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Scriptwriting With Scrivener | Literature & Latte

Scriptwriting is very different from writing narrative prose, such as a novel or short story. Since scripts mostly focus on dialogue - together with descriptions of actions or stage directions - they are a sort of shorthand for what the final work will be. In this guide, we'll show you how to write a script in Scrivener.

When writing scripts, you'll need to think differently about the process of getting your ideas across. As well as the good plot and pace required of a novel, a play or screenplay also has some specific technical requirements around its presentation. To make this easy to master,  let's take you through some screenwriting basics.

Create a logline

You'll need to start with an idea; a logline, which is a one- or two-sentence summary of your film or play. This is a brief elevator pitch that agents and producers will want to see to know if the script can hook people easily. There should be enough information in the logline to introduce the script's genre, characters, setting, and plot. Sometimes a logline can have just enough to grab the reader, without telling too much; it should be concise and make the reader want to know more. Here are a few examples of loglines for recent movies or TV series:

- After a global pandemic destroys civilization, a hardened survivor takes charge of a 14-year-old girl who may be humanity's last hope. The Last of Us

- After thirty years, Maverick is still pushing the envelope as a top naval aviator, but must confront ghosts of his past when he leads TOP GUN's elite graduates on a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those chosen to fly it. Top Gun: Maverick

- A fashion model celebrity couple join an eventful cruise for the super-rich. Triangle of Sadness

- A ranching family in Montana faces off against others encroaching on their land. Yellowstone

You can see that the first two are good summaries of what happens in the TV series and film, but the last two are very short, and are just teasers that say little about what happens in their stories. Search IMDb for your favorite movie and TV shows to see more examples. 

Make a treatment

The next step is to flesh out your idea in a treatment, which can be a few pages long, or a few dozen pages. A short treatment is what you use to try to sell your script, and, together with the logline, gives potential producers a feel for the story, setting, and characters. It should read like a short story, and cover the main plot points of the script, but longer treatments may describe each scene in enough detail for the reader to picture the flow of the script.

Outline your script

In the pre-digital days, writers used index cards to work out scenes. They would create a card for each scene, write synopses on them, and then move them around in a stack or on a corkboard. Scrivener's Corkboard uses virtual index cards, and lets you create individual cards for each scene, or even break scenes down into beats. You write synopses of each scene on a card, rearrange them as you want, and you can get a high-level view of the action of your script.

When you've finished working with the index cards, switch to Scrivener's Outline mode, where you see a standard hierarchical outline. You can flesh out scenes, rearrange them, and flip back and forth between the Outliner and the Corkboard. 

Create character and setting sheets

As you develop your script, you need to flesh out your characters. Scrivener's Character sheets let you note information, including their descriptions, their backstory, their quirks, and more. And setting sheets let you do the same for locations in your script. You can even include photos, to remind you of what they look like. 

Start writing

When it's time to start writing, use templates for specific scriptwriting formats, such as film, TV, stage, and comics. Then enable Scrivener's scriptwriting mode. As you type, a menu in the Scrivener footer shows which element you are typing: scene heading, character name, dialogue, parenthetical, etc. Scrivener formats scripts in such a way that they can be exported to standard script documents, compatible with Final Draft, or to other formats, such as RTF, PDF, and Microsoft Word. 

Focus on dialogue

While scripts mostly contain dialogue, they also contain stage directions, parentheticals, locations, descriptions, and more. Scrivener's Dialogue Focus feature dims the rest of the text in your document and lets you get a close look at dialogue. This is a great way to read through your script for the rhythm of the dialogue and not get tripped up by the rest of the text. 

Writing scripts for movies, TV shows, plays, or comics, requires a versatile tool that can adapt to the standard formats for these media. Scrivener is a powerful and flexible writing app designed for all types of writing projects, and is especially suited for scriptwriting. Scrivener lets you organize your material, outline your plot, structure your scenes, and edit your script in one place. Scrivener's scriptwriting mode lets you write your script in the proper format, using built-in templates that suit the type of script you write, and export it to industry-standard tools such as Final Draft for final formatting and submission. 

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