Screenplay vs Script: What's the Difference?

Updated on January 9th, 2022
Screenplay vs Script: What's the Difference?

If you're new to the digital and graphical world of screenwriting, it can be a bit confusing when you see two words that sound similar but mean different things. Most people use the terms screenplay and script interchangeably, but they are very different.

In this article, we'll discuss what these two terms mean to each other and how they differ from one another.

What is a Screenplay?

A screenplay is an original work of fiction written for film or television. It tells a story through dialogue, images, and sometimes music. The term "screenplay" comes from the fact that early films were shown on screens instead of being projected onto a wall as they are today.

Six elements make up every screenplay: Character, Structure, Plot, Direction, Dialogue, and Production Design. So now that we know what each of these means, let's get into it!

Character

If a character has no personality, he has no reason to exist in his own right. He cannot speak about himself. The reader can't empathize with him, nor can he react to the actions of others. It is where screenwriters will fail. Their idea is beautiful, but their character is not.

In essence, character plays a vital role in any story, whether it be a short story, novel, screenplay, etc. Because of this, it becomes necessary for a writer to develop their character correctly.

Structure

Structure refers to how a story will unfold. Think of design as the skeleton of your account. Without a robust system, a film loses its continuity, meaning its plot is not well connected.

The best thing to do here is write down all of your story points, whether they are significant events or smaller ones, and begin the process of connecting them.

Plot

The plot is simply a sequence of events, the order in which things happen in a story. Some common types of plots are linear, circular, zigzag, flashback, etc. The story's main objective is to tell the viewer what's going on.

Directions

Without direction, there's nothing to put into motion. For example, if you want someone to eat something, don't just say 'Go Eat’—give directions. It is one of the most powerful tools available to a screenwriter.

Dialogue

Dialogue is an integral part of any story. What would you talk about without dialogue? To add some spice to your script, you must have appropriate dialogue. But remember, if you use slang, you should first check if it is acceptable in the particular country you're working.

Production Design

Not only does production design set a mood for your story, but it also gives us clues concerning the characters. For example, we immediately know who lives there when we enter a room.

Props

For a filmmaker to understand what's happening in a scene, he needs to see the props used during filming. It may seem obvious, but we often forget about this essential element and end up taking liberties when we rewrite our scripts.

The first step in creating a screenplay is to write down your ideas. You may have many ideas at once, so it helps organize them into scenes and sub-scenes. Once you've arranged your ideas into a coherent outline, you should start writing.

The most important thing about writing a screenplay is to keep the action moving forward. If a character says something aloud, nature may need to do something with that information before the following dialogue begins. It means that every single word of discussion needs to contribute to the overall goal of the scene.

Writing a screenplay requires a lot of skill and practice. There are no rules to follow, just guidelines. Some writers prefer to stick to traditional methods, while others experiment with their style. Whatever process you choose, you need to find a way to get yourself motivated enough to sit down and write.

Writing a screenplay takes time and patience. Don't expect to finish your first draft in a weekend! Like anything else worth doing, writing a script will require dedication and hard work.

What is a Script?

A script is a copy of a screenplay. Producers typically use scripts and directors who want to know if they would be interested in doing a particular project. They look over the writing and decide whether they think it has potential.

When someone asks you to submit a script, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will produce it. Sometimes the person asking you to submit a script looks for feedback. For example, a producer might ask you to read a script and give him some notes.

When submitting a script, you should always include a cover letter explaining why you feel the script is ready for production. Include relevant industry contacts, such as agents, managers, casting directors, and production companies.

If you're lucky, you'll receive a response telling you whether the person wants to meet with you or not. If there isn't a response, don't worry. Just because someone didn't respond doesn't mean they won't ever consider producing your script.

Difference Between Screenplay and Script

There are several differences between a screenplay and a script. Here are the main differences:

1. Format: A screenplay is a narrative form of literature. A hand is a copy of the script.

2. Length: A screenplay can range anywhere from 10 pages to 100 pages long. Writing is usually around 20 pages long.

3. Style: A screenplay is written in the third person. The story unrolls through the eyes of one specific character. You can write a script in the first person. It tells the story from the point of view of the main character.

4. Audience: A screenplay is for an audience. A script is not for actors, producers, and other professionals involved in the film industry.

5. Distribution: A screenplay goes directly to theatres. A script goes to distributors, which then send it to theatres.

While these are some of the main differences between the two terms, there are many more. Ensure you understand all of them to avoid confusion when working on your scripts.

