Rules for writing action descriptions

What are the basic rules for action descriptions in a script?

The basic rules for action descriptions are that they’re written in present, active tense (for example ‘trees sway’ rather than ‘trees are swaying’) and that they’re presented as small segments – no more than four lines per paragraph. 

The aim of action descriptions is to establish scenes; who is in them and what’s going on. It can be helpful to establish the scene before introducing characters. 

Here’s an example of an establishing scene:

Character names should be in capitals the first time they’re introduced. Here’s a simple example of a scene that establishes the environment and introduces characters:

We’ll go into more detail on how to write great action descriptions in future articles, but to start with these key points are the most important:

  • present, active tense
  • no more than four lines a paragraph (shorter the better)
  • character names in caps the first time they are introduced
  • establish the scene, who’s in it, and what’s happening

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