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.

The Bully

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:

  • Title
  • Scene: say where and when the scene is set
  • Characters: say which characters are in the scene at the start. You should give any information that we need to know about them but keep this brief. This might be their age, occupation or relationship with another character.

For example:

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.

Characters

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.

Plot

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:

  • conflict between a parent and teenager about a bad school report
  • conflict between two friends about a boy/girlfriend
  • a teenager wrongly accused of stealing.

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!

Dialogue

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:

  • where does this character come from?
  • what age is s/he?
  • what kind of person is s/he?
  • what mood is s/he in?
  • who is s/he talking to?

For example:

  • someone from Aberdeen will probably speak differently from a Glaswegian
  • a teacher will probably speak differently from a pupil, even though they come from the same area
  • your granny probably uses some words which are different from yours
  • an angry person is going to speak differently from someone who is calm.

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:

  • radio
  • TV
  • film or video (screenplay)

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.

Plot

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.

Radio Script

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:

  • breaking glass
  • door opening
  • wind howling through trees
  • music to create atmosphere.

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.

Your Turn! 

  • Divide into groups of five and write a short play script together. Use the layout for script writing that is outlined above. At the end of this unit, your group must decide on a mark out of 20, for how well your script conforms and follows the above layout. (Self Assessment) You must each have a copy of the script fixed in your folder or book.
  • Bring appropriate clothes and props from home and perform your play for the rest of the class. Remember you can use sound effects.
  • Two class member scan video the plays. Play the plays back to the class at the end of the performances. 
  • Discuss the plays and to what extent each play followed the conventions outlined above, and to what effect. 
  • Have a class vote on which was the best play. (Peer Assessment) The winning play group gets a box of chocolates!

Later projects! 
Write a short film script. You can use the following Blank storyboard template. Use - Google / Image -search, and type story board,  to see some completed storyboard examples.
                                                                                        
Or  
Write a radio script. "In radio you can write about almost anything you can imagine."! Plus it is great fun producing the sound effects. You can find old radio shows on the internet to listen to to get some ideas.

Useful online resources:
-
This site provides an interesting guide to film making: http://www.cibacs.org/teacherpages/mwhitmore/downloads/pdf/sb/Storyboarding.pdf

- The following site explains common camera shots:
http://www.recitfga.qc.ca/english/activities/sitsat-2005/Lyne/shots.htm


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