If you're a writer of novels or short stories, there may be a chance that you've wanted to try your hand at writing a script for either TV or a movie. The difference in format may seem daunting, but once you overcome a few formatting rules, you'll get the hang of it. Mind you, I'm showing the equivalent of chapter, paragraph and dialog rules. However, since you all have the story structure technique down for novel writing, it isn't much of a jump to apply the same storytelling rules to the visual medium. If you see a script with terms like "CUT TO" and "FADE TO" interspersed through the story, you are looking at a shooting script. The writer's job is to write a spec script and it never contains technical directions. That makes things a lot easier.
Here are three important formatting rules:
The Master Scene Heading:
This is written in caps. It establishes three important points for the script reader and (hopefully) the director. It states whether the scene is indoors or outdoors, where it is located, and the time of day.
INT. LIBRARY - EVENING
Once the establishing scene is written, and the action, say, stays indoors, then you don't have to get as specific. You could write the next scene by saying:
CONSERVATORY - LATER
Once the Master Scene Heading is written, the next step is to indicate the characters of the scene and what they are doing. It is written in plain text and it uses the present tense.
INT. THE LIBRARY - EVENING
Colonel Mustard leans against the fireplace with half a glass of brandy in his hand. He glances nervously at Miss Scarlet, who idly runs her finger across a candlestick. Professor Plum and Mrs. Green play a game of Gin Rummy in the corner.
The final formatting rule is dialog. The character's name is written in caps and is set at column 33. The following dialog should be at column 22. This is handled by all the screenwriting software programs and there are several templates for Word documents, so this isn't a worry. There should be no space between the character's name and the dialog. (Unfortunately, this blog won't allow me to single space the dialog, my apologies.)
I do believe that you're nervous, Colonel.
And that's it! Of course there is a lot more, but if you've had any experience writing in other mediums, you're already far ahead of the curve. The best book to read is "The Screenwriter's Bible" by Dave Trottier. And if anyone is interested in knowing more, just email me.