Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing a Script

Film-Script-WritingSo in preparation for writing a script for my History Story, I’ve been been practicing by trying to script out scenes from Steam Palace. Below is my attempt at the first scene. You can read the original scene here. Here are my observations about the process so far.

  1. It took me 4 pages to script out 5 written pages. Since my ms. is 386 pages, that translates to a ~300 page script, the equivalent of a 5-hour movie (miniseries?).
  2. My novel has 97 scenes. A movie script is ~40. I’d have to cut over half my scenes…which may also help figuring out how to reduce my novel down to 100K words. Still, it’s a lot of story to leave out.
  3. I’ve been reading some scripts for major motion pictures. These are available online through sites like,, I’ve found that scripts aren’t the dry, emotionless set of directions I thought they were. Here’s an example from Jurassic Park:
    1. Lodged in the cracked earth are the partially-exposed fossilized remains
      of A VELOCIRAPTER, a carnivorous dinosaur. WIDEN OUT to a SWEEPING
      PANORAMA of a dinosaur dig, a major excavation filled with workers
      shoveling earth and stone, making measurements, taking photographs,
      scribbling notes, and conferring with each other.

      The center of all this activity is one man. In a roped-off area that
      circumscribes the exposed bones of the raptor, is DR. ALAN GRANT, head
      paleontologist. Good-looking, late 30's, with a think beard.

      Grant lies on his belly, completely absorbed in a small piece of bone.
      A GROUP OF TWELVE STUDENTS, notebooks in hand, await his next sentence.

  4. I felt I needed to add something to the scene. In my original scene, I don’t include Dunstan, the evil Duke. But from studying movies for the last few weeks, I realize that it’s critical that the “enemy” be introduced as early as possible. The audience needs to be able to identify the conflict and stakes right away. I also thought it might be a good way to show the audience the significance of Thomas’ act in saving the Queen.

  5. It was actually pretty fun picturing the scene as a movie scene. I think it also helps by showing me what’s truly important in a scene. I don’t plan to script the entire novel, but just to use some scenes as practice.

So here is the script I came up with. Sorry for the horrible formatting.
               EXT. HIGH ABOVE GROUND- DAY

               AIRMAN peers through a scope from the bow of a gondola. A
               white dirigible balloon suspends the gondola. He takes notes.


               WE ZOOM THROUGH SCOPE to focus on second airship just above
               the horizon.

               The second airship dissolves in a burst of flames and drops
               to the forest below. A boom sounds many seconds later.


               RETURN BACK TO AIRMAN's face. He is horrified

               AIRMAN pulls levers and we hear a loud mechanical hum.

                                                                CUT TO:


               FOREST CLEARING


               PAN OVER burning wreckage and mangled bodies.

               We hear a hum then an airship descends. AIRMAN jumps out and
               examines bodies, all dead. Many are burned or dismembered. He
               finds two bodies with throats cut, obviously not from crash.
               He pulls out his weapon and assumes a defensive posture. He
               examines grass with bloodstains and trots off.

                                                                CUT TO:


               DEEP FOREST

               AIRMAN finds an 8-legged crawling war-machine with mounted
               cannon pointing toward smoking wreckage. Machine carries Nazi
               like markings.

               In the distance we hear tortured screams.

               AIRMAN turns and advances toward a black hole in ground.

                                   MALE VOICE (O.S., EUROPEAN ACCENT)
                         You will provide us the location of
                         the Sea Key. We know the Southland
                         hides it.

                                   FEMALE VOICE (O.S., SOUTHERN ACCENT)
                         There ain't no such thing. It's a

                                                          FOLLOW AIRMAN


               INT. DARK CAVE

               Visible are: QUEEN MAGNOLIA, a black woman impaled by a
               infernal torture device with spikes and with her clothing in
               bloody remnants; REICHLAND CAPTAIN wearing Nazi-like uniform
               operates device; and REICHLAND DOCTOR tends two wounded men
               on the floor. Flickering torches provide light. AIRMAN hides
               and watches.

               Quietly AIRMAN checks his weapon. He winces at the screams of
               the woman. His breath quickens, his hand tightens. His head
               nods as if rehearsing his moves.

