Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

Slug Lines

My story place; Neahkahnie Mountain
Yesterday Jack Remick taught me a valuable lesson/skill/tool
that I’ll use as of today, right now and forevermore!
And that is…drum roll….
a Slug Line!!!                               
I know, I know! I thought those were only in the garden too. But alas, for novel writers, this practice – borrowed from screen writers – identifies key information about a scene, and typically includes an interior or exterior designation, a location, and a time of day. A slug line notifies the reader (and re-writer) of a change in scene or focal point.

I’ve researched (a little) and found that there are several formats, but this is the basic scene set-up(top of page): Although variations exist, there are three conventional aspects of a slug line, they are always in CAPITAL letters and they always happen in the same order:
INT./EXT. LOCATION – TIME First; is the scene is inside or outside? Use shorthand for interior or exterior: INT or EXT. Second; the location – don’t get too descriptive. (Be consistent. Joe’s garage can’t become Joe’s carport, later on). Then you put a dash, and the time of day, or usually simply DAY or NIGHT. If you’re scene set-up needs to be more specific then use words like DAWN, DUSK, or NOON, etc.


Examples:
EXT. JOE’S CABIN – CLOE’S ROOM – DAY
INT. JOE’S GARAGE – NIGHT
EXT. POOL GAZEBO – DUSK
INT. JENNY’S DEN – DAWN


When a scene involves both interior and exterior – like as a scene that takes place in and out of a house – the following layout can be used.
INT./EXT. JOE’S COTTAGE/BACK PORCH – DAY Whichever you put in front, either, “INT./EXT.” or “EXT./INT.” means that more of the scene takes place in that environment either interior INT or exterior EXT.
However, most agree that scene locations should be precise and vivid. In an example borrowed from Simply Scripts  – Lynne Pembroke
“INT. RESTAURANT”, is a poor slug line in that it’s neither specific enough, nor descriptive enough. Slug line locations such as, “INT. WANG CHOW’S CHINESE JOINT” or, “INT. BIG ED’S GREASY SPOON DINER”, being both descriptive and specific, are far more visual in the impact they have on the reader.”


There’s also an assortment of other categories of unique scenes or sequences that call for their own formatting guidelines. Of these, the most important to novelist are the FLASHBACK, and DREAM SEQUENCE.
In screenwriting slug lines are typically numbered (I’m working on that), which allows for effortless reference during filming. For me as a novelist, this will allow me to refer back and forth to my scenes with ease instead of searching my entire manuscript every time I need to find something. I’m beginning to feel organized within my own project. YEAH!!!!

To learn more about Slug lines and other screenwriting tools of the trade check out Simply Scripts  Or Michael Hauge’s Screenplay Mastery

Where to start; Print Michael Hauge’s Story Concept Template
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2 comments on “Slug Lines

  1. Jack
    February 19, 2011

    Full speed ahead, Mindy. Great summary of the use and purpose of the slug line. Little brother will be dancing with joy.

  2. Jack
    February 19, 2011

    Full speed ahead, Mindy. This is a great summary of the use and purpose of the slug line. I'm sure little brother is dancing with joy….

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