Last week, Amazon released a new, free, cloud-based screenwriting application called Amazon Storywriter.
The software is available for anyone with an Amazon account. They also have a great chrome extension you can download here.
Although I’m not a screenwriter, I love trying new types of writing and wanted to share the details about how to write a screenplay using Amazon Storywriter with you.
Screenwriting, also referred to as scriptwriting, is the craft of writing scripts. Screenwriters write scripts for movies, television, or sometimes video games. The basic script is composed of different elements that help guide the directors, actors, and cameramen.
Amazon’s Storywriter allows the writer to use nine different elements to craft their script: scene heading, action, character, dialogue, parenthetical, transition, act start, act end, and note.
Here’s a script we wrote up with examples of the elements and how they’re used. (You can also download it as a PDF here.)
Download the sample screenplay here that we created using Amazon Storywriter.
The Nine Elements of a Screenplay
Scene Heading: This is a short description of the location and time of day in the scene. Example: INT. JOE’S OFFICE — DUSK, this would mean the setting would take place inside Joe’s office right after sunset.
Action: This describes the images we see on the screen and the setting before any dialogue. This is also where sounds will be noted (like the tapping keys of a typewriter) and sometimes camera direction. (Also, this is where the director yells, “ACTION!”)
Character: This simply states the characters name in the center of the page and is followed by dialogue by the character
Dialogue: This is where you put the text that the characters are saying. No need for quotation marks.
Parenthetical: After some research, I’ve found that parentheticals can be used with discretion. Most often parentheticals are used to describe dialogue and speech but not action.
Transition: This is an important tool in your script to switch scenes, show the passing of time, and change gears in your script. Examples of transitions are: fade out, dissolve out, crossfade to, and cut to.
Act Start: This is the beginning of the act. In Storywriter, this element will underline and center the text.
Act End: This is the end of the act. In Storywriter, this element will underline and center the text.
Note: This element can be found in various places in your screenplay. Use it to leave a note about camera angles, sounds, or other suggestions.
How To Use Amazon Storywriter
Amazon’s Storywriter has an easy to use sidebar that allows the writer to choose whichever element they want to work with. The great thing about Storywriter is that it automatically formats your script in the proper, formal way most studios want to see and read scripts in. Formatting is normally a pain, but Storywriter has got us covered.
Using Storywriter is simple. Click on the element you want to use and write. When you want to change elements, you simply switch by clicking which element you want next.
How to Submit Your Script to Amazon Studios
Submitting your script to Amazon Studios is as simple as going to the Storywriter dashboard and clicking the three dots on the script you want to submit and choosing, “Submit to Amazon Studios”.
Does Amazon want to hear your story, idea, and script even if you’re not a professional? Amazon answers, “Yes. Amazon Studios has an open-door submission policy, which means we’re looking for great stories from writers and filmmakers of all experience levels. If you have a bold, original story to tell, we’d love to take a look.”
I’m not a screenwriter, so I researched some tips to help you get started writing great screenplays and scripts.
Start with your favorite movie.
Is there a movie you love? If you’re new to writing scripts, it’s good to check out some successful movie scripts to get a better idea of how they are written. Try Internet Movie Script Database to look some up.
Keep your dialogue interesting.
Especially in the beginning, you want to make sure your first scene is engaging. A “How are you?” “I’m fine. How are you?” conversation is not going to cut it.
Be super clear.
It’s really important to have clean, purposeful actions, transitions, and act endings. This requires finding the perfect times for these transitions. Don’t take your audience there before they’re not ready, but don’t drag on too long.
Have a goal.
It’s said that each scene should have a goal. The goal is what will carry and captivate the audience throughout your script. A movie or TV show without a goal will lose the audience’s attention quickly.
Have you done any screenwriting? What tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below!
Here’s a prompt (or you can make up your own): Your main character is late on delivery of something incredibly important (e.g. a briefcase filled with cash, flowers for a love interest, a fake screenplay). What does he or she do?
When your time is up, copy and paste your practice into the comments below. Leave some encouragement and tips for your fellow writers!