Screenwriting can become overwhelming. Where to start? How do you put your ideas together? I’ll show you how to write a scene in 5 easy steps.

Screenwriting isn't easy, but these 5 easy steps to write your first scene are.
Screenwriting isn’t easy, but these 5 easy steps to write your first scene are.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

1. Scene Heading

To start off your scene, you need to determine where and when it’s taking place. This is the easiest step. Are your characters in a bar, a train, or a grocery store? Inside or outside? What time of day? Once you have those three questions answered, you will set up your scene heading like this:

INT. or EXT. LOCATION – TIME OF DAY

While we work through these 5 easy steps, we will write a scene together. Just to get a better understanding of screenwriting. Feel free to write one of your own and post it in the comments!

Our scene will take place at a campground that we will name: LAKE CHARLTON CAMPGROUND. It will be during the evening, outside. Our scene heading would read:

EXT. LAKE CHARLTON CAMPGROUND – EVENING

2. Character Introduction

Now, we need to introduce our character(s) to our scene. Screenwriting is all about characters. That’s what people gravitate to in the scene. When you introduce your characters, do it in a sentence or two. Keep it simple and only include important information.

The first time you introduce a character, capitalize their name. Consider giving us their age, any important physical aspect about them, and what they’re doing in the scene. Don’t forget that in screenwriting, you can only write what you see. Audiences won’t be able to see what they’re thinking about during the scene.

For our scene, we will have our two young characters roaming through the campground. Their introduction will go like this:

LINCOLN, 13, weaves between tents as he pulls MONROE, 7, behind him. It’s clear they’re siblings from their identical red hair and pale complexion.

Craft genuine characters in your scene with these easy steps.
Craft genuine characters in your scene with these easy steps.
Photo by Mac DeStroir from Pexels

3. Action

We started our scene with a bit of action, weaving between tents. Now, we need to add more. What are your characters doing? This step is very important. It gives your audience their first impression of the characters.

Before you write your action, know who your characters are and where you want your scene to go. Screenwriting is much easier with planning. Plan out each scene before you write it. It will save you the hassle of re-starting when you realize none of your scenes match up.

For our scene, Lincoln and Monroe are running around the campground, being kids. It’s a simple action that we can take in any direction, depending how we want our scene to go.

A quick note: all sounds must be capitalized in your scene. It’s a screenwriting rule.

Monroe PANTS as she runs behind her brother, her red curls bounce with each step. Lincoln glances over his shoulder, notices Monroe as she struggles to keep up. With a smirk, he abruptly stops. Monroe sticks her hands out as she bounces off his back, lands on the ground with a THUD. Lincoln LAUGHS as he looks down at her, sprawled on the ground.

4. Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most exciting and important steps in screenwriting. You need to give your character’s personality. When you write dialogue, center your character’s name (capitalized) and write the dialogue underneath of it.

Genuine dialogue is essential in screenwriting (unless it’s a silent film). Audiences have nothing to go off, other than your character’s actions and dialogue. You’re painting an image with your scene.

LINCOLN
You’re such a baby
MONROE
No, I’m not. I’m 7 now.
LINCOLN
Close enough.
Screenwriting is an art. A well-written scene will catch people's attention.
Screenwriting is an art. A well-written scene will catch people’s attention.
Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay

5. Transition into a New Scene

Last, you need to transition to your next scene. You should know which direction you’re headed while screenwriting. You always want your scene transitions to be smooth. Let your character’s actions or dialogue transition the scene for you. It’s effective and simple.

For our scene, we want our mischievous siblings to build suspense, bringing excitement to the next scene. We want to build our scene into that foreshadowing ending quickly, not giving too much about our characters away. Screenwriting moves fast. A typical scene is between 4-6 pages. A typical screenplay is between 90-120 pages.

Remember to keep your story moving through exciting scenes and show-stopping characters. Screenwriting is an art that requires time and patience.


Let’s put our First Scene Together

EXT. LAKE CHARLTON CAMPGROUND – EVENING

LINCOLN, 13, weaves between tents as he pulls MONROE, 7, behind him. It’s clear they’re siblings from their identical red hair and pale complexion.

Monroe PANTS as she runs behind her brother, her red curls bounce with each step. Lincoln glances over his shoulder, notices Monroe as she struggles to keep up. With a smirk, he abruptly stops. Monroe sticks her hands out as she bounces off his back, lands on the ground with a THUD. Lincoln LAUGHS as he looks down at her, sprawled on the ground.

LINCOLN
You’re such a baby

MONROE
No, I’m not. I’m 7 now.

LINCOLN
Close enough.

Lincoln bends down, picks her up. He kicks branches out of their way as they venture deeper into the busy campground. Monroe lets out a YAWN, rests her head on his chest. Lincoln looks down at her, shakes his head.

LINCOLN
Don’t fall asleep yet. You’ll want to see this, trust me.

MONROE
Can’t we see it tomorrow?

LINCOLN
No. It’s now or never, Monroe.

Lincoln carries them further into the campground, to a large tent with a red glow. Monroe turns her attention from her brother to the tent. Lincoln notices her stare and lets a wicked smirk fill his face.