A discussion: Script style vs. Paragraphs

Ok, I’ve been seeing this for a long time around here, and I’ve finally gotten the time, the energy (13 hour naps rule), and the get-go to actually start some decent talk about this.

For the longest time, I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer actual stories around here, granted that I only read a few them since fanfics aren’t exactly my thing, but I’ve seen more and more and more stories without actual paragraphs - but just dialogue. And this bothers me a bit, because that isn’t a story, that’s a screenplay. Nobody here is making a movie, so why so much screenplay?

Stories are traditionally told in a paragraph form, where actions, descriptions, dialogue, and anything else you want is all rolled into one large block of text.

Movies are traditionally put together with the script first - a written screenplay, with the characters name and what the character says put next together, and an action put in italics between parentheses (like this). It is then up to the director to decide how to do it on the actual screen. Like I said, nobody here is making a movie, to my knowledge anyway, so why do so many people prefer writing this way?

I perfer a paragraph format for a number of reasons. It’s easier on the readers eyes, instead of so much blank space, you’ve got a nice constant, although often times overwhelming, stream of text. The author is able to be much more open as well - you’ve got more room to describe and create than in a screenplay because traditionally in a screenplay you’re only supposed to put in the basics of what the character is doing. In a paragraph, you can fully explain what is happening, giving the author more leway with what’s going on. It can also be much less confusing for the reader, because without explaining everything fully, which is what I see most often with most script style writing, can often times leave the reader in the dark.

The only real ‘pro’ to writing a script is that it is easier on the writer. However, the downsides to writing a script and writing a paragraph are far too great for any script, at least to me, to be taken seriously as a piece of literature. Not to mention you can’t write scripts forever, and those of you who want to do something more with your writing will need to grow up a bit and step up to paragraphs.

So I pose this question to you, the writers. Which do you use, and why?

When I write prose fiction (which is rare, since my principle vocation is lyric poetry), I use regular parapgraphs because that is the proper format. Unless I were writing drama (which I have never done), I never use the script style to which you have made reference.

I am in agreement in Sorcerer’s complaint. If scripts are to be preferred by some, they should be reserved for drama. Furthermore, I should hope to see a paragraph or two describing the scene as well as descriptions of character action between dialogue. If the playwright is using an Elizabethan stage (i.e. no background), then character dialogue must provide a strong sense of setting, as is found in Shakespeare’s plays. I also insist that drama be divided up, as good drama is, into acts and scenes.

How about a hybrid style, with paragraphs for action and StarCraft-style dialogue lines?

I’m more into paragraphs on both instances, writing and reading. Yes, easier to read and you get a much better picture with clear description instead of a constant jabber from the characters.

Say there’s a short meeting between two characters. Script style can end it in five lines. Paragraphs could easily reach two if we have a dedicated writer in question.

Of course, you can write comedy much better with script style, but anything serious and action-filled, you’re not gonna get much out of it: A silly example.

“Cloud and friends are relaxing in Costa Del Sol”:
Cid: Passh me a beer, dear! hic
Tifa: Bitchslaps Cid
Cloud: LOL!
Sephiroth: Rushes in Prepare to die, SOLDIER wannabe!
Cloud: OMFG! IT SEPHIROTH! Does omnislash!!
Sephiroth: OUCH! It hurts and stings! dies
Tifa: Yay you’re my hero!
Everyone gets high on beer

See? Now that’s almost impossible to duplicate in paragraph style, but then again, who wants stuff like that anyway? (Okay, I went a bit extreme on that one, heh… ^_^;)

Now, if we had anything serious, it’d fall flat on his face mainly because it could go like this:

Sephiroth: rushes in
Cloud: frowns
Tifa: frowns
Cid: is stoned up in the corner

Yes, another silly and to the extreme example which may or may not prove anything, but I’ve seen this stuff too. Maybe not here, but still!

So, you wanna write conversations, do it in scripting style, but hey, don’t expect to get anything world class out of it. You can play it as a movie in the way you want in your head, but remember, the readers will have their own point of view on your story.

How is that near impossible to duplicate in paragraph form?

“Cloud and co. are enjoying a relaxing day in Costa del Sol. The sun is hot, the air is dry, the buildings glow of a sandy brown. “Pash me another beer deaar!” groans a drunken Cid. Tifa, insulted, strikes Cid with a slap. Cloud, enjoying the slap-stick comedy, eyes Sephiroth barging into the room; “Prepare to die SOLDIER wannabe!”.“OMFG! Its Sephiroth!” Unsheathing is massive weapon, Cloud charges Sephiroth and performs his Omnislash. “Ouch! It hurts and stings!” And such, Sephiroth is once again disposed of. “Yay! You’re my hero!” Tifa whispers seductivly.”


I mentioned it before, but script in my eyes is usually just dialogue. In paragraph form, it’s much easier to convey characters’ thoughts to readers, the emotions of the people, the atmosphere of the scene, and the action of the story. In script form, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to do so.