How To Write a Screenplay

The following steps will help you create a good screenplay.

Step 1: Choose Your Characters

It would be best if you had characters before you started writing. You may already have ideas about what kind of people you'd like to play in your movie. Or maybe you've never thought about this at all. Either way, you'll still need to figure out who your characters are.

Start by thinking about your characters' personalities. Do they seem genuine? Are they believable? How do they act? Is their behavior consistent throughout the entire script?

Once you've decided how your characters behave, write down a list of their traits. These could be physical characteristics, personality traits, hobbies, or anything else that makes them unique.

Step 2: Create Character Backstories

Once you have a list of your characters' traits, you'll need to fill in the backstory of each one. It means creating a history for each character. Why did the character become the way he is now? What happened to make him the way he is today? Where does he come from?

Write down everything you know about your characters. Don't forget to include things like where they were born, their parents, siblings, childhood friends, and so forth.

Step 3: Determine Plot Points

Now that you have a complete picture of your characters, you'll want to determine plot points. These are events that occur in the script. They are also known as turning points.

Think about every scene in your script. Ask yourself questions such as "What happens here?" "Why does this happen?" "Who changes?" "What causes this change?". Once you have determined the answers to these questions, you're ready to move on to step four.

Step 4: Start Writing!

Writing a screenplay isn't just about brainstorming. You need to sit down and write. There's no better time than right now. Get up and grab a pen and paper. Let's get started.

Writing Tips For Beginners

1. Keep The First Act Short

A short first act is best. If you keep the first act too long, it will take away from the rest of the script.

2. Use Action Scenes

Action scenes should always be the centre of your script. An action scene is any scene that involves something happening. When you use action scenes, you'll need to describe what is going on.

3. Include Details

If you don't give enough details, readers won't understand what is happening. That's why it's important to add details to your script.

4. Be Specific

If you're describing an event, make sure you say what is happening. For example, if you're talking about a fight, make sure you mention punches, kicks, blood, and so on.

5. Write Dialogue

Dialogue is another critical element of a screenplay. It can either be through speaking or written ones. To tell a story, you'll need to write specific lines.

6. Make Sure Each Scene Has A Purpose

Each scene needs to have a purpose. Think about the reasons why you wrote the scene. Was it to show a particular emotion, or was it to advance the plot?

How to Write a Script

Unlike writing a screenplay, writing a script is much easier. All you need to do is follow a few basic steps.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

The first thing you'll need to do when writing a script is brainstorm ideas. Remember, you only have a short period, mostly 24 hours, to create a script. So you'll need to think quickly.

Step 2: Outline Your Story

After you've finished brainstorming, you'll need to outline your story. It is done by listing all the significant events throughout the script.

Step 3: Create Characters

Characters are the people who live inside your head. They are the main focus of your script. Before you start writing, you'll need to decide how many characters there will be.

Step 4: Choose a Format

Once you've decided how many characters there will ultimately be, you'll need to choose which format you want to use. Will it be a traditional one-page synopsis or a two-page treatment?

Step 5: Write And Edit

Finally, once you've completed all of the above steps, you'll need to start writing. Don't worry if you haven't come up with anything yet. Just start typing. As you type, you'll find yourself coming up with new ideas.

Tips for Writing a Screenplay

1. Have Fun With It

When you're writing a screenplay, you need to enjoy doing it. Otherwise, you won't be able to finish it.

2. Keep It Simple

Keep your screenplay simple. If you try to include too many things, it will become confusing.

3. Avoid Plot Holes

Don't leave out crucial parts of your story. If you do, your audience might not know what happens next.

4. Know Your Audience

You need to know your audience before you start writing. You can learn more about your audience from reading books, watching movies, and listening to music.

5. Start Early

Start as early as possible because you never know how long it will take to complete your screenplay.

6. Use Short Sentences

Short sentences are easy to read. But they also help keep your script organized.

7. Include Details

Include as many details as possible in your screenplay. These details could include descriptions, character names, locations, and even props.

8. Be Original

Be original. Try to avoid using other people's stories.

9. Find Inspiration

Find inspiration everywhere. Read books, watch films, listen to music, etc.

Key Takeaway

The difference between a screenplay and a script lies in their different purposes. While a screenplay tells an entire story, the writing focuses on individual scenes. For this reason, some screenwriters say the process of writing a script is similar to writing an outline of a screenplay.

Like any other artistic medium, writing a script takes practice. However, learning the basics will make it easier for you. Once you've learned those basics, you'll be ready to move on to the next step – creating a good screenplay.