Write Your Way into Animation and Games: Create a Writing Career in Animation and Games

Write Your Way into Animation and Games: Create a Writing Career in Animation and Games

by Christy Marx

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Launch your career in writing for video games or animation with the best tips, tricks, and tutorials from the Focal press catalog--all at your fingertips. Let our award-winning writers and game developers show you how to generate ideas and create compelling storylines, concepts, and narratives for your next project.

Write Your Way Into Animation and Games provides invaluable information on getting into the game and animation industries. You will benefit from decades of insider experience about the fields of animation and games, with an emphasis on what you really need to know to start working as a writer.

Navigate the business aspects, gain unique skills, and develop the craft of writing specifically for aniamtion and games. Learn from the cream of the crop who have shared their knowledge and experience in these key Focal Press guides:

Digital Storytelling, Second Edition by Carolyn Handler Miller

Animation Writing and Development by Jean Ann Wright

Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games by Christy Marx

Story and Simulations for Serious Games by Nick Iuppa and Terry Borst

Writing for Multimedia and the Web, Third Edition by Timothy Garrand

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781136131493
Publisher: CRC Press
Publication date: 11/12/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 418
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, California. Christy Marx is a writer, story editor, series developer, game designer, and interactive writer. Her many credits include: Babylon 5 and the Twilight Zone; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; He-Man; X-Men Evolution; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Lord of the Rings; Elfquest; and more.

Read an Excerpt

Write Your Way Into Animation and Games

Create a Writing Career in Animation and Games
By Christy Marx

Focal Press

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-81344-8

Chapter One

Animation Terminology

Christy Marx

Most of the scriptwriting terms employed in animation scripts are the same as those employed in live-action scripts, with perhaps a few exceptions. Here are the terms you want to know before we move ahead to discuss script format.

They are followed by a further glossary of animation-related terms that will be useful to you.


The ACTION, or description, paragraph occurs immediately below the SLUGLINE and is just what you think it is—a line or paragraph that serves any number of functions: to describe a setting or location, to describe what actions the character in the shot is taking, to set mood or tone, to indicate sounds, to give certain specific camera-movement directions, or whatever else is required to convey what the reader needs to know about that shot or for establishing a scene.


A more generic way to call out an individual shot that indicates to the storyboard artist what to concentrate on for this shot, or simply who is in the shot.


Used to indicate that some part of the action, an object, a character is to be set in the background of the shot. Or you could just be describing something that's in the b.g.


This term, set inside parentheses, is used to indicate that you want the character to pause briefly between pieces of dialogue. It can convey hesitation, a moment of thought, a point of emphasis, or a moment of silence (where the character might be listening to someone on the other end of a phone conversation, but we don't hear the other side). (See other uses of the word "beat" under Other Animation Terms at the end of this chapter.)


Used in a SLUGLINE to indicate to the storyboard artist that in this shot you want the camera to be very close on a person or thing, as indicated. You should have a solid reason for using a close-up rather than calling for it at random. Good reasons include wanting to emphasize a reaction, to call special attention to an important object, or to make sure the camera is close enough to clearly convey a significant piece of action.


CONT'D is used in three ways:

1. At the bottom of a page on a shooting script, to indicate that the script continues.

2. When a long chunk of dialogue is broken up across two pages, to indicate there is more dialogue on the following page. In this usage, it's centered in the middle of the dialogue column at the bottom of the page where the dialogue breaks.

3. After a character's name and placed parentheses, to indicate the character is continuing a speech that was begun in another piece of dialogue, but was interrupted by a piece of action. Ellipses are used to further indicate that the dialogue is being broken up and continued.


This is a TRANSITION that is used to indicate that this scene is ended and we are cutting to an entirely different scene in a different location. Visually, it means that the image on the screen is instantly gone and instantly replaced by the next image, with no time lag in between the two images. CUT TO: is a general, all-purpose transition, though it's better to use a DISSOLVE TO: to convey a significant passage of time between scenes.

In a script, a transition is positioned along the right margin and is followed by a colon.


The DIALOGUE portion of a script consists of the character name and what the character says. There can be a parenthetical below the character name or within the body of the dialogue. There can be special instructions to the right of the character name, such as V.O., O.S., or CONT'D.

The reason for indenting and setting out the dialogue in this way is old and simple: to make it easy for actors to flip through a script and see what their lines are.

