5 key ingredients of an engaging script

Video Production
17 Aug. 2020

Here are the key ingredients on how to create engaging content that can help to make your writing more effective.

Oscar winning screenplay writer Aaron Sorkin, in his Masterclass module, emphasizes on two essential ingredients in a script: 1] Intention and 2] Obstacle.

Without a loud and clear intention and a formidable obstacle, there is no drama, Sorkin says. But isn’t that really about movie making in Hollywood? Well any video production is as much about movie making as it is about advertising. What applies in a good screenplay for a Hollywood movie also applies for a great advertising video script. The key is story telling. And that comes with an engaging script. What makes for an engaging script?

# 1 A good plot

When you are about to produce videos that’s going to sell something specific, your script needs a clear direction. An engaging video script has a clearly laid-out plot. This means it has an intention- say to solve a problem or to attempt a challenge – and an obstacle – something that prevents the problem solving. A formidable obstacle is important to put the point across – that this solution only is the most feasible. For instance, while trying to create engaging content for a detergent, you need to think of formidable obstacles or challenges that a person faces while washing clothes. These obstacles have to be close to reality. For instance, if your challenge is that your hands become dry after using the detergent, it may not come out so strongly for those who use fully automatic washing machines or use the Laundromats for washing clothes. It has to be stronger such as – white clothes don’t look as clean as colour clothes with detergents in general or detergents lead to shrinking of clothes. Then when your detergent solves any of these obstacles, your plot is more convincing.

# 2 Visuals that speak to the viewers

Even before you think of the script or video content production, determine that one person who you are going to speak with. This one person is your ideal viewer who is looking for a video or solution like this. Remember that when you write for one ideal audience, it works for most of your targeted ones. You cannot address too many demographics at the same time. Who’s your average audience? Once you know this, your script should contain dialogues and visuals that speak to that person. Make your script brief but descriptive – the video director should be able to see what you are showing. Write it in the third person and the present tense. Simple visual descriptions help create character or background sketches. Consider these two examples –

Example 1 –A middle-aged woman is standing in the kitchen washing dishes in the sink. Everything is dirty.

Example 2 –A 45-something woman is seen scratching the surface of a bowl with much effort. The kitchen sink is full of dishes while there’s a lot of water spread across the floor.

In the second example, you are truly able to speak to your audience because now the director is able to show what it means to toil over dishes every day. It’s seen and shown.

# 3 Only useful dialogues work

An engaging script has minimal dialogues – only those that will add to the narrative. This is best explained by this Pepsi Commercial that raises the question – Is Pepsi okay? The whole video plays with just this question and successfully concludes with its visuals – Pepsi is more than okay. Now the last line wasn’t said in the video but it is shown. This is the power of minimal dialogues in a video script. Dialogues must lead the audience to something bigger and more important.

# 4 Keep the stakes high to create engaging content

This may sound like the extension of Point 1 but it’s really not and is very important. Some of the high-performing video ads have the ability to keep the viewers at the edge of their seats. How do you achieve this in your video script? By keeping the stakes high, it’s like a magic trick – you build up suspense or curiosity and then you showcase. Your audience should drop everything else and should want to know what happens next.

When you have created a good intention and a formidable obstacle, the next thing is to ensure that there are enough stakes involved to hook the audience into both the intention as well as the obstacle. Throw more conflicts, challenges and increase the level of stakes with each turning point. This will make up for an extremely engaging script. One excellent example of this is the NFL commercial about 100 years of the game. The commercial opens on a formal note and then takes the audience to a huge white cake on top of which is kept the American Football. The moment the camera pans to the cake, the audience gets the feeling that something’s going to explode here or go wrong. The rest of the commercial creates several conflicts, with stakes (in this case a lot of tables) getting higher and higher.

# 5 Small sub-plots contributing to the main plot

Another important factor that leads to an engaging video script is the scope of sub-plots. These sub-plots are often the ones that truly add some humour into a serious story plot. Sometimes, they act as catalyst or other times they add to the chaos or the obstacles. However, what’s noteworthy is that all these sub-plots are created only to add to the main plot. Any scenery, small details or characters that are not part of the main story also need to add to the main plot. The reason why you need sub-plots in the first place is because these help to create engaging content having a lasting picture or message in the minds of the viewers. Like in the NFL commercial that we discussed above. There were several sub-plots – the story of the man who spoils the cake, the guy with several rings, the girl at the end – everyone contributes to the main plot that brings out the message about the madness that is NFL.

Your video script is the heart and soul of your video production process to create engaging content. Your video production agency should be able to produce a clear screenplay for the director to do his work really well.

Video Production
17 Aug. 2020
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