               AIRMAN jumps into room, fires at: CAPTAIN,  DOCTOR, then two
               wounded men. CAPTAIN and DOCTOR slide to floor. QUEEN
               MAGNOLIA gasps in pain, unable to speak. AIRMAN holsters
               weapon and examines the torture device. He pulls a lever to
               release her and QUEEN MAGNOLIA stumbles forward. He catches
               her in his arms. They embrace as she sobs.

                         Please, Your Majesty, I must wrap
                         your wounds.

               QUEEN MAGNOLIA nods and releases him. AIRMAN finds a medical
               bag and pulls out supplies. QUEEN MAGNOLIA stumbles into a
               chair, fighting for calm. He wraps her bleeding torso with
               infinite care and respect. He stops when her reaches her
               breasts, but she cringes and nods. He finishes.

                                   AIRMAN (CONT'D)
                         I must protect your modesty.

               He pulls off his jacket and helps her into it.

                                   QUEEN MAGNOLIA
                         Thank you kindly.

                         My Queen, pardon my insolence, but
                         I must inform you--I intend to hold
                         you prisoner in the name of my lord
                         Duke Killingworth.

               Her face turns to rage.

                                   QUEEN MAGNOLIA
                         You rescued me only to go capture
                         me yourself? What kinda soldier are
                         you? Where's your loyalty?

                         My deepest apologies. The Duke
                         would have my head if I lost this

               She spits blood on the ground.

                                   QUEEN MAGNOLIA
                         And what would your King do to you
                         when he discovers this here

               AIRMAN blinks.



               WOUNDED ENEMY on the ground shakily lifts up a revolver and
               shoots. Blood explodes from AIRMAN's knee. He falls. QUEEN
               MAGNOLIA pulls gun from AIRMAN's holster and dispatches
               WOUNDED ENEMY. She turns the gun back to AIRMAN.

                                   QUEEN MAGNOLIA (CONT'D)
                         Oh lord, oh lord.

               AIRMAN holds out hand to her in self-defense. He gasps in

                         Please. Take my flyer. Can you

               QUEEN MAGNOLIA nods.

                                   AIRMAN (CONT'D)
                         It is back where you crashed. Fly
                         west to the river and then south to
                         New York. Hurry, the Duke is en
                         route. I swear if you do this, you
                         can evade him and return to the

               QUEEN MAGNOLIA hesitates, then stumbles from the cave. AIRMAN
               wraps his knee. Something glistens in the corner. He slides
               over and grasps it. It is a blue pendant in the shape of a
               swan. He stashes it in his clothes and then appears to sleep.

                                                         FADE TO BLACK.


               EXT. OUTSIDE OF CAVE

               Two men in the same uniform as the AIRMAN hold him on his

               AIRMAN is in obvious pain and cannot put weight on his
               injured left leg. A man in a regal uniform approaches him-
               the Duke (DUNSTAN).  DUNSTAN slaps AIRMAN in the face. A
               trickle of blood seeps from the AIRMAN's mouth.

                         How could you? How could you allow
                         the Demon Queen to escape? The very
                         witch who seduced our King? Did she
                         use her witchcraft upon you?

               AIRMAN's shakes head and cringes, fearing another blow.

                                   DUNSTAN (CONT'D)
                         Captain Thomas Putnam, you are a
                         disgrace to your uniform. You are
                         hereby stripped of your commission
                         and discharged from the Aivy. That
                         Demon Queen has obviously corrupted
                         you and you are of no further use
                         to me.

               The men throw THOMAS to the ground. THOMAS holds his knee.
               The men walk off.

                         She is no demon! She is a flesh and
                         blood woman! We cannot continue
                         this persecution!

                         We will continue it until that
                         Demon lies dead at my feet and I
                         take my rightful place on the
                         throne of New Britannia.

                                                           DISSOLVE TO:



1 comment:

  1. I find scripting so hard to do. I tried it for a suspense thriller I wrote a few years back and nearly went batty. You have to give up so much of your vision to the director. Loved what you did with yours. Great job.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance


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