Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Glossary of Script Writing Terms

Here is a list of script writing terms & phrases one might encounter working with and in the industry as a writer.

action - the movement in a scene which pushes the story forward towards its ultimate conclusion.

adaptation - a script which is based on another medium such as a novel, a short story, a play, an article, a comic book, a video game, etc.

ambiance - the feeling or mood of a particular scene or setting.

angle - the point of view/point of direction the object of attention and or action is observed from.

antagonist - the character or force is main objective is to stop the protagonist (hero) from reaching their goal.

backstory - action and events that took place in a character's life before the present events of the story.

beat - 1) a one count pause in speech or action. 2) a plot point within a story structure.

b.g.- an abbreviation for word background. Refers to action, people or a general area happening behind the main action.

character - 1) the fictitious or real individual in the story. 2) the change and evolution of a character (usually the lead character) in a story. It is in most cases a distinct alteration of the way they think, act, and or view their life and the life around them.

character arc - the line tracing the changes and development of a character through the entire story.

climax - the point in a story or film in which the central character/protagonist faces and deals with their consequence of all their actions.

close on - indicates a focused, tight view on a particular object or character.

complication - an incident which further complicates the plot.

conflict - the interaction and clash of actions, goals, and desires in the story.

crisis - the highest point of tension before the climax in which the issues at hand hang in balance before the protagonist decides to act.

cut to - an abrupt change to a different view, location, time, character, etc. It frequently refers to an immediate change/transition between scenes.

deus ex machina - a resolution or end to a plot problem which is too convenient for the characters and generally seems unbelievable or forced particularly to an audience. It literally means "the god from the machine."

dialogue - the words spoken by the characters in a story.

dilemma - a moment or situation in which a character must chose between two different paths of action which are undesirable.

dissolve to - a slower change in which a one image fades out and another image fades in to. Used to generally show a transition in time from hours to days to even years. It's a less abrupt change between scenes than a cut.

draft - a completed version of screenplay in which then may be rewritten, revised or polished.

establishing shot - an image/shot that indicates the location and setting of a scene or story.

exposition - important background information for the events of a story.

ext. (exterior) - indicates in the scene heading that the action is taking place outdoors.

fade in (fade from black) - when the image slowly appears from black. It generally indicates the beginning of a film, though it is sometimes used to show time between scenes or points in the story

fade out (fade to black) - when the image slowly disappears until only black is scene. It generally indicates the end of a film, though it is sometimes used to show time between scenes or points in the story.

f.g. - used in descriptions to indicate an object or character is predominate in a particular scene or close in the indicated shot.

flashback - when action from the past is intermixed with action in the future; events that took place before events in the story.

genre - the type of story being told which encapsulates particular rules, styles, definitions, etc. of the style of the story.

high concept - a premise or storyline that is easily described in one sentence and seems to be especially unique and even commercial.

hook - the inciting incident that grabs the attention of the reader or audience.

inciting incident or scene - an event at the beginning of story that serves as the catalyst for the main action of the script.

insert - a shot with in a scene in which a certain specific piece of information is indicated such as a watch face, a door bell button, a bomb under a desk, etc.

int. (interior) - used in the scene heading to indicate a scene is taking place indoors.

logline - the storyline of a script described present tense in essentially 25 words or less.

montage - a series of shots which shows moments in various events quickly. Generally used to convey a great deal of information or to condense a long time period into a much shorter version.

motivation - the reason(s) behind a particular character's actions which causes them to react or act in the way they do.

m.o.w. (movie of the week) - a feature length film made for television.

obstacle - a hurdle the protagonist must overcome in order to achieve their goal.

on the nose - dialogue which too clearly indicates what a character is feeling or thinking or wishing; in other words exactly what the author is intending for that moment and scene.

o.s. (off screen) - sounds or dialogue that take place out of view. Most commonly used when a character in another room calls to a character in location the scene is currently unfolding in.

over the top - an expression which describes an action or scene which goes too far in one direction or another and pushes the bounds of believability.

pace - the speed or rhythm with which a story is told.

payoff - the result of certain actions or information that were set up early in the film via planting which then take place or culminate in a way the reader or audience would find most believable or be prepared for.

planting - setting up a particular bit of information that will later payoff in the story.

plot - the events that drive a story forwards towards its conclusion.

plot point - a key turning point in the events of a story.

polish - to change certain elements of a script but not dramatically so. It usually refers to changing dialogue to better suit a director's, producer's, and or actor's needs.

p.o.v. (point of view) - the perspective from a particular character in the story.

premise - the question or problem that is the basic idea of a story.

protagonist - the main character or hero of a story whose actions and goal drive the plot forwards.

rising action - events which build upon one another with increasing momentum.

scene - the basic unit of drama in a script in which an event occurs in one specific location generally during a specific amount of time that moves the story forward.

scene heading - contains the information pertaining to the location and time of the scene.

second act curtain - the point or moment of greatest conflict in a three act structure story.

secondary characters - people in the story with whom the main character(s) is involved or interacts with.

sequence - a group of scenes generally connected by a particular problem or event in the story.

series of shots - a series of images/snippets of action that show condensed passing of time or actions.

set-up - the establishing of the characters and problem(s) in the first act which will be resolved or paid off in a story.

simultaneous dialogue - when two or more characters talk at the same time.

spine - the basic or essential plot of a story.

step outline - the scenes in a story laid out in the order they occur.

subplot - the secondary events in a story that mix with the main storyline in which the key characters and or theme is more fully explored.

super (superimpose) - in screenwriting when titles are superimposed over the scene; generally used to identify the location and time of a scene or story.

synopsis - the brief summary of a story told in present tense prose which is usually two to three paragraphs in length.

theme - the central idea and what the story is about.

three act structure - the sequence of events in a story which are made up of the set-up, the complication, and the resolution.

tone - the quality, feeling or mood of the plot.

too much black - an expression or description given to a script page(s) which has too much description or too much dialogue.

treatment - the detailed summary of story told in present tense which is generally five to twenty pages in length.

twist - an unexpected turning point in the story.

voice over (V.O) - a character's voice over heard during a scene in which generally the character is not shown.

wrylies - parenthetical cues placed before lines of dialogue to indicate emotion, volume, side-action, tone etc.

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