How to set out a play script
a) An example...
Here is an example of an extract from a play script. Look at it carefully and note the special layout.
Scene: A school playground
Characters: JIM, a first year-pupil
EDDIE, a second-year pupil
(JIM is looking through his bag. EDDIE comes up and pushes him.)
JIM: (angrily) What do you think you're doing?
EDDIE: Oh,sorry, did I hurt you? I was just wondering what you had in that bag.
JIM: What's it to do with you?
EDDIE: I forgot my dinner money today. And I'm hungry.
(EDDIE grabs JIM's lunch and runs off.)
JIM: Hey you, come back!
(Enter the JANITOR.)
JANITOR: What's wrong, son?
Notice the following features of the layout of a play script:
Jean, aged 24
Elizabeth, aged 55, mother of Jean
Bill, a plumber
Any characters who come into a scene after the start of it should be introduced by 'Enter'. Use 'Exit' if the character leaves.
The name of the character who is speaking should be written at the left-hand side of the page (in the margin). It is a good idea to print it in capitals. Then write a colon:
Stage directions should be written in brackets.
b) Characters, plot and dialogue
It's not just the layout of a script that's important. You need to think about characters, plot and dialogue.
In a short script, it's best to limit the number of main characters. Too many characters can be confusing and doesn't give you time to let the characters develop. Stick to less than four.
Your characters should come to life. This is achieved through dialogue.
Usually a play has a conflict, crisis or problem at its centre which needs to be resolved. The characters have to face up to this problem and this is what causes the interest of the play.
The problem at the heart of the play does not need to be particularly unusual or exciting in itself. You could write a short script centred round, for example:
The success of the plot depends on how well it is handled.
You also need to think about how easy it will be to stage the plot convincingly on stage. Plots which involve spaceships landing, for example, could lead to serious difficulties!
Good dialogue is central to convincing drama. To make it sound realistic you need to read it out loud to hear what it sounds like. You also need to think about your characters to know how they would speak. Ask yourself:
It can sometimes be effective to use dialogue to contrast types of speakers (e.g. a posh shop assistant and a shopper with a broad accent). Remember also that people do not always speak in the same way. The words we use, our accent, our tone will differ in different situations.
c) Writing a script for radio or TV/film
As well as writing for the stage you could write a script for:
Much of what has been said will also apply if you are writing a script for a medium other than the stage. However there are some important differences.
In media other than stage drama you do not need to worry about whether or not you can stage the plot. In radio you can write about almost anything you can imagine. In TV and film you need to think about the visual impact of what you're writing.
There are also techniques specific to the different media, which will replace or add to the stage directions.
The main things you need to consider are sound effects. The listener cannot see anything so you need to suggest what is happening by sound. These could be sounds like, for example:
Sound effects should be in brackets like stage directions.
TV or Film Script
On stage the audience's viewpoint is fairly static. In film or TV we see things through the eye of the camera. You need to write down what you want the camera to be looking at while the dialogue is spoken. Do you want it to look at one character in close up? Do you want it to move around the room? You need to specify this in your directions.
A TV or film script is not an easy option and it is better to have a basic knowledge of film and video making techniques to write one.
Above text from bbc.co.uk.bitesize.teaching resources.