Action is also called "business" or "description." It's what we see on the screen or stage. It describes, in the most visual way it can, what happens.


What to say about Action? Here's a sample:

Mark walks down the hall. He looks in the 
bedroom and, seeing nothing, scratches his 
head. He continues down the hall with a
curious expression on his face.

Notice that the above action doesn't read like this:

Mark walks down the hall. He thinks there 
might be something in the bedroom, so he 
looks in. He wonders why he doesn't see
anything and scratches his head. "Hmmm," 
he thinks and then continues down the hall.

The difference? The first one shows it, the second one tells it. We can't see a character thinking. But we know that characters who are thinking will behave in a certain way. Describe the behavior, not the intangible mental process.

In Action, you have more room to make your writing creative than you do in other elements, but I recommend you use your creativity to tell the story well, not to show off your vocabulary or cool prose technique. You want the reader to be impressed with and immersed in the story, not hung up on you. Trust me, if you keep an agent engrossed in your story for 120 pages, she'll be infinitely more impressed with you than if your Action reads like Hemingway.

Use your action paragraphs wisely. Depending on the effect you're trying to create, you can either put each separate action in its own paragraph or lump a bunch of action into one. For example, the following shows the effects of separate paragraphs:

The Alien stalks the surviving crew 
members, slowly gaining on their position.
Commander Walker, checks his scanner for 
life signs.

Notice how that builds the tension and keeps the images separate in your mind. Next let's see the effect of putting many actions in one paragraph:

The ball flies high into center. Miller 
chases it, sliding on the wet grass. 
Halloway runs from left toward the ball, too.
Fans reach over the center field wall, 
fighting for position to catch the dropping 
ball. Miller dives. Halloway leaps. The fans

You'll have to see the movie to find out what happens next. But do you see the different kind of tension that putting all those actions together creates? So, use Action to create the effects you want to create in the mind of the reader.

One other thing. Avoid passive verbs and conjugations of "to be" (is, isn't, am, are, etc.). Also, avoid prepositional phrases when a good adjective or adverb will do. These two things bore the reader and usually take up more room than their more interesting, active replacements. Which sentence reads better to you:

Banner paces in his cell, running his 
fingers through his mohawk hair.


Banner is pacing in his cell and is running 
his fingers through his hair which is in a 
mohawk style.

Boy,. I sure hope you liked the first one better. It's more powerful, more active, more direct, more visual...just what a script should be.


Simple. Use the same margins as your Scene Headings: 1.5" from the left and 1" from the right. Action is mixed case and single spaced.

There is one blank line before each Action paragraph (sometimes, there will be zero blank lines, when you need to use Short Lines).

Sometimes, in Action, you'll want to capitalize certain words... we'll talk about that in the Emphasis chapter. There are also occasions for using specific abbreviations.

With Scriptware

When you start Scriptware, the cursor is flashing in an empty Action element. Just type.

After that, pressing <Enter> takes you to a new Action element if the cursor is flashing at the end of another Action element, a Scene Heading, Dialogue, Acts, Scene Numbers (for TV), and Transitions... the most logical places (of course, with Scriptware, you can, if you like, change things around so that pressing <Enter> after a Transition takes you to a Scene Heading, for example).