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Writing Individual Scenes for a Screenplay

How to Write Individual Scenes

Screenplay Formatting, Part 2

You should also see the first article, How to Format a Screenplay

Today there is no excuse for not using a professional screenwriting program, such as Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter to format and write your screenplay. Even still, it is important to understand the proper way to format writing individual scenes.

1. Always begin your scene with a SLUG LINE. In screenplay formatting this is: INT. HOUSE - DAY. The abbreviation INT. or EXT. is used specifying Interior or Exterior, followed by the SET, in this example: House, and then the Time of Day, usually specified with DAY or NIGHT.

Dialogue for Character

Figure: Starting your Screenplay


2. Always begin your scene with a SLUG LINE. In screenplay formatting this is: INT. HOUSE - DAY. The abbreviation INT. or EXT. is used specifying Interior or Exterior, followed by the SET, in this example: House, and then the Time of Day, usually specified with DAY or NIGHT.

3. When writing a character who has dialogue, always CENTER their name on the page.

4. When writing the actual dialogue, it must begin directly underneath the Character Name (single space), and indented about 3 inches from the left-hand edge of the page. If you are using a screenplay program, such as Final Draft, the DIALOGUE Element is already formatted for you.

Dialogue for Character

Figure: Dialogue


5. Double-space between the end of the scene and the words CUT TO:, and again between the words CUT TO: and the following scene heading. This is called a TRANSITION element.

Transition for Screenplay

Figure: Transition


5. Double-space between the end of the scene and the words CUT TO:, and again between the words CUT TO: and the following scene heading. This is called a TRANSITION element.

6. A feature film should be no more than 129 pages long

Studios want to distribute films that are between 90 minutes to 2 hours in length. The rule of thumb for film length is that one page equals one minute of screen time. A script that is 130 pages or more would last more than 2 hours, and although there are plenty of films that are over 2 hours in length, I guarantee that they are guaranteed block busters like the Marvel films.

7. Try to refrain from parenthetical directions to Actors

As a screenwriter, your job is to give the characters action and dialogue. It is not your job to tell the actors "how" to deliver their lines. This is the Director's job. It is very distracting to the reader to pause and read (very angrily) or (with a hint of sarcasm) in the dialogue. Even though screenwriting programs have the capability to add parenthetical notes, try at all costs to avoid them.

Parenthetical Directions to Actor

Parenthetical Directions


8. Omit Camera Directions

I've read hundreds of screenplays, and this is without a doubt the most difficult thing to follow. You are the creator of your story -- you have a vision for how it should be filmed. After all, you are not writing a novel. A film is a visual medium. But again, this rule is just as important as all the others: DO NOT SPECIFY SHOTS, like: TRACKING SHOT ON JIM, MEDIUM SHOT ON SALLY, ZOOM IN ON GEORGE. If you want to write the "mood" of the scene, do it in the ACTION. Let the Director interpret how to shoot the film. There are a few instances where you can include camera direction. For example:

Camera Direction in Screenplay

Camera Direction



How to Prepare Your Screenplay


How to Develop a Main Character for Your Screenplay

How to Develop Other Characters for Your Screenplay

Check out our iOS app for developing an outline for your story, StoryO for iOS click here for more information or here for the desktop version.


StoryO for iOS

StoryO for iOS: Available on the App Store



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