How to write a short script: What to do and what to avoid

Writing in pad of paper.jpg

Wyn Mason, senior lecturer in film and scriptwriting, tells us the dos and don’ts of writing short scripts.


  • Stick to one main character. Keep supporting characters down to an absolute minimum and give this main character a goal of some kind (a conscious and an unconscious one)
  • Keep locations down to an absolute minimum
  • Structure your story around one key event, eg, the set up, the event, the aftermath OR the predicament, the conflict, the resolution.  And be clear in your own mind why you want to tell this story
  • As far as possible, aim for your story to unfold in continuous time and avoid major time jumps, eg, 'five years later'
  • Aim to give your main character an epiphany, a moment of realisation.  Above all, the main character should undergo some kind of change from beginning to end.



  • Don't try to cram in too much action into your story and don't over-complicate things.  Allow the action to fit the slot comfortably.  Too little action = boring; too much = melodramatic and superficial
  • Don't tell, show - an image is worth a thousand words
  • Don't write on-the-nose dialogue, aim to write subtext, ie, characters saying one thing, but meaning another
  • Don't focus solely on the plot - aim to give equal attention to character (revelation and development) and theme (focus on one main theme)
  • Don't write Jack-in-the-box endings, ie, endings that have no connection with what's happened previously.  Endings should be both unexpected and inevitable at the same time.