How to Write a Video Script That Keeps Viewers Watching

How to Write a Video Script That Keeps Viewers Watching
Masooma Memon

Written by:
Masooma Memon

Sep 07, 2021

Just as writing a book needs a detailed outline, creating an engaging video needs a solid video script.

Why? Because it’s what lays out the skeletal framework of your video — covering everything from what to add to it, what objective it’ll serve, how the scenes will build and so on.

Without it, you’re likely going to end up retracing your steps. To add to that, you’ll find it uber-challenging to achieve the targets set up in your marketing plan.

The question then is: how do you create a winning video script?

Let’s answer that in this soup-to-nuts guide on video scripting.

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What is a Video Script?

For a formal definition: a video script is a chronological rundown of all the scenes, dialogue and audio and visual cues in a video.

In many ways, you can call it an advanced outline — one that’s highly detailed; packed with information on how scenes unfold, when animation comes into play, when the contact info slides onto the screen and more.


Why Write a Video Script?

A video script defines your video’s structure, layout and story — giving you a sequenced breakdown of everything that will play out.

You need it to:

  • Visualize how the video you’re going to create will look like.
  • Decide on the story you’ll tell to communicate your message.
  • Get the entire production team (including stakeholders) on the same wavelength.

Not only that but taking the time to put preliminary work into creating a video script helps you save time on production. Why? Because with a script ready, you’ve a focused track to pursue.

You’re less likely to change direction smack in the middle of production because you’re clear on the core message and story you want to create.

Put simply, you need a video script for focused, therefore, effective video production.

Additionally, it’s important to note here that you need a script for all types of videos you work on — whether they’re social media videos, company culture videos or any other.

The same is also true for how you create videos — as part of a huge production team or on your own using a video maker like Visme.


Elements of a Video Script

With the perks of scripting out of the way, let’s look at what you need to add to your video outline.

Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download
  • Scene/set description. Describe the background setup. For instance, where to shoot (outdoor, office setting, for example) or whether you need a green screen backdrop.
  • Dialogue and narration. This includes what character(s) say alongside specifications for voiceover.
  • Stage directions. These are instructions on characters, setting and action around scenes in the script.
  • Camera cues. Share notes on when the cameras should switch including when they should zoom in/out, who to focus on and similar details.
  • Callouts for B-roll. Specify requirements for any secondary content such as screenshots, animated graphics and sound effects to name a few.
  • Post-production notes. This includes a text file (.SRT file) for captions to add for when the video is ready.


How to Write a Video Script in 6 Steps

Now, for the meaty part.

Writing a video script is not difficult as long as you follow an organized process with room for flexibility. Remember — it's okay to not get it right the first time. The key is to revise until you get it right.

Here are six simple steps to writing a video script the right way.


Step #1: Start with a brief.

A video brief helps keep you on track — serving as a steadfast reminder of who you’re creating the video for and what its objective is.

By referencing it throughout video production, you can ensure you’re making a video that meets its objectives.

The best part? Your brief doesn’t need to be a hefty document.

It could be as simple as a piece of paper or shared Google doc that answers the following questions:

  • What is the video’s objective?
  • Who is the audience of your video?
  • Where will the video go live?
  • What’s the one takeaway you want viewers to leave with?
  • What action step do you want viewers to take after watching the video?

Having the answers to these questions helps you lay the video’s blueprint and decide how long the video should be.

For example, a video created for brand awareness is always going to be different from one that aims to drive conversions in terms of content, length and overall theme.

Similarly, a YouTube video is planned (and, more importantly, timed) differently than a Facebook one where bite-sized videos do well.

That said, knowing the takeaway and call to action (CTA) helps you make sure the content you plan is directed towards building the two.

Pro-tip: Focus on one CTA and one takeaway. This helps to ensure your message is focused and not all over the place, making your video memorable. 


Step #2: Identify the story you want to tell.

Now, begin building out your script by writing your key takeaway on top of the page.

This keeps it front and center, saving you from deviating or getting distracted by a shiny new idea.

Then, follow these steps:

1. Start brainstorming.

Take 15 minutes to come up and write down every idea that pops up in your head or teammates’ heads. You can use a mind map template like the one below to jot down your ideas:

Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Identify those that best meet your video objectives while resonating with your target audience. Then, roughly flesh out the handful of ideas you have. The aim? Finding out the winner at conveying your core message.

By the end of this brainstorming and idea exploring session, you should have one idea that you’re ready to go all in.


2. Determine your story or narrative arc.

This is how your story will flow. Use this three-part structure to guide yourself: the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution.

You can also swap these parts with the well-known PAS formula: share the problem, agitate or rub it a bit, and offer a solution.


