When creating content, you may need to make a guide for what people say and certain actions that the performers or crew can take. A script is a good way to describe the dialogue and physical occurrences in a story and is a useful tool for multiple different mediums. Understanding the various types of scripts and when to use them can help you decide which kind you may want to write. In this article, we explain the purpose of scripts, review what types of media require them, list eight types of scripts, and include some tips to help you create your own.
What is a script?
A script is the written content for a visual story such as a play, television show or movie. While scripts often contain information for performers and crew, such as stage directions and production notes, they primarily focus on the dialogue between characters in the story. You can create a script from an original story or an existing property.
What is the purpose of a script?
The purpose of a script is to help actors know what to say to portray specific characters correctly. This can help an actor prepare for the role and may allow them to deliver a more engaging performance. Scripts can also help technical crew members track when to perform their duties.
For example, a stagehand might refer to a script to know when to trigger a particular special effect and a cinematographer could look at a script to plan specific shots. Some situations, such as in plays or during other types of live events, may require people to memorize their lines in advance, so a script can be an important tool to help professionals prepare.
What types of media require a script?
Here are a few types of media that may require a script:
Film and television
Film and television are two ways to tell stories visually and often require a script for the actors and other members of the production crew. While film and television are similar, they have a few key differences. Films usually have a larger budget and tell self-contained stories in around two hours. Television works on a smaller scale and in half-hour or hour-long installments. It may use multiple episodes to tell a longer story.
While documentaries record real events and often have a less defined script, the people filming a documentary may create a script to help them understand the film or television show’s overall narrative. A script for a documentary may focus less on dialogue and more on general situations that the documentarian wants to shoot.
For example, if you’re making a documentary about shrimp, your script may resemble an outline. It might list the experts you’re planning to interview, explain what kind of shrimp footage you want and show the general order in the film. Some documentaries also have scripts for voice-overs that they create after editing the footage.
Some types of radio productions and other audio media have scripts to help the performers keep track of what to say. Common radio content that may require a script includes radio plays, educational broadcasts and podcasts. Some live events may also contain moments of brief scripting to save time, convey information or introduce a sponsor.
Plays are a type of fictional production that takes place live on a stage. A stage script helps actors prepare for a live performance and often includes stage directions. Actors typically use a script to rehearse and memorize their lines, so they may contain language that’s easy for an actor to remember.
Many video games contain stories and require scripts for cut scenes and in-game moments. Some genres of video games, such as role-playing games, mysteries or adventures, may contain more detailed scripts than others, such as puzzle games. The format and relevant information of a video game script may rely on the genre and specific type of game.
8 types of scripts
Here are eight types of scripts that you can write:
1. Original script
Original scripts include those that you create from your own ideas. For example, if you create a story about a magical wizard who turns into an airplane, you can turn that idea into an original script for a stage play. Since the only requirement of an original script is that it doesn’t relate to an existing intellectual property, there are original scripts in every different type of medium.
2. Adapted script
An adapted script re-imagines an existing story or narrative. You can adapt a script for a different medium, update the time period of a piece or re-create a story in your own personal style. For example, if you want to create a musical version of your favorite book, you could write an adapted script.
A screenplay is a script meant exclusively for a visual medium, such as film or television. This type of script focuses on visual elements and often includes instructions about what the audience sees, such as character actions, locations and camera angles. Screenplays often use a traditional story structure and usually fall within a set length that depends on their subtype.
A storyboard is a type of script that uses both writing and images to convey the story. You can create a storyboard by sketching a brief scene, adding the dialogue from that scene, and arranging several of these sketches in a chronological sequence. Professionals often use storyboards for animated productions and may also use them to help them visualize a screenplay before filming.
5. Spec script
A spec script, short for speculative script, focuses on an existing property that you don’t have official rights to. Scriptwriters use spec scripts to demonstrate their writing ability or try to get hired for particular properties. For example, if you want a job working on your favorite television show, you might write a spec script and send it to the show’s head writer.
6. Standalone script
A standalone script is a script for a franchise that contains the same characters, world and tone of an existing property. These types of scripts are more common in episodic media, such as TV shows. Production teams may use standalone scripts as backup stories if they experience production emergencies. For example, if the head writer of a television series quits, you can produce and film from a standalone script until the show finds a replacement.
7. Pitch script
A pitch script allows you to demonstrate to a producer or other professional in your industry what you may do with an existing property. Pitch scripts are different from spec scripts because they usually involve properties you’re already involved with or have the rights to. For example, if a movie studio asks you to create a sequel to a popular franchise, you can create a pitch script to show them your basic ideas for the film.
8. Shooting script
A shooting script is a collection of directions that helps a film or television program understand which scenes to shoot and in what order. They can also include other important information, such as important props, essential camera shots, chronology of the scene and location. Shooting scripts don’t contain any dialogue. Instead, they provide instructions for a production team to follow.
Here are some suggestions that may help you when writing a script:
Choose your medium
The medium and format of a story can affect how you structure your narrative. For example, a script for a movie is often self-contained, while you can create a story for a television series that lasts several episodes. Consider researching the common traits of the various types of scripts and choose a structure that works best for your narrative.
Researching your script can help you learn about important details that may relate to your story and may allow you to create a more realistic or engaging narrative. If your script focuses on a particular subject, activity or event, you can perform research to ensure your script contains accurate details. You can also research common script formatting techniques or best practices within your medium to help you make a quality script of your chosen type.
Create an outline
Scripts often detail the particular dialogue and actions of characters throughout a story. Creating an outline before writing a script can help you decide the general story arc and may improve the consistency of your plot. Consider outlining the key locations, characters, and plot points of your script before you start writing to give yourself a basic guide about the story you want to tell.
I hope you find this article helpful.