Script writing

The film and TV market demands innovative screenplays. How is a script structured? How writers write scripts for movies and series? And who helps writing a screenplay?

Writing scripts in the golden age of TV

The image of television series has changed drastically since the turn of the millennium. Rarely perceived as a spectacular entertainment medium before, series are currently seen as a medium that tell innovative stories and is even considered to be on a par with novels.

The U.S. crime drama series "The Wire" is the catalyst for the enthusiasm for the format that has continued ever since as well as the underlying script. How could the authors write such an exciting script? The series is set in a small town and tells about drug trafficking from different perspectives. The first season, which aired in 2002, was accompanied by a drumbeat of positive reviews. The scriptwriters have shown that they can draw their characters realistically and develop their characters over the seasons. Complex characters and storylines, as well as greater freedom in the way stories are told, have been hallmarks of the new series landscape and screenwriting ever since.

While in the USA, due to the Series Booms already been talking about the "golden age of television" for years the development in Germany seems to be slowly gaining momentum. Even if the innovation potential of German stations is lower, the upheaval in the market can be felt here as well. The streaming provider Netflix has already become a fixture in German households. While the market already seemed to be divided between U.S. streaming services and pay TV providers, a mobile operator entered the German series business in 2017. But also in the USA the market is getting moving again. There, Apple has started to enter the production of exclusive series with a significant budget.

Whether it’s a broadcaster, pay-TV provider, mobile operator or technology company, they’re all hungry for new scripts and are looking for inventive screenwriters who can write a screenplay and engage their readers.

Definition: What are screenplays and what are they needed for??

Screenplays are hermaphrodites between novel and film. Stories are captured in them that come to life after production on the big screen, smart TV or tablet. Film and television are collective and costly industries. It can take several years before the self-created universe sees the light of day in the cinema projector.

Screenplays are transit spaces and are rarely on display in bookstores. They fix a story that is filmed by others. This includes the fact that the fictional cosmos of screenwriters, from a certain point in the development of the material, is always created in cooperation with others.

Director and writer Billy Wilder describes how important screenwriting is to the finished film:

It is very difficult to make a good film out of a bad screenplay. Conversely, it is already easier.

On the basis of screenplays or their preliminary stages, such as synopsis or treatment, editors, producers and film subsidies decide whether they find the story exciting and provide money for it. This means that producers and editors bring their own ideas to the screenplay and directly or indirectly help to write the script.

Once it goes into production, it’s a matter of stepping back and being surprised at how the director, along with the actors and everyone else involved, brings life to the script. Even if everyone involved adheres to the script, the production is always a translation from one medium to another. Instructions and descriptions of scenes can be interpreted differently than in the writer’s head cinema.

What distinguishes novel writing from screenwriting?

Specifications and rules

Screenwriters are subject to more format constraints than novelists when writing – despite new narrative freedoms in the series space. Reasons for this are that film and television are generally more expensive to produce than literature. In addition, especially in the TV sector, the stories have to fit into the given program corset of the station.

Narrative time

Film writers who write a screenplay know that the audience’s attention is not infinite. It follows that the time in which a story is told is more limited. All information, whether about the characters or the plot, must have a function for the whole Have. Must advance the plot or at least be a primer for a later storyline.

Comparison of Novel and Screenwriting

Scriptwriters are limited by budget constraints, broadcasting slots and desired audiences.

An explosion in an Icelandic bank or a tiny detour to Martians is not recommended to debutants who want to see their script realized.

Usually works alone, is the sole author of the work.

The author is the creator and is named. Comments from editors can flow in until publication.

Writers are involved in a collective process where many departments can make interventions on the script.

Authors writing on the screenplay may even be replaced during the process. Screenwriters are not regularly mentioned. In cases of dispute, their authorship can be downgraded to mentioning: "based on an idea by".

Ninety minutes allows for less narrative time and calls for character selection so that characters can be created psychologically well enough.

Functional information assignment. Focus on terse dialogue, character behavior, and audio-visual information delivery.

