The Art of Writing Screenplay Inserts – A Comprehensive Guide

The Art of Writing Screenplay Inserts

Insert shots are a fundamental tool in screenwriting, enabling writers to highlight specific elements within a scene. This guide is dedicated to helping you understand and effectively use inserts in your screenplay.

Understanding Inserts in Screenwriting

An insert is a technique where the writer momentarily cuts away from the main action to focus on a specific detail, such as an object, a photo, a sign, or even a quick flashback. It’s used to draw the audience’s attention to something significant that might otherwise be overlooked.

How to Write an Insert in a Screenplay

The standard format for an insert involves writing “INSERT – ” in caps, followed by the object or detail being focused on, and then describing what we see.

A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Scenes in a Screenplay

Examples of Screenplay Inserts

Example 1: Using an Insert for a Crucial Clue

Alice searches through the cluttered room, her flashlight beam dancing across the walls. She stops, focusing on something.

A faded photograph on the floor shows a young boy, smiling. The name “Danny” is scribbled on the back.

Alice’s eyes widen in recognition. She quickly pockets the photograph.

Example 2: Insert to Highlight a Character’s Emotion

Mark stands alone, watching the waves crash. He pulls something out of his pocket.

He holds a wedding ring tightly in his hand, the engraving “Forever and always” visible.

With a deep sigh, Mark slips the ring back into his pocket and walks away, leaving footprints in the sand.

When to Use Inserts

  • Revealing Key Information: Use inserts for moments that reveal crucial plot points or character decisions.
  • Enhancing Storytelling: If the insert adds value to the story or helps in understanding the scene better, it’s a good candidate for an insert.

When Not to Use Inserts

  • Avoid Overuse: Excessive use of inserts can disrupt the flow of the narrative and annoy the reader.
  • Unnecessary Detailing: If the detail can be incorporated smoothly into the action lines without an insert, opt for that approach.


Inserts, when used judiciously, can be a powerful storytelling device in screenwriting. They should be employed to enhance the narrative and should always serve a clear purpose within the story.

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