In animation, it also makes it easy to count the number of lines, as is sometimes required. NOTE: each individual "chunk" of dialogue is considered to be a "line" of dialogue. In the sample shown below, this would count as two lines of dialogue for Jack, one line of dialogue for Dick, one line of dialogue for Jane (even though all she has for a "line" is a burst of laughter), and one line for Jack's Dog—for a total of five lines. Jane's "line" and the Dog's whine still have to be recorded, and still take up time in the audio track, hence being counted as dialogue.


This is a TRANSITION that is used to indicate that this scene is ended and we are cutting to another scene with some amount of time passing between the two scenes. Visually, it indicates that the image on the screen will slowly dissolve, to be replaced by a new image. The time difference between the two scenes could be minutes, hours, days, years, past, or future. A DISSOLVE TO: is more about changing time than changing location. You might dissolve from Jack collapsing in bed in the morning to Jack waking up on the bed at night—same place, different time. It's a gradual transition on the screen rather than the instantaneous transition of a CUT TO:

On occasion, a writer might also use RAPID DISSOLVE TO: (just a faster-than-usual dissolve to indicate a very short passage of time).

In a script, a transition is positioned along the right margin and is followed by a colon.


This is a handy word to use to indicate that you want a piece of dialogue to occur while a certain piece of action takes place, without breaking away from the continuous movement of that shot or cutting it down into smaller shots. However, be careful not to use DURING: at times when you should break out those actions.


Just what it sounds like – going very, very close on someone or something in a shot. It can be used in a slugline or used in a shot.


A command used in the action paragraph when you want to have one or more characters enter or leave the shot after you've established it.


Used in a SLUGLINE or ACTION PARAGRAPH when you're establishing where a scene is taking place before jumping into the interior action. This works best when the location has already been seen, and only a quick establishing shot is needed to alert the audience that the action is going back to that place. It's like seeing a quick establishing shot of a spaceship before jumping to the bridge or some other room inside the spaceship. Or an exterior shot to establish a well-known city, such as Los Angeles or New York, before jumping to another shot that is then assumed to be somewhere in that city. An establishing shot is usually a wide or long shot.


EXT. is used at the beginning of a SLUGLINE to establish that this scene or shot is in an exterior location. Because you're establishing a scene, it's also vital to indicate whether it's DAY or NIGHT for the exterior location (with a couple of exceptions, such as space or the bottom of the ocean or someplace where day and night are irrelevant).


FADE IN: is used to start the script and start each act; FADE OUT is used to end each act and end the script. Most commonly, FADE IN: is on the left margin, FADE OUT is on the right margin. For whatever mysterious reason, FADE IN: is followed by a colon; FADE OUT isn't. FADE IN: should lead directly into the first SLUGLINE. Other information, such as TEASER or ACT ONE, comes before the FADE IN:. FADE OUT comes immediately after the final shot of that act or the script, followed by END OF TEASER, END OF ACT ONE, THE END, and so on.


One way to call out an individual shot in a script once the location or setting is established. This would be the start of a SLUGLINE, followed by the character, object, or whatever it is that you want the storyboard artist to emphasize in that shot. If there are a number of characters in the shot, FAVORING would most commonly be used to indicate that you want emphasis given to a particular character (or to more than one).


Used to indicate that some part of the action, an object, a character is to be set in the foreground of the shot.


INT. is used at the beginning of a SLUGLINE to establish that this scene is in an interior location or set. Generally, you don't need to worry about establishing whether it's a DAY or NIGHT location for interiors unless you haven't established that information previously (such as going from an exterior shot of the same location to an interior shot), and there's some reason that you need to (an airport control tower, for example, where it would be important to indicate what can be seen from the windows).


Another term that can be used when doing quick cuts back and forth between two ongoing lines of action, or a larger piece of action (such as a battle)—where there might be multiple fronts to deal with or multiple characters to follow, and where everything is happening more or less at the same time. Best used when it doesn't involve dialogue (see also QUICK CUT), but it can also be used when cutting back and forth between people engaged in a phone conversation.


This is a nice visual trick when called for, but don't overuse it. In a MATCH DISSOLVE TO: some element in the scene that is ending will match up to an opening element in the next scene. Obviously, there should be a good thematic or story reason to tie the two elements together.