I was thinking more of something like this:

In the End of Time, Arche was talking to Marle…

“I just HATE perverts! They’re a bunch of idiots!”

Marle’s eyes caught fire as she heard that word.

“I hate them too! Bunch of idiots!”

Then Klarth and Edgar showed up and started acting like jerks, trying to hit on them.

“Well, helloooo there!”

He started drooling like an idiot, while Edgar tried a cheap pickup line on them.

“How about a game of Twister, ladies?”

Arche and Marle were so mad they decided to call Crono and Chester.

“Crono! Could you come here for a second?”

“Chester! Get over here!”

And the two jumped in and gave the perverts a massive beating. The girls started jumping and cheering.


“Give them hell!”

Manus, that was horrible. I’m hoping that was supposed to be a mock-story.

And I prefer Paragraph style, it’s easier to fit in details and scenery stuff.

Of course it was just a mock story, to serve as an example, without much detail. When writing something, I make things much more complete and detailed.

I can’t stand dialogue stories, and never read them. Not to be personal, but when people make stories like that, it makes them look as though they haven’t got the imagination to create the look and feeling of the scene and put it onto paper, but only the parts with some actual action.

I don’t care, really. Even script writting can be good if done well. And as a highly-trained script writer, I can say that it’s harder than it looks to churn one of those out, while also keeping it good enough to read.

And unfortunately Urkani, I accidently took that statement personally.

It depends on what you’re writing. If someone had come up to me and said that I should have done “Call Me a Treasure Hunter” in paragraph form, I would have shook my head in amazement.

—> :noway: Like that.

Some people are comfortable in script, some in prose. I do both (at least, when I am writing ::doh:: ), and I don’t have a problem doing it either way. I will say that I prefer reading prose to script format, though.

I wouldn’t use script format myself, but it can be pulled off well. In the archives here there’re Tales from a Parallel Universe by Kaiser and Gallo’s humor stuff for example. But overall, paragraph form is the best. Sadly there are a lot of people that seem to be stuck in script format out there, though I see none right here now.

I made this out of irritation; I see Script form as a quick way out. I can imagine it can be as difficult as putting something in paragraph form.

The entire format just doesn’t appeal to me, it’s a strain on my eyes.

After reading one or two of the script-style stories, all I can imagine is the characters standing in a little room reading off a script. Nothin doin.

Don’t take anything here said personally, it’s all just personal opinions. If you don’t like it, oh well, move on.

Originally posted by Manus Dei
[b]I was thinking more of something like this:

In the End of Time, Arche was talking to Marle…

“I just HATE perverts! They’re a bunch of idiots!”

Marle’s eyes caught fire as she heard that word.


This example would be fine if it were made into a scene in a play. The descriptions between the dialogue would just need to be converted into stage directions:

Scene: The End of Time. (Describe the scene). Arche and Marle are discovered standing near each other in conversation. (Describe Arche and Marle physically to your readers if they have not appeared previously. Also state where they are standing in the End of Time).

“I just HATE perverts! They’re a bunch of idiots!”

(Marle puts on a disgusted and furious countenance.)

If you do make your story into a play, then I also recommend dividing it up into acts and scenes. The number of acts and scenes is your choice, but I do not advise exceeding five acts.

Actually, I just write the action as in the normal model. The only difference is merely that I write the dialogues in StarCraft style, which is useful when there is a certain number of characters speaking one after another. However, this is NOT intended to be a play.

Originally posted by Manus Dei
The only difference is merely that I write the dialogues in StarCraft style, which is useful when there is a certain number of characters speaking one after another.

I dare say that paragraph form can accomplish that just as easily, but you may write your story however it pleases you.

I also advise you not trust a video game to have good style. Video game dialogue is suited to a strong visual element, whereas a story is usually not.

I DEFINATELY think paragraphform is suppierior…it’s justeasier to read.

I like paragraph form ; script doesn’t do anything for me.I’m an avid reader and I like to know everything that is going on, mood, setting, atmosphere, era, and every constant action, along with dialogue (if any, at the time).Script is just well…what Sorc said, for movies, and such and don’t allow much broadening in terms of creativity.I have a big imagination so it’s nice to picture what you’re reading, you’re making the story your own when you read it ;if it’s in script format, basically that’s an entirely different thing, you’re not telling a story, you’re allowing someone to act OUT that story and take everything into their own hands, by visual arts.
From the script stories I have read, (and they are meant to be stories) a lot of it just seems like laziness, on the author’s part, or the inability to put their thoughts into words.I don’t read anything script, and usually frown upon it, if it IS just line after line of dialogue and a few words here and there telling the reader what is going on.It’s very empty, and usually only talentless people write this way.Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure a lot of people write script out there (and I’m sure many in here do too) and are damned good at it, but from what <i>I</i> have read in the past, everything I’ve just said pretty much describes what I have read.I have yet to read a good script format story, and hopefully in the future I can get proved wrong.

So, should I adjust my entire project’s dialogue format? Weiila, if you happen to see this, I’d like to hear your opinion as well.