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Writing Plays/Screenwriting/When are sensory words written in all caps?

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Question
Hi Barry. I have seen differing examples of sensory words   written in all caps in screenplays. Should sensory words such as smell, feel, hear, be capitalized?  Also, Should what we hear, smell, or feel be capitalized?  (for example)
 We HEAR the SOUND of a crackling fire.  (or)
 We HEAR the SOUND of a door CREAKING.
Would these examples be correct?  Thank you very much,  Dave

Answer
Hi Dave,

What you're seeing is likely to be a version of the Production Script. What you are certainly writing is a Reading Script. If you want to gain favor with a reader, avoid unnecessary capitalization.

Every capitalization in your examples is unnecessary.

Here's more from my book HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT WRITING MADE EASY. [NB Formatting is forced out of place by the AllExperts rendering].

7.    PRODUCTION SCRIPT
     Definition
     Production script
     A screenplay formatted with scene numbers, camera directions, and capitalized words
     intended for the film production unit.

Example of formatting that might appear in a production script (formatting may vary from the
example given depending on the preference of the production unit). Note the scene numbers on the right and left.

(I have adjusted this sample in order to show the scene numbers.)

47    INT./EXT. LASZLO'S LEXUS, MOVING – DAY          47
      LASZLO takes a LETTER from his pocket and hands it
      to NICOLE. A SIREN blares behind them and LASZLO
      pulls over to the curb, as the FLASHING LIGHTS pass.

This issue is a particular "bęte noire" of mine.

A bit of background: The production script is prepared for the production staff and crew, and it highlights in capitals the elements important to the various areas of production.

If you're just a reader, it's immensely distracting to plough through such a version. For example, you'll see things like…

Joe crosses the street, hears a SIREN.

Someone has capitalized "SIREN" to alert the sound department that they have to record the sound and pass it on to the editor.

Okay, that's the protocol of a production script, which you, as a writer, should put completely out of your mind.

The protocol of a reading script is that you use all-caps when you first introduce a character. After that, in the action element, capitalize only the first letter of the character's name.

If you're using a standard formatting program like Final Draft, it will automatically capitalize other necessary elements like…

SCENE HEADING
SHOT
TRANSITION (CUT TO: DISSOLVE TO:, etc.)
CHARACTER NAME

Don't capitalize unnecessarily when writing narrative description. Don't try to show off your knowledge of production. It will make you look like an amateur.

I hope this clarifies the issue for you.

Writing Plays/Screenwriting

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Barry Pearson

Expertise

I`m a credited writer on nine feature films. My latest movie, IRON ROAD, which stars Peter O'Toole and Sam Neill, opened as feature, then aired as a four-hour miniseries on network television. Sun Li, the Chinese star, won the best actress award at the Roma Fiction Fest recently. www.ironroadthemovie.com) I’ve produced more than 300 episodes of television drama, including 13 episodes of Deepwater Black, and 106 episodes of Katts & Dog (Rin-Tin-Tin, K-9 Cop in the U.S.). I've answered over 1200 All Experts questions!

Experience

I've been in the business of writing and producing feature films, television series, and MOW's for over 20 years. You can check me out at this URL http://www.createyourscreenplay.com/aboutbp.htm

Publications
You can find my books on Amazon. See DON'T LET ANYONE STEAL YOUR STORY (http://tinyurl.com/StoryStealers)which is a stripped-down readable summary of copyright, full of entertaining anecdotes and real-life examples. Read about the true horror stories that clearly show you what you need to do to avoid the misfortune of having your literary material stolen. Find out: * How to take simple inexpensive steps to protect yourself, before, during, and after you write your literary work. * How copyright law applies to writers of literary works. * How literary works enter public domain, and how you can use it to your advantage. * What aspects of literary works are protected by copyright, and what aspects are not protected. * How to create documentation that will prove your copyright entitlement in the event of an infringement on your rights. * How you can protect yourself if you are contracted to write for television. You’ll also get a FREE sample of an Option and Purchase Agreement, a contract used in the acquisition of rights in a literary property—a contract that you and your lawyer can customize for your property. Written by a writer, for writers, Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Story will help you protect yourself against plagiarists and anyone else who might infringe your right of sole ownership. ------------- Also on Amazon, my book of four short stories, THE TWENTY-BUSHEL RACER. A man’s redemption from bitterness enables him to become a loving father. A teenager discovers the importance of his attachment to the people in his life and the place where he is growing up. A man, who has for years considered himself a coward and a betrayer of his comrades, musters the courage to stand up against a pair of would-be assassins. Two young men, who grew up in the same town, meet unexpectedly, reminisce about a girl they both loved when they were boys, and unveil a truth that changes both their lives.

Education/Credentials
Master of Arts degree (Drama)

Awards and Honors
Among my awards are Best Screenplay, Best Picture, at the International Film & Television Festival of New York for THE LIFE AND TIMES OF EDWIN ALONZO BOYD, Best Screenplay, Feature Film, at the 12th International Film Festival in Sitges, Spain for PLAGUE, and a Special Jury Award, Feature Film at the San Francisco International Film Festival for PLAGUE.

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