Interior worlds

A striking difference compared to novels on the level of the medium is that screenplays, in spite of dialogue Visual tell. Screenwriters have the ability to paint pictures with letters while writing their screenplays.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that the inner world of characters in screenplays should rarely be told via monologues, even if this is possible, for example, via so-called voiceover. Too long a glimpse into the inner world of a character slows down the tension of a film. While in novels characters can share their thoughts, feelings and reflections with the reader over longer passages, in screenplays the inner world of characters is accessible to the audience through their behavior.

The drama in the film, in the screenplay, is created through the conflicts of the characters, which can also, but not exclusively, be shown through dialogues. If you want to become a screenwriter, you need to become familiar with means to visually tell the inner worlds of characters. A Writing a screenplay means writing a film.

How is a screenplay structured?


Formally, a script consists of scene headings, scene descriptions, scene transitions, dialogues and play instructions. When writing their screenplay, authors are guided by the fact that one minute of film length corresponds to approximately one page of screenplay.

For the writing of screenplays have, starting from Hollywood, over the years Standards developed. In their appearance, screenplays differ significantly from novels. Its purpose is to always provide a clear orientation of where the story is at any given moment.

To do this, for example, dialogue is written centered and each scene has its own headline indicating location and night or day. In addition, the name of a character is written in capital letters the first time it appears. The exact specifications can be found in numerous portals and blogs on the Internet. Many English-language screenplays can be viewed online as templates and are available for free downloading.

Aspiring writers are well advised to also familiarize themselves with the Preliminary stages of a screenplay to become familiar with. In the film and TV industry, people don’t always work with completely finished scripts. An idea for a screenplay can also be submitted to production companies or funding institutions as an expose or treatment. These are shorter and outline the idea, usually as an "unscenic" script Description in prose. Unlike the synopsis, however, the longer treatment can also be supplemented with scenic examples to show that the author is capable of writing scene and dialogue.

If a picture treatment is called for, screenwriters can show off their audiovisual skills: The picture treatment is a condensed screenplay with the scene sequence, scene titles, and brief scene description. Characters also appear by name, and short dialogues and instructions may be included. A picture treatment is a good preliminary exercise when writers are writing a script.


While the formal structure is easy to learn and can be copied one-to-one, the narrative structure is more tedious for the screenplay novice to learn. First of all, as with all other art forms, the question arises whether art can be learned like a craft, for example the carpentry of a table.

With Hollywood movies in mind and the shelf meters of screenplay literature that already exist, writing a screenplay as Learnable craft to understand. Screenwriters don’t have to wait for the muse. You only need tools, for example, to solve writer’s blocks. The future will show which screenplays will later be ennobled with an Oscar as an art form.

It is important to note that writing a screenplay takes as much time as writing a novel. Even if at first it looks like fewer letters to put on a page: Everything is condensed in a screenplay. Authors writing a script have no room for verbiage; every word should have a function in characterizing characters and developing the plot.

But what does the narrative in the screenplay consist of?? The two aspects of characters and structure need to be brought together. There are models for both. First one that focuses on the characters, then models that shed some light on the structural setup.

Characters: books and models for screenwriting

  • The Odyssey of Screenwriters, Novelists, and Dramatists, Christoph Vogler, 2018
  • The hero in a thousand guises, Joseph Campbell, 2011
  • From character to character, Linda Seger, 2012
  • The Secret of Good Scripts, Linda Seger, 2012

The most prominent model for character development is a book written by Christoph Vogler – author and, among other things, head of the story development department at Twentieth Century Fox. In The Odyssey of the Screenwriter Vogler describes the different phases a character goes through to become a hero or heroine.

This model, mostly Hero’s Journey called, is used by all major blockbusters as well as many other films, such as American Beauty (1999, directed by Sam Mendes, screenplay by Alan Ball). In the process, the main character, triggered by an event, leaves her known world.

This step is taken by the hero or heroine with a concrete goal that leads them to a new world. Along the way, the character is confronted with various challenges and obstacles that he must overcome. If the character succeeds in overcoming them, he returns to his old world with new knowledge. The exciting thing about this external journey is that during it the character also changes internally. She changes her attitude to the world and returns to her old world as a new person.

