Screenwriting: How To Write the Scene Heading

Screenwriting

When writing your own screenplay, it is important to learn how to write the scene heading. Scene headings are a necessity to your screenplay because they help guide the reader to help him/her understand where the setting of the story has moved to.  Once you learn to effectively write a Scene Heading, you can continue on your way to writing that masterpiece that you have been dying to finally put on paper.

Scene Headings

A scene heading, which you may also hear be called its slang term, "slug line," has 3 very distinctive parts. First you have the Interior vs. Exterior. This will determine whether the scene takes place inside or outside of the location. The correct formatting for the Interior vs Exterior is to just put "Int." or "Ext." with only one space after the period. If the scene is going from changes from Exterior to Interior or vice versa, then a special "Int/Ext." or "Ext/Int." can be used.

The next part of the scene heading is the location. The location tells the audience where the scene is taking place. An example would be "John's Apartment." This comes right after the "Int." or "Ext." and is followed by a single space and a dash.

The last part of the scene heading is the Time of Day. The correct formatting for time of day is to just put "day" or "night." This comes right after the location. A time modifier can be used to make the time of day a little more specific by putting words in parenthesis right after the "day" or "night" such as (dusk) or (dawn). The word (later) can be used as a time modifier if the scene has changed but all the scene heading would remain the same if not for this modifier. This differentiates between the two scenes, allowing the reader to know that time has passed and they are two separate scenes.

Some examples of correctly written scene headings would look like:

Int. John's Bedroom - Day

Int/Ext. John's Bedroom - Day (Dusk)

Special Scene Headings:

If you are using a scene that involves different time periods, the correct formatting would look something like this:

ex) Int. Office Building (Spring 1986) - Day

If the scene involves traveling in a car or another type of vehicle, the word "traveling" can be used after a dash and space to indicate that the car is moving.

ex) Int. John's Car - Day - Traveling

Other advice for writing correct scene headings is to be consistent.  If you write "John's Apartment" for a location, keep writing it as "John's Apartment" and not just "Apartment" later in the screenplay. Also, the correct formatting is to triple space before each scene heading.  

Now that you know how to correctly write a scene heading, you can begin writing you're script and have it looking as professional as the big writer's scripts.