Explainer Videos

4 Tips for When You Start Writing an Explainer Script

Claude Harrington 12.09.2015

No matter the style or subject matter, every explainer video begins with a script. This is your blueprint for all the steps ahead. And because there are so many steps ahead (design, storyboard, animation, etc.) it’s easy to forget about all the steps that come before writing a script. So that’s what we’ll cover today: tips for that early stage of the scriptwriting process.

1. Research, Research, Research: Before you ever put pen to page (or, in this day and age, finger to keyboard), you must quickly become an expert about whatever you’ll be writing about. And becoming an expert is about more than just collecting facts. It means understanding whoever or whatever you’re writing, and processing how that fits into the larger narrative. Because remember: you’re not trying to sell a product or service, you’re trying to tell a story. So to understand the full landscape of your story, you should spend as much time as possible reviewing internally-produced materials (i.e. website, product packaging) and externally-produced materials (i.e. reviews and reports). As you do this, try to note down the following:

  • Things that seem interesting and memorable
  • Things that seem compelling and persuasive
  • Things that seem confusing

2. Why > What After doing your research, think about different people in your life and how you would explain what you’ve just learned. How would you relay this information to your mother? What about your daughter? Or what about a stranger on the street? By visualizing difference audience members, what you’ll notice is that some of the information will appear in every telling. This is therefore something that in some form ought to be in your final script. You’ll also notice that how you begin explain will vary by individual; not only with tone, but with entry point as well. The important thing here is not so much the entry points themselves, but rather the value of asking yourself why this is the case. During the pre-writing phase, whys are always more important than whats because they inform your approach, structure and, ultimately, your message.

3. The Message: Although “the message” of your video is really several smaller messages, it’s important to start by asking: if someone were to watch this video and only remember one thing, what is the one thing I’d want them to remember? Once you’ve figured out that, then backdrop and start crafting the smaller message points that will help hammer home the larger point. Build out from there; from larger message points down the smaller; using the information that you’ve noted as ammo and evidence for the points you are trying to make. But wait! What if you’re having trouble with determining what those larger message points should be?

4. Think about Similes and Metaphors: It may sound silly, but one trick I like to use is figuring out how I would explain whatever I’m writing about to a small child. It’s a good way to get the mental juices flowing and think about messaging in their simplest terms. How can I relate this to something more familiar? How can I most simply paint the problem that this will solve? If my solution were a superhero, what powers would it have? Like I said above: I know this sounds silly, and yeah sure, writing isn’t child’s play…but sometimes it can help.

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