The Power of Visual Descriptions in your Script



So you are sitting down at your desk and you have an idea to write a TV script or film script. Of course you can visualise the story and you open up your preferred screenwriting app. SPSCloud. Do you want to prepare scenes with index cards or are you a writer that is able to let the ideas flow and write the script from scene one without other prompts? You’ll find it very easy to write your script with SPS Cloud as the script writing software is automatically formatted to industry standard. Naturally your vision of the story is most important and how you portray it in the script. I have always found that a complete visual description helps me when writing the script, but also helps actors, directors and producers understand the scenes and how you as the writer imagine the scene playing out.

What works.

I always make sure that my characters have a first and second name, whether they are lead, support et cetera. What job description do they have, their age, character traits, sexual preferences and also whether they have any disability. You should also make some notes about the character. This is all available in the character breakdown, and is available on the drop-down menu in SPSCloud.

Unfortunately with a lot of scripts I have read over the last couple of years there seems to be a lacking of the action under the Scene Heading in the script. I think the action section is almost as important as the character breakdown. You should always be sure that for instance if a car pulls up to a house, you should explain what make of car, what year and what the house looks like from the outside. This sets up the type of character in the scene. Are they wealthy, or are they a struggling family just making ends meet.

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This not only helps with scene breakdown but also sets up the visualisation of the type of person driving the car and the lifestyle of the person or people that live in the house. So when you have the scene heading and action it should look like this:

“EXT. – JAMES’S HOUSE – DAY James is driving a late-model yellow Jaguar coupe and he pulls into the driveway, waits for the gates to open, and then drives up to a sprawling mansion, and parks the car in front of five garages. The garages are full with exotic cars. James and Betty get out of the Jaguar and walk up the stairs to a flat marble patio, which surrounds a large swimming pool. James’s father, Barry, is cleaning the pool with a scoop and his mother is sitting on a sun bed taking advantage of the hot summer day.”

So this explains everything about the opening of the scene. Just a small thing but mentioning the colour of the late model Jaguar being yellow gives the impression that the driver, james, is somewhat flamboyant. What I’ve found is that screenwriters, especially when they are starting out, forget to write a visual description of the scenes. The reason for this is that the writer already visualises what the scene should look like, however anyone else reading the script has no idea what the scene should look like, so therefore it’s critical the writer writes as much information that they visually imagine into the script.

What doesn’t.

So now what doesn’t work. This will be a much shorter section because most things work however, I would suggest that you don’t go into great detail at this stage in writing the script about things like Jaguar, in my  previous example. We don’t need to know what year the Jaguar is or the model. At this stage it is not important, and this only comes into effect when the production team looks at the script and sees what is available as far as Jaguar’s go.

Also, don’t put labels on things, as these elements in the script, and hopefully the film later, could be used for product placement. If however, an element is important in the script, and you feel that it needs to be there to tell the story, then by all means label it and put it in.

One big no-no is parentheses. Use this element in the script sparingly as I have seen a number of writers use it all the time at the beginning of dialogue under a character’s name. That’s why in SPSCloud we have Scene Heading followed by Action, followed by Character followed by Dialogue followed by parentheses. Normally other software has parentheses between character and dialogue, but this can lead to overuse.

I mentioned this as a visualisation in your script because we’re talking about characters now, and the dialogue they will be exchanging with other characters. Don’t over use parentheses! You need to give the actors the freedom to act and not tell them how to act. For instance don’t use smiling, angry or happy, as these are emotions the actor should feel with the atmosphere you have created in the scene and the dialogue being exchanged. You can use parentheses or hints like whispering, yelling or to herself.

If there is a group of characters that are exchanging dialogue then you can be specific to a character directing dialogue to another character. E.g (to Shane). So you will need to let go and not try and control the characters feelings. Anyhow, this should be shown in the dialogue and the atmosphere you have created for your characters in each scene.

With the screenwriting app, SPSCloud, you have the ability to create a wonderful script with automatic industry formatting, character and scene breakdowns and index cards where you can place your many ideas for each scene.


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