shows is something you might want. Preparing a radio script before you go live makes you follow your steps while you are live and it also makes you relaxed since everything is planned.
In general if you want to be more planned and know what to do while broadcasting live you might want to consider writing a radio script because sometimes you might lose track of what you were doing on live shows.
How to write a radio script?
Most important thing to do while writing a radio script is keeping it simple and writing it not too formal. If you write your script too formal, your listeners might get bored or it may sound a bit unnatural. Just write it like you are talking casually.
Keeping it simple is important as well since the whole point to write a radio script is not to get lost in your tracks and if you write a long and very detailed script you might have trouble reading your own script. Knowing what your listeners like or don’t like is also helpful to write a good radio script.
Types of radio scripts
- Talk Radio Script: If you are planning on mainly talking for you live broadcast you should create a talk radio script. For this type of radio script you might need to write it more detailed since you will be talking most of the time.
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