Writing a screenplay can be daunting, and there is a ton to consider. However, before you even think about what goes into the document, what is script writing anyway?
Script writing is a very different beast than writing in any other format. Knowing what it entails is critical if you want to have any semblance of a career in the field.  So let’s dive into the fundamentals.

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the essentials

What do we mean by script writing?

So you have an idea for a movie, but it’s all in your head. You want to get it all on paper, what do you do?


What is script writing?

Script writing is the process of writing stories for a variety of mediums including film, TV, video games, and commercials. The process of writing a novel, a poem, or essay, is entirely different than script writing. In order to express yourself effectively for the screen, particular formatting methods are required. Screenplay format is used to express the story visually. Script writing can be done for hire or on speculation in hopes to sell their screenplay or find an agent. 


  • Externalize a character's internal motivations
  • Tell a story visually
  • Use proper screenplay format

The process of screenwriting is the constant reminder that you are writing for the screen.  

So if you write the line, “he remembers their past fights…” what would that look like on screen? In actuality, it tells us nothing. Why?

Well, no one can see his thoughts, so that's not an effective form of communication when writing for the screen. Externalizing the internal is critical to telling a story visually.

What could you do in this scenario? One way to externalize this would be to add in a montage scene or a series of flashbacks of all the times they fought.  

With that in mind, let’s move on to why we have this medium to begin with. Why couldn't we just write down our movies like we write down our novels, essays, and poems?


Why script writing format?

Thinking visually isn’t always easy. Breaking the habit of describing what the characters are feeling doesn't always come second nature. And knowing how to pace a scene for the screen is equally as challenging.

Luckily, basic screenplay formatting helps remedy this. 

First things first, formatting helps with geography. 

Sluglines or scene headings tell the reader where the action is happening. And action lines tell us what the actors are doing. 

This formatting tells the reader where the characters are, or even where you’re taking your audience — a major component of learning to write for a visual medium. See the graphic below to get a better idea.

Notice, too, how the characters' names (aka character cues) are indented clearly identifying who is speaking when. 

Script writing means writing in screenplay format

One page typed, using the standard screenplay font, represents about one minute on screen. Why should I know this?

Well when we're writing, this is helpful to understand scene pacing. We could think something is working, but a fight lasting for a few pages may not translate well on screen, and could feel drawn out. 

For even more tips on script writing, including audio elements like telephone conversations, text messages, and plot devices, watch part two of our screenplay series.

Caption goes here...

Also, knowing how to format your screenplay makes it easy to read and therefore easier to sell. Formatting helps agents, managers, and studio readers visualize your movie.

Pro Tip

Be careful with overdoing dialogue. Get creative with action lines. How a character acts is usually a better indicator of how they feel than what they say out loud.

Writing a screenplay is hard enough, don’t waste time in Word, formatting it yourself. If you’re interested, you can write for free in StudioBinder.

For more on script writing, dive into the age-old question: What does a Screenwriter do?

Up Next

How to Write a Movie Script

You can now answer what is script writing, and hopefully feel a bit better about the next step. Our next post, dives deeper into formatting rules, page count, and other tactical concerns you may have at the beginning. 

So open up your software, and read our step-by-step guide on how to get your vision down on paper. 

Up Next: Writing Movie Scripts → 
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