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I'm currently working on a script for a college project and there's one part of the script that sorta goes like this:

A character heard a scream from outside of the room they're in and decided to investigate.

It then transitions over to the next scene, showing the moments that lead up to the person outside the room screaming, that chronologically happens at the same time as the previous scene.

It then continues off to the next scene continuing where both left off.

How can I convey that "this scene takes place and ends at the same time as the previous scene" in the script?

  • Possible duplicate of writing.stackexchange.com/questions/43595. Some of the answers there might help you. Good luck! – Evil Sparrow-Reinstate Monica Jun 4 at 22:54
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    You mention script. Is this a script for something filmed? That would necessitate answers answers somewhat different to those you'd receive if the situation were in a short story/novel. For the latter, the question @EvilSparrow links to would be useful. For the former - there are additional tools at your disposal, and additional constraints. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Jun 4 at 23:08
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    Meanwhile in Russia... – NofP Jun 5 at 15:03
  • ahh, I swear I wrote screenplay instead of script. It's a screenplay for an animation project me and my team are working on. – WestbrookAD Jun 6 at 2:36
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From the fact that you say "script", I assume you mean a play or a movie and not a novel.

I'd avoid anything subtle. Some audience members will miss it and be confused.

If there's any sort of narrator, the narrator could say, "At the same time, Fred and George were in the cabin ..." and open the next scene. But most plays and movies don't have a narrator, and having one who only pops in to say this one thing would be odd.

The next most blatant and straightforward thing to do that I can think of would be to have someone reference the time. Like have scene 1 begin with a character saying, "Oh, it's 3:00, we'd better hurry." Then have the next scene begin with a character also saying that it's 3:00.

Or, have both scenes begin with some common action. Like scene 1 begins with Alice and Bob talking about whatever, say their jobs, then Alice walks off stage and the action continues with Bob. When you get to scene 2, you have exactly the same conversation between Alice and Bob, then we follow Alice and the action continues with her. (In a movie, easy enough to follow each character. If it's a stage play, for one or the other you need a scene change, but how to do that is another subject.) I think the audience would get the idea that this is the same conversation, so we're now going back to that moment in time.

Make sure any common action is obviously the same action. Like if you have a scene where the characters hear someone outside scream, and then the next scene begins with a different group of characters hearing someone scream, is it obvious to the audience that it's the same scream, and not two different occasions where someone screams? If in the first scene we learn that the person who screamed is Sally, and the scene ends with her being killed, and then the next scene starts with a scream and someone says, "Hey, that's Sally", the audience will presumably really that she's not screaming again after she's dead, so this must be simultaneous with the first scene. But if she's still alive after the first scene and there's no reason why she couldn't scream again, how would the audience know?

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There are as many ways to solve a writing problem as there are writers.

One of the cliches of the monochrome Westerns from the last mid-century is the "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..."

In this case, you have the scream to be a synchronizer. Two or more scenes, each established as being in a different place with different characters, can be snapped into parallel times when the reader experiences the unique event recurring.

It is better if you don't pull this on your reader on the first such instance of parallel scenes. If the scream is critical, you want the reader to notice the scream and the various reactions and actions taken by different sets of people, rather than to spend attention pondering if the scene changed, who is present and is this in parallel with the previous scene. Make the deal with the reader about the mechanics, then use the scream to trigger responses from your characters in different locations.

An exception would be if the scream opened the story. If so, you would need some very clear indicator that time was restarting. Maybe a clock tower ringing before the scream so readers could resync before the moment that matters, of the second scene, beginning with a clear time reset similar in function to "Meanwhile, back at the ranch".

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You have part of the solution I was going to suggest, Index Events; both scenes should present a couple of events in exactly the same way, so the scenes start with a scream, the same scream, this should be established in some way within each scene, and ends with the same event whatever that happens to be. This shows that the scenes are contemporaneous but for the sake of thoroughness I would also tell my audience "meanwhile, elsewhere, John..." because sometimes people just miss these things.

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So there are numerous ways to do this. You could have an onscreen time stamp with each scene (Young Justice, born out of the creators previous work, Gargoyles, having a series bible time stamp). You could start with the second scene, and play up until the scream is heard and then show a caption saying "24 hours early" and get the story up to the POV of the Screamer... I consider this lazy as most of these are easily converted to linear.

The TV show Archer frequently overlays dialog between scenes that fits both character's dialog perfectly, but may not be discussing the same events. Normally the first character in the second scene drops the appropriate final line of the last scene off screen, then the scene switches to that character, who continues the line of thought. Austin Powers used a similar joke where a rocket with a phallic shape is launched and is observed by various people on the ground, only to be cut off before the use a Euphamism for the male genitals, and the scene switches, starting with off with the euphamism used in an approriate context given the scene:

Husband: Honey, look up there points skyward What's that?

Wife: Why, it looks like a J-

Scene Switches to a man in high rise office

Boss: (yelling) Johnson! Get in here!

Johnson: Yes, sir, right away.

Boss: Do you have those reports I wanted.

Johnson: Yes, sir, they're all right... looks out the window What's that?

Boss: Quickly spins around and in shock My god. It's a giant W-

Scene switches to a boy stading on a Jetti waving out to sea

Boy: Willy! You're Free to live with the other whales! Teach them about Michael Jackson's songs for me, Willy! (and the gag repeats for many more times over the course of two films)

On "How I Met Your Mother", the story is framed as one of the characters, Ted, telling his teenage children the titular story (for eight years) as sort of a narrator. Frequently, the five characters of the core cast would be split up to do A-B story scenes and Ted would explain away the scenes he wasn't in as things that were told to him after the fact (Meanwhile, your Uncle Marshal was... insert summation of the situation) These were often parts of the show that allowed for a bit more the outrageous and probably exaggerated. In one instance, where Marshall was coaching a kindergarden Basketball team that was the worst in the league, Ted admits that "Marshal Swears that during the second quarter", and included the claim that the opposing team grew several feat (cue both teams running to one side of the court, Marshall making an anguished gesture, and his team running by a group of four grown men who would not look out of place in an NBA line up, all wearing appropriately sized uniforms of the former team) and one was Teen Wolf (Cue a guy in werewolf costume... also wearing the team uniform) following behind the group. It's not like this actually happened, but Ted wasn't there and Marshall will not back down from the exaggeration.

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Being a script, why not do a split stage scene? Only the left side of the stage is lit. Bob hears the scream, turns to investigate; and that side goes black. The right side lights up, lead up to scream, then full stage light as Bob arrives to investigate.

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