Time Is Everything In Your Screenplay

It’s script o’clock. again Your story, characters and dialogue are the nuts and bolts of your screenplay. The timing represents the grease in your screenwriting.

Let’s spend some time with this important structural screenplay element.


This relates to the setting of your story. Β Is it historical, contemporary or futuristic? This can bed demonstrated by the actual characters, production design and costumes.

Some high concept stories explore the idea of timelessness and don’t have any visual queues to define a precise time period. This includes movies set in outer space.

Not all screenplays are set in a single time period. They can toggle between parallel time periods such as historical and present day. This is often seen in epic films which cover a lengthy time period, such as a revolution, in the story scope.


This relates to the the series of events/ plot points in your film script that constitute the scope of your story. The timeline should depict the key structural points, namely the beginning, midpoint and conclusion. Having a well-defined timeline allows both screenwriters and script readers to identify where they are in the story.

Not all timelines must occur in the same time period.

Split/ alternating timelines where action between the same characters in two time periods such as childhood and adulthood demonstrates this. The story may toggle between the two as a stylistic device.

Gideonsway screenwriting tips: Screenwriter film


These are critical events or pivot points that affect the outcome of your screenplay. If the main character doesn’t achieve a particular time-dependent goal, they will either fail in achieving their overall story outcome, or be forced to purse an alternative course of action.


This relates to how two or more events intersect at any point in the screenplay timeline. The intersection point keeps your screenplay moving along on track within the screenplay and keeps your screenwriting tight and disciplined.

Timing is especially important in car chases and fight scenes where the actual plot events are just as important as how fast they unfold.


Pacing and rhythm are nuanced terms used interchangeably. There are slight differences between the two. Think of pacing as the back beat of your screenplay to hold time and rhythm as the the melodies which have variable timing.

The pacing refers to the speed of the overall screenplay. Is it fast, moderate or slow reading screenplay in terms of how much action unfolds?


Rhythm is a more subtle and intricate form of timing. It drills down to how fast a scene or sequence of scenes progresses in your story. Rhythm is especially important when screenwriters modulate the tension in a scene either by building or releasing.

You may also want to read another article in this blog on pacing your screenplay.

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