An Introduction to Writing for Electronic Media

An Introduction to Writing for Electronic Media Musburger-FM.indd i 12/30/06 1:40:10 AM Musburger-FM.indd ii 12/30/06 1:40:10 AM An Introductio...
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An Introduction to Writing for Electronic Media

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An Introduction to Writing for Electronic Media Scriptwriting Essentials Across the Genres

Robert B. Musburger


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Acquisitions Editor: Elinor Actipis Publishing Services Manager: George Morrison Project Manager: Paul Gottehrer Assistant Editor: Doug Shults Marketing Manager: Christine Degon Veroulis Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier 30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USA Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK Copyright © 2007, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Permissions may be sought directly from Elsevier’s Science & Technology Rights Department in Oxford, UK: phone: (+44) 1865 843830, fax: (+44) 1865 853333, E-mail: [email protected] You may also complete your request on-line via the Elsevier homepage (, by selecting “Support & Contact” then “Copyright and Permission” and then “Obtaining Permissions.” Recognizing the importance of preserving what has been written, Elsevier prints its books on acid-free paper whenever possible. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Musburger, Robert B. An introduction to writing for electronic media : scriptwriting essentials across the genres/Robert B. Musburger. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-240-80852-5 1. Mass media–Authorship. I. Title. P96.A86M87 2007 808’.066302–dc22 2006102959 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN 13: 978-0-24-080852-9 ISBN 10: 0-24-080852-5 For information on all Focal Press publications visit our Web site at 09 08 9 10 11 -5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America

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To Pat — friend, companion, lover, wife, and editor. For so many years of happy work, play, and living life to its maximum.

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Preface Acknowledgments 1


xiii xv

Getting Started: Loading the Application and Sharpening the Pencil Introduction Background Script Variations Media Differences Basic Writing Skills Language of Discrimination The Law and Censorship The Audience and Distribution Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

1 1 1 11 11 13 25 27 30 32 32 32 33

Media Production for Writers Introduction Writer’s Relationship with Production What Is Production? Why Production for Writers? The Language of Production Video Production Techniques Audio Production Techniques Digital and Web Production Techniques Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

35 35 36 37 38 39 45 48 49 50 50 51 51 vii

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Spots: Public Service Announcements, Program Promotions, and Commercials Introduction Background Public Service Announcements Promotional Announcements Commercial Announcements Audience Analysis Ethics The Law Writing Spot Copy Copywriting Copy Formatting Instructions for Dual-Column Format Using Microsoft Word Instructions for Single-Column Format Using Microsoft Word Production Values Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources News Introduction The Fourth Estate Print Newswriting Basics Electronic Newswriting Basics Newswriting Guidelines Interviewing Know Your Stylebook—Objectivity and Fairness Radio Newswriting Television Newswriting Internet Newswriting Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

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53 53 54 56 57 58 60 64 66 74 77 81 82 85 89 90 91 91 92 93 93 94 94 98 99 105 106 108 117 130 134 136 136 137

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Documentaries 139 Introduction 139 Background 140 Types of Documentaries 143 Script and Production Patterns 144 Sponsored Documentaries, Biographies, and Docudramas 146 Docudramas 147 Documentary Preproduction Process 148 Documentary Formats 149 Writing a Documentary 151 Summary 153 Be Sure To... 153 Exercises 154 Additional Sources 154


Informational Productions Introduction Background Writing Corporate Media Scripts Writing Educational Media Scripts Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

157 157 158 161 175 176 177 177 178


Animation Introduction Background The Production Process The Writing Process Writing Techniques Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

181 181 182 184 187 194 199 200 200 201


Games Introduction Background

203 203 204

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Types of Games Writing Game Scripts Script Formats Developing Plot and Action Lines Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

206 208 212 213 215 216 216 216

Drama Introduction Background Stages of Scriptwriting Dramatic Script Formats Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

219 219 220 223 240 248 249 249 249

10 The Internet Introduction Background Types of Internet Messages E-Mail World Wide Web Types of Web Sites E-Commerce Streaming Media Audio Streaming Video Streaming Writing for the Internet E-Mail, Chat Lines, and Instant Messaging Newsgroups and Blogs Interactive Producing Interactive Writing Electronic Commerce Internet Problems Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources

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11 Future Introduction The Search Networking Internship Resume Cover Letter Portfolio Interviewing Freelancing Representation Summary Be Sure To... Exercises Additional Sources Appendix A Appendix B Appeddix C Glossary Index


279 279 280 281 283 284 289 290 293 296 297 298 300 300 301 303 305 308 313 329


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Regardless of the technical level of a media production, analog or digital, electronic or motion picture, at an early point in time, the basic concept and plan for a production must be recorded in some form on a readable medium. The writer is responsible for that form by laying the groundwork, designing the blueprint, and providing the means for the production crew and staff to convert an idea to a completed production. This text has been written as an introduction to the methods of creating scripts for eight different genres of media productions: spots, news, documentaries, informational, animation, games, dramatic, and Internet productions. It is not intended to provide the means for a first-time writer to reach the level of writing of an AcademyAward winning production, but it offers the opportunity to sample the eight genres and their various differences and similarities. This sampling intends to lead the reader to an understanding of the process of media writing and the realization of the importance of the relationships between the writer and the production crew and staff. The text offers brief explanations on the actual production processes to better help the writer accept the changes to his or her script that must occur during production and postproduction activities. To help the writer reach an awareness of how both script formats and script writing for electronic media productions reached their present state, the background of each genre of media writing places the present writing routine in perspective. The reader of this text is offered basic grammar, sentence structure, and page formatting used in script writing to develop the basic skills of presenting professionally prepared scripts.


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Since this is an introductory text, a final chapter offers suggestions on pursuing a career in media writing, preparing for interviews, and writing resumes. The author hopes this text will lead the readers to further explore a career in writing by expanding their educational options and continuing to write. The only way anyone can reach a professional level of writing is to write, write, and keep on writing. R. Musburger Seattle, WA

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An author would have a difficult time completing any manuscript without some assistance. As a teacher and practitioner, my assistance has come from hundreds of students and co-workers, some for positive results, some for negative. I cannot recognize everyone, but a few that come to mind among students have been Gregory Gutenko, Charley and Nancy Welborn, Karen Foss, Joe Tankersly, David Garfield, Sarah Fife, and Dominic Sachse. A special thanks to Michael Carr and Dep-Wah Davis for their assistance with this text. Professionals include the Wormington twins and Murray Nolte from WDAF-TV days. Help from faculty came from Sam Scott, Gaylord Marr, Elizabeth Czech-Beckerman, Tom Hoffer, Norm Medoff, Jennings Bryant, Ray Fielding, and Ted Stanton. Larrie Gale warrants special thanks for his assistance on this text. My relationship stretches for over 15 years with editors from Focal Press, during that time I have had the pleasure of working with Philip Sutherland, Mary Lee, and Lily Roberts. For Amy Jollymore, Doug Shults, and Elinor Actipis who guided me to the final paragraph of this book.

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