3. Finalize your characters.

Depending on your story arc, you’ll need one, two or more characters — although we recommend sticking with 1-2 characters so you can better develop each character.

For some video types such as an explainer video, you might not need to go into character development.

For others, you might have a speaker showcasing your product features.

In cases like those, try to have one face in your videos to create a sense of familiarity.

It’s for this reason that Visme has Mike Ploger as its face for all video content.

Speaking of which, here’s Mike on how to boost creative thinking — something you’ll need as you cook up ideas for your next video.


4. Decide the emotions you want to tug at.

Do you want to elicit laughter? Or do you want to instill happy feelings? Depending on the story you’re going to tell, write down a couple of emotions that you want to evoke.


5. Polish your hook.

You don’t have to work on this now — you can pair it with the next step or the step after that. It all depends on how you prefer to work.

That said,  having a strong hook is pivotal for grabbing your viewers’ attention and encouraging them to continue watching.

So keep in mind: take the time to work on your hook.


Step #3: Brain dump a rough script draft.

The next step is writing your first draft.

Whether you’re new to video script writing or are revising writing scripts, learn this by rote: first drafts are always ugly.

And, if you want to create a masterpiece of a video script, you need this ugly first draft to get whatever is in your head on the paper.

To get started, leverage techniques like freewriting to get your first draft out.

By writing for a set period without pausing to correct something, you can beat the overwhelm of starting your first draft.

You’ll also be able to push past the need to perfect the rough draft from the get-go.

Pro-tip: Write your video script in your audience’s language. This way, your video will speak to your audience.


Step #4: Edit and format your draft.

It’s here that you need to rewrite, heavily edit or polish the draft you wrote in the earlier step.

The amount of work required depends on how close-to-good your first draft was.

Whatever the case may be, remember to edit the following:

  • Remove fluff words, jargon and repetitive words/sentences.
  • Shorten sentences and replace difficult words with simpler ones.
  • Make your script conversational. Revisit your draft with the aim of studying how much your copy sounds like a human.
Pro-tip: Remove sentences that don’t contribute anything. Put another way, each sentence needs to earn its keep. It should bring value, encouraging viewers to continue watching one sentence, one scene at a time.

Below are a few more things to take care of at this point:

Edit for the platform the video will go live on.

For instance, if you’re creating a demo video, your script needs to be thorough.

However, if you’re creating a script for an SEO-optimized YouTube video, you’ll want to stick with a friendly tone.

Add visual and audio elements.

Remember: a video script doesn’t focus on dialogue alone.

Instead, it covers everything from pointers explaining when the background music comes to a stop and when a chart pops up or the wardrobe changes.

In fact, you’ll want to specify instructions on the character’s body language and their tone as well as the change in set and stage actions.

Include B-roll content details in your script.

For example, if the screen transitions from showing a person speaking to an animated graphic of your tool, you’ll need to write that in the script.

Technically, this is known as B-roll content. It shows up when a person speaks in the video and the screen features what they’re talking about.

This way, when the producers look at your video script, they’ll know exactly what it is that you’ve in mind.

Time your video and script.

This is to make sure your script doesn’t run longer than the footage and vice versa.

For this, keep the following in mind: one minute of the video includes around 160-220 words without pauses.

Format the script.

Formatting video scripts is an essential step for delivering easy to read and understand scripts. The reason? It ensures audio, visual cues, dialogue and other notes don’t get mixed up.


Step #5: Read, revise and repeat.

Before you hand off the script for production (or start working on it yourself), read it.

And, nope, we aren’t suggesting you simply proofread it and consider the work done. Instead, read to correct the flow and then dip into a group reading session.

Start by reading the script out loud. This will help you catch stiff sentences or sentences that read awkwardly.

Next, host a table reading. This is when you ask the actors of the video to read the script. Doing so will help you understand how the dialogues will flow when the characters play them out.

Plus, it’s a great way to get instant feedback.


Step #6: Check the final version against the brief.

Now for the final step: review the script against the brief you created in step 1.

This means you revisit both and check how well the video script meets the parameters set by the brief.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the video meet its objective?
  • Does it resonate with your audience?
  • Is it compelling and short enough to hold viewers’ attention?
  • Is it likely to encourage viewers to take the action step (CTA)?


Create a Video Script That Keeps Your Audience Hooked

Writing a video brief may seem like a lot of work initially.

However, by following the steps we’ve shared today, you can speed through the process while creating a top-notch script for an audience-winning video.

If you're looking for more resources on making engaging videos before taking the big step, check out some of our recent blog posts and guides to soak up some knowledge:

Want to get ahead of your game? Sign up for Visme and start creating videos yourself.

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    About the Author

    Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed, actionable blog posts for SaaS and marketing brands who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.

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