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Question : In my screenplay, the main character occasionally suffers quick flashes, like visions. I have been unable to assert if I am formatting these correctly. Please also note the single and double line spaces, where I have tagged my 'QUICK FLASH' and 'BACK TO SCENE's as Scene Headings in my software (Amazon Storywriter). Am I doing everything correctly?

My current sample :

Bob slowly averts his eyes towards the trees.


QUICK FLASH

Hands bend a thick rope into a loop.


BACK TO SCENE

Eyes down again. Grimaces. Finds the courage to return his gaze.


QUICK FLASH

A noose sways in the breeze. Heavy off-beat BREATHING.


BACK TO SCENE

Head down. Winces.
  • To update my own question one week on, I believe that there is no right or wrong answer, and my suggestion is potentially OK. An alternative I am also tempted to go with is to replace QUICK FLASH with BOB'S VISION. – Andy A Apr 20 '19 at 21:54
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I think you're correct in that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, what matters is that someone reading it is able to follow it easily. The way I would perhaps treat them is to treat the visions as separate scenes with a parentheses indicating their status as visions as can be done for dream sequences. I'm not too fond of the 'back to scene' tag as I don't feel it really tells the reader anything. So for example I might try something like the below for what you have:

EXT. HOMESTEAD - DAY

Bob slowly averts his eyes toward the trees.

EXT. RANCH - AFTERNOON (VISION SEQ)

Hands bend a thick rope into a loop.

EXT. HOMESTEAD - DAY

Eyes down again....

Seems like it might be more flexible for moving scenes around.

If these visions are occurring a lot throughout the scene and form a continuous scene on their own then you could also use an intercut: introduce the scene headings at the beginning and then have a heading saying INTERCUT BETWEEN...etc.

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If you are cutting back and before between two scenes, you can use "INTERCUT"

http://www.screenwriting.info/15.php

EXT. HILLSIDE - DAY
Bob slowly averts his eyes towards the trees.

EXT. GALLOWS - NIGHT
EXECUTIONER, whose face is unseen, prepares the gallows for a hanging.

INTERCUT BETWEEN HILLSIDE AND GALLOWS

Bob drops his eyes down again.

The executioner's hands bend a thick rope into a loop.

Bob grimaces.

A noose sways in the breeze. Heavy off-beat BREATHING.

Bob puts his head down. Winces.

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  • Thanks for you response, Chris. My entire scene has just 2 flashes at the end, not throughout. Do you believe intercut is still apt for that? Also, bare in mind that what he is seeing is not actually happening in the trees, it's a vision he is seeing in his mind, do you think your suggestion represents that? – Andy A Apr 24 '19 at 21:49
  • A vision is still a scene, from a filmmaking point of view. With that said, I'm not sure there's a "one right answer" here. It may be that your original version is the one that reads the best and is most clear. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Apr 25 '19 at 13:23
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You could also consider avoiding setting up a flashback as such. The idea is to use elements of your present scene to show the few relevant details of the flashback.

For instance: in a scene I had water from a fountain morphing to a past scene, with quick flashes seen through the character's eyes which I labeled 'Recall'.

My goal was to avoid the setting/location change. This works the audience was previously shown the occurrence of the events, during which the character had been standing at a window in full view but without showing any reaction.

The character's reaction at the end of the recall shows the audience what he has seen. In my scene this served to tell the audience, and the character, that he had indeed witnessed the face of his wife's killer, a fact that was previously not shown. I further confirm this by making him utter, 'I've seen you, Lin was right. I loved you but you took my family from me.' This is how he realizes there wasn't an accidental fire but arson and the arsonist wasn't among the fatalities but alive.

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  • Welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. Unfortunately this is not an answer to the question. Answers posts are solely for answers and this is a formatting question. This answer will be removed. – linksassin Jul 15 '19 at 1:03
  • Hi, I edited your answer. Feel free to revert if I have inadvertently changed the meaning of it. Also, if you could add the formatting of a Recall that you use in the screenplay, I think this may be an interesting frame challenge alternative. – NofP Jul 15 '19 at 14:58
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I don't think there is a right or wrong way of doing it, so long as what you are doing is clear, concise, and consistent throughout the rest of your script. I also get caught up over specific ways to format things until realizing that there are specific rules to screenwriting, everything else are just guidelines used to help you set it up in your own way.

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