Good writing can be the gateway into many industries, including entertainment, advertising and marketing. A well-written video is an important component of many campaigns, whether it is used to promote a product, a cause or a candidate.
You can make a nice living by writing video scripts, and make a name for yourself in the process. However, you need to pay attention to certain conventions. Your audience will have certain expectations, which you may choose to meet or subvert.
Depending upon your intended market, you need to know a few basics about the craft of scriptwriting. Keep in mind that video is a visual medium, and you will need to integrate your words, images and concept into one seamless piece.
Here are eight tips on video scripts that can help you break into this lucrative field and capture the attention of audiences.
1. What’s the Story?
Everything boils down to the story you want to tell. Even if your video is only 30 seconds long, it still needs to tell a story which the audience can relate to or identify with.
The story must contain a character who goes on a journey, makes a discovery, or goes through an ordeal.
Those journeys may be as simple as finding the right potato chip or as complex as finding true love. However, they all need to take the protagonist somewhere.
2. Know Your Audience
Before you set pen to paper, you need to know to whom you are trying to communicate. Is your video intended to affect potential voters in a specific geographic region? Is it aimed at an art house crowd?
Knowing your audience will help you focus on ways to reach that particular demographic. It may affect where you set your story and the gender and age of your main character.
The tone of your language may also be affected by your target audience. Some groups may respond well to less formal language, while others may enjoy hearing the jargon of their particular industry or age group.
3. He Said, She Said
Maybe you are adapting a novel or short story into a script. For a script intended for video, film or the stage, you need to shift your focus. Elaborate descriptions of the scenery or a character’s internal monologue are not going to make the cut.
The essence of a great script, no matter how long, is its dialogue. You need to create realistic conversations which convey your message in the voices of your characters.
People do not always say what they mean. Messages are often conveyed despite the words on the page, not through them. The meaning may come through the actors’ expressions, actions, and omissions.
Try out your dialogue with a few actor friends to see how the words sound coming out of their mouths. You will find hearing your words spoken gives them a whole different feeling than seeing them simply on the page.
4. Show Not Tell
If you really want to improve your writing, you need to concentrate on how to show, not tell your reader or viewer how to feel and what to think. No one enjoys being told what to do. You are more likely to make a convincing case if you lay out the evidence and let them come to their own conclusions.
If someone is supposed to be a mean boss, give them a scene where they yell at their employees. If someone is supposed to be a hero, show them performing heroic acts. If a place is supposed to be scary, describe what it looks like instead of simply calling it scary.
If you just describe something as mean, heroic or scary, you take away the audience’s ability to make up their own mind.
Even if your story is short and sweet, it still needs a beginning, middle, and end. You can always play with these conventions- the movie “Momento” or anything by Quentin Tarantino are great examples of how to effectively upend the concept of chronology while still telling a great story.
Writers often cite Freytag’s Triangle as the accepted structure for a narrative. It starts with exposition leading to rising action towards a climax or conflict. After the tip of the triangle, the action recedes towards the denouement.
You can’t always get what you want, and that is what makes for great drama. Your characters want a job, a girl, or the jackpot at Vegas. Something gets in their way.
If they end up achieving their desire, it’s a comedy. If they fail, it’s a tragedy.
No matter what your video is about, your main protagonist must struggle to get something he may not necessarily get. That creates suspense, empathy, and engagement.
7. Why Should I Care?
If you want to make money as a writer, you need to write words that engage audiences and make them care.
If you are creating a video for a nonprofit, you want to make your audience concerned enough about the cause that they will contribute to help. If you are pitching a product, you want viewers to worry that their life will not be complete if they don’t get what you are selling.
Make the stakes high so that your readers give a damn.
8. Cut Ruthlessly
One of the hardest task for a writer is to edit her own work. You worked so hard to get those words on the page, how can you possibly delete them?
For effective writing of scripts, stories or essays, anything extraneous has got to go.
This approach will force you to choose your words carefully so that every single one counts. Your script will be much more effective.
Video Scripts: More Than Just Words on a Page
Drafting video scripts can be demanding and yet ultimately satisfying work. What a thrill to see your words being spoken by actors, and the stories in your head being told on the screen.
With such a demand for content by studios, businesses, marketers, and entertainment companies, you may be able to make a good living writing video scripts.
For more tips on improving your writing skills, ideas for writing excellent content, and earning a living doing something you love, continue coming back to this website. We are constantly in the process of creating a great resource for writers. We’re always happy to help.