This tells the storyboard artist that you want a camera movement that moves in closer to something on the screen. Use in the ACTION (description) paragraph rather than in a SLUGLINE.

(OC), (O.C.)

OFF CAMERA. Same as OFFSTAGE. See below.

(OS), (O.S.)

OFFSTAGE. It's used to the right of the character's name in dialogue to indicate that someone is speaking who is in the scene, but is not seen in that shot.


OVER THE SHOULDER. This tells the storyboard artist to draw the view of the scene as though the camera were seeing it over the shoulder of a particular character.


Refers to a horizontal camera movement—either from right to left, or from left to right. It's used in the action paragraph and is especially useful when establishing a new location where you want to show more of it or linger over it for a few seconds more than you would with a quick establishing shot.


A PARENTHETICAL is extra information about the character who is speaking or making a sound. It's placed inside parentheses below the character's name in the dialogue. Parentheticals have three basic uses:

1. Indicating a specific tone, emotion, or inflection for the voice actor. This is discouraged in live-action scripts, but voice actors often receive only their own lines, and record their lines without interacting with the other voice actors. Consequently, parentheticals are more commonly used in animation scripts to clue in the voice actors to a tone or emotion they might otherwise miss.

2. Indicating that the voice needs special filtering or modification in editing (as in a voice coming through a communications device).

3. Describing a sound you want the voice actor to make, especially in the case of a nonspeaking character or creature. Even if you want a character only to laugh or scream, you need to cover it as a piece of dialogue by using a parenthetical. You would also use the parenthetical to indicate a whisper or low voice (sotto voce).


POINT OF VIEW. In this type of shot, you're asking the storyboard artist to draw the scene from a specific character's point of view, to see the scene the way the character is seeing it.


As with MOVE IN, this tells the storyboard artist that you want a camera movement that pulls the camera farther away from the shot or from something in the shot. See also WIDEN.


This is a method of intercutting (cutting back and forth) between quickly paced shots that may or may not be in the same location, but are occurring more or less instantaneously or in very quick sequence. It's especially useful in an action sequence, such as a battle, where you've already established where the characters are and basically what's going on, but you need to jump around a lot. It saves having to use space-eating CUT TO: transitions where they aren't really needed.


SOUND EFFECTS. This method of specifically notating a sound effect using (SFX:) was more prevalent in animation scripts earlier than it is now. What has become common is to call attention to a specific sound by putting the sound in CAPS. Depending on the preferences of the story editor, some scripts will make the sound effects in bold, in capital letters, or will add carets around the sound: <CAPS>. Adding the carets helps draw attention to the sound.

The original intent of using (SFX:) was to make it easier for a sound editor to find the sounds he or she needed to know about. I've dropped the use of (SFX:) in favor of the other two methods. Here are examples of three ways to indicate sound effects:


It's hit by Jane's laser beam and <EXPLODES MASSIVELY>!


It's hit by Jane's laser beam and EXPLODES MASSIVELY!



As it is hit by Jane's laser beam and explodes!(SFX: massive metallic explosion)


A slugline is always typed in CAPS. The slugline immediately informs the reader that this is a new scene or a new shot. In animation, every individual shot needs to be set up with a slugline. A slugline should never be more than a few words, only the bare minimum necessary to establish who, what, or where. Anytime a script transitions to a different scene or location, the slugline needs to begin with an EXT. or INT. In some current scriptwriting software, SLUGLINE is instead called SCENE HEADING.


Latin for "low voice." Nowadays, many writers simply write "low voice" or "under his breath" instead. It means just what it says, that the character should speak in a low-volume voice as though not wanting to be overheard—which is different from speaking in a whisper. This falls into the category of being a parenthetical, which is voice direction for the actor.


This is used in the action paragraph when you want to have a shot that follows a particular character, vehicle, or object while in motion.


Transitions are a way of telling the reader and the editor—and ultimately, the viewer—that the story is shifting from one time or place to another. The three most common transitions are CUT TO:, DISSOLVE TO:, and WIPE TO:. A show can have specialized transitions. X-Men: Evolution had an X-WIPE TO:. Why? Just for fun, really. There are endless variations on transitions—such as DISSOLVE THRU TO: (as in moving through a wall to see what's inside), RIPPLE DISSOLVE: (in which a ripple effect is used), RAPID DISSOLVE TO: (just a faster-than-usual dissolve to indicate a very short passage of time), FLASH CUT TO:, INTERCUT TO:, and on occasion, I've seen a writer invent weird and meaningless transitions simply to mess with the artists' heads. I prefer to keep it simple. CUT, DISSOLVE, and WIPE work fine 99 percent of the time.

