How to Write a Dream Sequence in a Screenplay

Dream sequences and daydreams are powerful tools in a screenwriter’s arsenal. They allow you to delve into the inner thoughts and subconscious of your characters, revealing their fears, desires, and fantasies.

Whether your character is lost in a reverie during a boring lecture or experiencing a vivid dream at night, knowing how to craft these sequences effectively can elevate your screenplay. In this comprehensive guide, we will teach you the ins and outs of writing dreams in a screenplay, complete with examples for you to follow.

Formatting a Dream Sequence in a Screenplay

So, how do you go about formatting a dream sequence in a screenplay? The key is to make it clear to the reader that they are entering a dream world. Here are two commonly used methods:

Method 1: Caps Lock with Scene Heading

Begin the dream sequence with the word “DREAM SEQUENCE” in all capital letters, followed by a hyphen, and then the INT/EXT (Interior/Exterior) designation along with the rest of the scene heading.

Dream Sequence 1

INT. DARK FOREST – NIGHT

Amelia moves through the eerie woods, surrounded by ghostly whispers.

DREAM SEQUENCE

EXT. BEACH – SUNSET

She finds herself on a tranquil beach, waves gently kissing the shore.

EXT. BEACH – SUNSET (DREAM SEQUENCE)

INT. AMELIA’S BEDROOM – MORNING

Amelia awakens, her heart still racing.

Dream Sequence 2

EXT. ABANDONED FACTORY – NIGHT

A desolate factory looms in the moonlight as Jane navigates the shadows.

DREAM SEQUENCE BEGINS:

INT. LUXURIOUS BALLROOM – EVENING

Suddenly, she’s transported to an extravagant ballroom filled with elegant dancers.

DREAM SEQUENCE ENDS.

EXT. ABANDONED FACTORY – NIGHT

Jane blinks, finding herself back in the eerie factory.

Method 2: Parenthetical within Scene Heading

Alternatively, you can include the term “(DREAM SEQUENCE)” within the scene heading itself to indicate that the following scene is a dream.

The Tone in Screenwriting: From Words to Emotions

Rules for Writing Dreams in Scripts

Writing dreams in scripts can be a powerful storytelling device, but it’s essential to follow some guidelines to ensure clarity and readability:

  1. Clearly Mark the Beginning and End: Always mark the start and end of a dream sequence or daydream using the CAPS formatting mentioned in the examples above.
  2. Use a New Scene Heading: When transitioning from a dream sequence or daydream back to reality, start a new scene heading to remind the reader of the change in location or context.
  3. Keep Dreams Concise: Avoid making dream sequences overly long. Convey the essential elements of the dream to the reader and then transition back to the narrative.

These rules generally apply, unless your screenplay’s premise revolves around dreams, as seen in films like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” In such cases, the distinction between reality and the dream world may intentionally remain blurred to keep the audience engaged.

Conclusion

Dream sequences and daydreams are potent storytelling tools that can add depth to your screenplay and provide insight into your characters’ inner worlds. By following the formatting guidelines and rules outlined in this guide, you can effectively incorporate dreams into your script and captivate your audience.

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