Oh, another application for screenwriters. Before you wonder about niche-dedicated applications, think about that day you had an epiphany that would be an awesome movie. One of those you would pay twice to watch, like you did with Avatar. Then you looked for an application to write a screenplay only to find out it would cost you more than what you’d expect it to sell for. So you opened your everyday word processor and began typing your story. As you’re finished, you sent to a few movie agents.
You never got a reply, even after your mother got high hopes that her child would become famous. That’s because writing a great story is not enough. The screenwriting business also requires your script to to follow a strict presentation style, which those expensive apps help achieving. Fountain changed the table, allowing regular Jacks to write screenplays in plain text. Slugline takes the game to the next level.
Dude, this is the next Pulp Fiction!
Before you start typing, hotshot, let’s recap on Fountain. It’s markdown for screenwriters, which allows you to write full screenplays in plain text and have them perfectly formatted in the end. Fountain was created by John August and Stu Maschwitz, the first got his team and built Highland, which we reviewed previously. Maschwitz, with Clinton Torres, now released Slugline.
Since Fountain allows you to write your screenplay anywhere but a napkin, technically, you can use Byword, iA Writer or even TextEdit. Problem is, none of these applications offer you the “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) treatment. Even Highland, which offers a very accessible preview, still doesn’t fall into that category and fits more as a conversion tool. Slugline, on the other hand, is here to offer an unobtrusive writing environment.
Int. Hollywood – Soon
As you open Slugline, besides the typical options, you can appeal to one of the ready-made templates. There you can find the beat sheet from the author of Save The Cat, Blake Snyder, which is a regular resource for writers trying to break into the Hollywood world. Picking one of these templates will lead you to an outlined page according to your selection.
But let’s start with no tricks on our sleeves. The blank page. The most terrifying vision a writer can stare. As most apps for writers you know, Slugline offers you the sheet, there’s a navigation in the bottom that displays the number of pages and quick access to the Preview.
“Hey, wasn’t this a WYSIWYG application? Why would you need a Preview mode?” As well-known minimal writing apps, Slugline formats the Fountain syntax. When you apply italic to a string of words, the style changes, yet the sentence is still wrapped by asterisks. Symbols that react as part of the syntax turn out only slightly colored, so it doesn’t disturb your reading pace.
Another reason is that writing is not pretty and until the draft is done, it is often cluttered with notes, revisions and post-its. Fountain also offers resources to create text that won’t be exported on the final draft. This often comes in the form of notes, but you can also exclude whole blocks of text using the Omit tool.
How does it make writing easier?
We can’t teach the screenwriting 101, but as long as you know a bit of Fountain, we can work this out together. Slugline will do the rest. One of the major issues on writing a screenplay in a plain-text editor is that characters, along with dialogue, aren’t aligned properly, which leads us to a stream of left-aligned text and a script doesn’t flow like that. Slugline puts every element of the screenplay in its right place, making it effortless to scroll through your writing.
One of the biggest advantages of choosing Slugline is outlining. You can nest your structure using number signs (#), just as you write in markdown for the headers. The more signs, deeper the item. You can also use synopsis, which are sentences preceded by an equal sign. Everything will be displayed aside your page and you can jump to any section using the list, including your notes.
Even being a straightforward syntax, Fountain has its tricks, like creating a title page, which in Slugline can be reached from the menus as most of the actions you may need when writing in Fountain with plenty of keyboard shortcuts. There are also a few extras, like sending your script directly to Highland or assigning specific settings for the document, like using Courier Prime as font family.
Time to rehearse the Oscar speech
There are a few improvements to make on Slugline, for example, I find the type size way a point too small compared to the applications I usually pick to write, but maybe that’s caused by the high-contrast combination of colors. As a rule of thumb, black on white is never a top pick. Add that to the light surroundings, which could be a darker gray. Overall, this emphasizes the issue of not having Preferences: you must be pretty confident of your product, like iA Writer, and Slugline doesn’t seem as well thought.
Beyond that, Slugline still doesn’t support dual-dialogue. Ok, that rarely comes in hand and amateurs are often recommended to avoid using those, but still, we like to learn from our mistakes. Then comes exporting, you can let Highland handle that if you own it, however, Slugline has no direct option for exporting, you gotta check the Print menu to use the Save as PDF option. I can live with that, but it is another step into friction.
As a writer, I’m very picky on my working environment and since Fountain is no stranger to me, I’d rather sacrifice the formatting to write somewhere I feel more comfortable with. Nevertheless, if you’re a newcomer to this world, Slugline is a great introduction to screenwriting, specially on how to format a screenplay. As Slugline makes clear, writing is the essential part of screenwriting.