Over the years, I've seen a trend in animation scripts toward doing away with transitions almost completely. The main reason for this is to save the three lines that would be used for a transition so that those lines are available for the other parts of the script. In other words, it's a space-saving cheat. I don't recommend using this cheat for spec scripts or when first breaking in, but I also don't recommend going overboard with excessive transitions. Use them only when really needed for a major scene or location shift.


Excerpted from Write Your Way Into Animation and Games by Christy Marx Copyright © 2010 by Elsevier, Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Introduction to Animation Writing

1 Marx Writingfor Animation, Comics and Games: Animation terminology

2 Marx Writingfor Animation, Comics and Games: The Basics

3 Wright: Animation Writing and Development: Basic Animation Writing Structure

4 Wright: Animation Writing and Development: Developing Characters

5 Wright: Animation Writing and Development: Comedy and Gag Writing

6 Wright: Animation Writing and Development: The Animation Feature

7 Wright: Animation Writing and Development: The Pitch

8 Marx: Writingfor Animation, Comics and Games: Breaking and Entering

9 Wright: Animation Writing and Development: Agents, Networking and Finding Work

Marx Introduction: Introduction to Game Writing

10 Marx: Writingfor Animation, Comics and Games: Writing vs. Design

11 Miller: Digital Storytelling: Interactivity and its Effects

12 Miller: Digital Storytelling: Old Tools/New Tools

13 Garrand: Writing for Multimedia and the Web: Interactivity and the Writer

14 Miller Digital Storytelling: Creating a Work of Digital Storytelling

15 Marx: Writingfor Animation, Comics and Games: the Script Format

16 Garrand: Writing for Multimedia and the Web: Script and Proposal Formatting

17 GarrandWriting for Multimedia and the Web: Interactive Multimedia Narrative & Linear Narrative

18 Garrand: Writing for Multimedia and the Web: The Elements of Interactive Multimedia Narrative

19 Iuppa & Borst: Story and Simulations for Serious Games: Designing Simulation Stories from Tacit Knowledge

20 Iuppa & Borst: Story and Simulations for Serious Games: Simulation Stories and Free Play

21 Iuppa & Borst: Story and Simulations for Serious Games: Experience Management

22 Iuppa & Borst: Story and Simulations for Serious Games: Backstory and Free Play

23 Iuppa & Borst: Story and Simulations for Serious Games: Stories in State-of-the-Art Serious Games

24 Miller: Digital Storytelling: Working as a Digital Storyteller

25 Miller: Digital Storytelling: Creating Your Own Showcase

26 Marx: Writingfor Animation, Comics and Games: Breaking & Entering

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Write Your Way into Animation and Games: Create a Writing Career in Animation and Games 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
I am someone who really enjoys writing and have for a long time considered doing it a bit more &ldquo;professionally.&rdquo; As an outsider to the writing profession, I am not at all familiar with all the ways in which creative writing could lead to a career, or at least a fulfilling and enjoyable hobby. I picked up this book to see what animation and game writing is all about, and even thought I&rsquo;ll probably never do any of it for a living, this book still taught me many valuable lessons about these very exciting creative fields. This book contains a truly remarkable amount of useful and actionable information. About a third of it is dedicated to animation, with the rest covering video games. Material is aimed at the beginners in these fields, although many later concepts may require some prior experience with animation or game writing. The book is filled with thorough and detailed examples and case studies, and it gives a very good overview of what sorts of assignments and work are the game and animation writers expected to encounter. In my opinion, this is not exactly a book for absolute beginners, and some prior experience in writing, animation, or game design would be highly recommended. The book ends with a few excellent tips and suggestions for actually finding animation and writing jobs. The bad news is that there are no easy shortcuts and the straightforward entry points into these fields. One needs to be very dedicated and willing to take a lot of different assignments and routs before really making it as a writer. The book comes with a companion website, with a lot of additional material. It is overall a very comprehensive resource. Animation and game writing is definitely more art than science, but a book like this one can help avoid much of the aimless wanderings and learning by trial and error. It is very well written and exceptionally helpful. I highly recommend it.