Sitting at my desk, struggling to write the script for our next video short, I was lost. My favorite music was playing, I had the morning all to myself, and a cup of great coffee. Nothing was coming.
So, I thought, “Get back to basics, Bill”. Sometimes we forget the basic formula for a good story when we are caught up in all the great footage we just shot. Here’s how I got un-lost and wrote a great script!
- Set the length. Who is my audience and how long will I be able to keep their attention?
- Set the scene. In my case, it was a street market in Seattle. So, pick a couple of colorful words that describe the feeling of the scene and work them into a quick description. Add in an establishing shot and there you have it.
- Create a compelling opening. The opening must draw the viewer in. Often, I’m tempted to start a video with an explanation of what the story is about. It’s much more powerful, however, to start in the middle of the action. Choose something that exposes the problem or conflict. Trigger the audience to ask a question in their mind: “What happens next?”, “Who is this person?”, “How did they get into this situation?”
- Remember the plot. In a short video, you don’t have time for ups and downs in the plot line. A steady build up is OK, just be sure you are building to a climax.
- Decide on the viewpoint and stick to it. Who is the protagonist? Who’s story is it to tell? Tell it from their point of view only. Don’t bounce between multiple voices – it gets confusing.
- Use consistent tense. Is it in the present? The past? Video On Demand is typically in the past, while Live Streaming is in the present (even if you are recording it to simulate live).
- Define the conflict. What is to be accomplished and what’s standing in the way?
- Give your characters a little life. Develop some kind of short description or backstory. Identify a habit, a mannerism, a personality trait. It only takes one or two references – you don’t have time to fully develop a character with lots of detail.
- Be sure to use all of your senses. Create descriptions that fill in the blanks left by the video. What did it smell like? How did it feel to the touch? Was it hot or cold?
- Write some dialog. Dialog or narration is an effective tool to move the story along. Especially if you’re missing video to describe something. Using dialog or narration can be used to break up the story into parts or just create new interest.
- Don’t forget the ending. Be sure to resolve the conflict. You can tease the next installment, or use the conclusion to introduce a twist or surprise, but always leave your audience with a feeling of resolution.
- Sit back and relax.
Getting back to the basics of a good story helped break the writer’s block I was having and resulted in a funny and colorful script. Now, on to video editing!