Vogler drew primarily on two sources for this universal narrative structure: First, to the studies of the mythicist Joseph Campbell The hero in a thousand guises and on the other hand to the archetype theory of the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. For aspiring screenwriters, these three books are must-reads.

Also helpful are the books by American screenwriting consultant Linda Seger. For writers writing their screenplays From figure to character as well as The secret of good scripts a good companion.

Structure: Books and Models for Screenwriting

  • Poetics, Aristotle, around 335 v. Chr.
  • The Screenplay – The Basics of Screenwriting, Syd Field, 2007
  • Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach, Gulino, Paul, 2004
  • The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, John Truby, 2008
  • The soul of screenwriting, Keith Cunningham, 2017

There are several models that make it easier for writers to plan their scripts. The simplest one is Three-act structure. It assumes that a screenplay first describes an exposition, then shows the confrontation of the main character with opposing forces, and in the third step the resolution of the opposing forces.

The model goes back to Aristotle, who, in his poetics of drama, says of tragedies that they consist of the three elements "beginning, middle and end" exist. In screenwriting literature, American author Syd Field has made this model famous. Each act ends with a so-called plot point, which takes the action in a new direction and is also a transition to the next act.

There are numerous books on this three-act model Differentiations, which can help with screenwriting. The model of 8 sequences, which divides a screenplay into eight subunits – sequences – is still very common. A sequence is a self-contained unit of action.

In addition, there are many even smaller models that work with individual steps. These steps are also designed as a sequence, but are freer in combination than the previous structural models. Also very common are John Truby’s 22 Story Steps and Keith Cunningham’s 16 Story Steps. If the screenplay is almost finished, the Beats Sheets, developed by Blake Snyder, help you not to lose track when writing a screenplay.

Who helps with screenwriting?

Writing a screenplay: Courses

The goal of many professional screenwriters is to be signed by a screenwriting agency. Until then, the road is full of challenges. First of all, there are tons of screenwriting literature to help you with writing. This mountain of screenwriting literature can also seem very confusing, especially to writers who are writing a screenplay for the first time. Which is the right method? How does the writing of a screenplay work? How to write a good scene?

For anyone coming to writing as a career changer, it’s helpful to exchange ideas and network with others. There are many ways to do this. In almost all cities, there are screenwriters and dramaturgs who offer seminars and courses on screenwriting. This is where writers learn the craft of screenwriting, practice developing one or more scenes in a small group, and exchange ideas about the writing process and the film industry. But it’s also worthwhile for all established screenwriters to continue their education in workshops. Creative exchange and discussion of examples often lead to a new idea or theme.

Writing a screenplay: Networking

Because writing is a lonely business at times, help is provided by partner in crime. Through portals such as Meetup, for example, accomplices for screenwriting can be found in all cities. In addition, it makes sense to get feedback early and constantly. A truism of screenwriting says that writing a screenplay first of all rewrite is. For this, too, like-minded people can be found via Internet portals, which help with questions and tips.

The nuts and bolts besides regular screenwriting, as with all writers, is networking. Associations such as the Association of German Screenwriters (VDD), the Free German Authors’ Association Berlin (FDA Berlin) and the Association of Film and Television Dramaturges (VeDRA) offer another good way to do this. Questions and tips can be exchanged here as well.

Dramaturgical advice

Advanced screenwriters can get help from dramaturgs, who can refer to the Script analysis are specialized. With an editing course, screenwriters receive a brief written assessment of their own screenplay. For even more individual professional support, a longer dramaturgical consultation is worthwhile.

In general, it is advisable to get professional support, especially when writing your first screenplay. Editing by experienced authors helps to take a more detached look at one’s own screenplay again. A long-term dramaturgical consultation can be very valuable for your own creative writing.

Find screenwriters on lass-andere-schreiben.en

During the long development phase of a screenplay, screenwriters can get help. Help with the support offers the portal Lass-andere-schreiben.en. On this platform scriptwriters can indicate which form of assistance they need.

They can place an ad free of charge in which they, as the client, describe whether they need an expert for dialog or scene design or would like an editing service to better assess the status of their book. Experts verified by the platform submit bids without obligation.

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