Search form

You May Have Written More Than You Know!

Here's a tip for professional television and film writers.  If you haven't thought of this one yet it will save you time by eliminating the need to write some things twice.  But best of all, in just a couple of minutes it will let you see that you've probably already drafted over half of your script.  And that will make most any writer feel GREAT! What I do is this: After I've written an outline, and am ready to start the script, I cut and paste the outline directly into my script document.  But then I take it one important step further...

Here's a tip for professional television and film writers.  If you haven't thought of this one yet it will save you time by eliminating the need to write some things twice.  But best of all, in just a couple of minutes it will let you see that you've probably already drafted over half of your script.  And that will make most any writer feel GREAT! 

What I do is this:

After I've written an outline, and am ready to start the script, I cut and paste the outline directly into my script document.  But then I take it one important step further.  I reformat my outline into script form, including slug lines, description, character names, dialog and transitions.  Let me show you an example from one of the episodes I wrote for Nickelodeon India’s Little Krishna series, “The Mystery of the Vanishing Sheep”.  I'm just going to turn one scene of the outline into script form so you can see how I do it. 

©2008. BIG Animation (I) Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved.

By the way, I use Microsoft Word to write almost all of my scripts.  I have "styles" for slug lines, description, character names, dialog and transitions, so all I have to do is hit alt+S to format something into a slug line, alt+N for a character name, etc.  (If you’re interested to know how to set up Word styles for easy script formatting I can go over it in a future blog.)

Here's one scene as it was written in the outline:

EXT. GOVARDHANA HILL – DAY

Krishna & Madhu return to tell the others what they did, and share their treats, only to discover Bal, Sridham, Subala and just two other boys dressed as sheep.  "Where have all our other friends gone?" asks Krishna.  Sridham accuses Subala of stealing all his "sheep".  But again, Subala protests his innocence.  Then Radha, Lalita and Vishaka lead Chandrika and Prabhavathi to Krishna.  But before they can punish Krishna, Chandrika looks around and notices that her son is not there.  Prabhavathi doesn't see her boy either.  "Where are they?" asks Prabhavathi.  "And who's that boy over there?" wonders Chandrika, referring to Vyomasura (in disguise) as he sneaks toward to the two remaining sheep-boys.  Krishna sees through the boy's disguise, and when he does, Vyomasura sees Krishna in his warrior form.  When Krishna confronts the boy, Vyomasura resumes his towering demon form, and reveals he has kidnapped the other boys and will kill them all...as soon as he's killed Krishna!  Hearing that the demon has their sons, Chandrika and Prabhavathi collapse in grief.  Krishna battles the demon and, despite his smaller size, wrestles Vyomasura to the ground, causing Govardhana hill to shake so much that his brother, Balaram, has to press his foot down on the earth to stabilize it, leaving a deep footprint.  Finally, Krishna throws the demon down with such force that he dies instantly from the impact.  Then Chandrika and Prabhavathi plead with Krishna to find their sons.  So Krishna leads them away.

©2008. BIG Animation (I) Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved.

That’s a pretty dense scene, so when you look at just that paragraph and think about turning it into script, it seems like it’s going to take quite a bit of work to break it down into smaller beats and connect them all into a complete sequence.  But with one little trick it’s a lot easier than it looks. 

Watch how simple it is to turn outline into rough draft script without adding more than a character name here and there.  Here is the very same paragraph reformatted as a script.

EXT. GOVARDHANA HILL – DAY

Krishna & Madhu return to tell the others what they did, and share their treats, only to discover Bal, Sridham, Subala and just two other boys dressed as sheep. 

                        KRISHNA
                      "Where have all our other friends
           gone?" asks Krishna. 

                        SRIDHAM
           accuses Subala of stealing all his
           "sheep". 

                        SUBALA
           But again, Subala protests his innocence. 

Then Radha, Lalita and Vishaka lead Chandrika and Prabhavathi to Krishna.  But before they can punish Krishna, Chandrika looks around and notices that her son is not there. 

PRABHAVATHI doesn't see her boy either. 

                        PRABHAVATHI
           "Where are they?" asks Prabhavathi. 

                        CHANDRIKA
           "And who's that boy over there?"
           wonders Chandrika, referring to

VYOMASURA (in disguise) as he sneaks toward to the two remaining sheep-boys. 

KRISHNA sees through the boy's disguise, and when he does,

VYOMASURA sees Krishna in his warrior form.  When

                        KRISHNA
           confronts the boy,

Vyomasura resumes his towering demon form, and

                        VYOMASURA
           reveals he has kidnapped the other
           boys and will kill them all...as
           soon as he's killed Krishna! 

Hearing that the demon has their sons, Chandrika and Prabhavathi collapse in grief. 

KRISHNA battles the demon and, despite his smaller size, wrestles Vyomasura to the ground, causing

GOVARDHANA HILL to shake so much that his brother

BALARAM has to press his foot down on the earth to stabilize it, leaving

A DEEP FOOTPRINT.  Finally,

KRISHNA throws the demon down with such force that he dies instantly from the impact.  Then

                        CHANDRIKA AND PRABHAVATHI
            plead with Krishna to find their sons. 

So Krishna leads them away.

As you can see, I just turned a third-of-a-page, single-spaced paragraph into one-and-a-half pages of rough draft script.  Extrapolate this and a 4 page outline turns into 18 pages of script.  That’s half of a script!  They’re rough, and need a good deal of editing, especially with the dialog, but it sure beats the hell out of facing a blank page.

And there’s one more advantage to doing this; you can see much more clearly where your script might be running long, which could save you even more time by preventing needless overwriting.

I hope this helps.

©Jeffrey Scott, All Rights Reserved.