This is an annotated example of a complete, working, full-length story. Annotations are ABOVE what they refer to.
Title: Footsteps Genre: Horror, Thriller Blurb: After a late-night party, Grace comes home to a set of bloody footprints leading into her house. But whose are they? GRACE Josh, can you talk? I'm sorta wigging out here. JOSH What's up, beautiful? GRACE I just got home and the door's open. JOSH That's what's worrying you? An open door?
This is the culmination of my required 3-5 line hook. In five lines we know someone is "wigging out," that they have a boyfriend, that the boyfriend is sort of a jack ass, and that something horrible and mysterious has happened: bloody footprints. This is a fast, dense opening
GRACE Uh, no. It's more the BLOODY FOOTPRINTS LEADING INSIDE. JOSH wth? Bloody footprints? You sure? GRACE What do I do, Josh? What is this? JOSH I don't know. You been inside yet? GRACE No, I texted you as soon as I got here. GRACE I just wish I could remember last night better. JOSH Man, that was a crazy party, huh? GRACE I've never blacked out before. GRACE I'm so stupid. I should have been here! GRACE What if my mom or my brother got hurt?! JOSH Whoa, whoa, whoa. If they were, you're lucky you WEREN'T there. JOSH And look, if someone IS hurt, you've got to check it out. GRACE You mean like go in the house?!
This is a common problem - why the heck isn't someone calling the police?! There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but in this case, I felt like it was important to address it directly because I had a pretty good excuse that I think a reader might buy.
GRACE Shouldn't I call the police to do that? Or an ambulance? JOSH If someone's bleeding out, there's no time to wait! GRACE Okay, deep breath. I'm going in.
We're waiting to see what happened, so I'm putting in a pause to draw out the moment.
NARRATOR [#time] ... JOSH Well? What do you see? GRACE The footprints keep going into the living room. GRACE Oh my god. GRACE There's blood everywhere! JOSH Hold up. You sure it's blood? GRACE Yes, Josh! I am sure that it's blood. Jesus. JOSH Sorry, sorry. GRACE I just wish I knew whose it was. JOSH Maybe call out? See if anyone answers? JOSH Wait, don't! What if the burglar or whatever is still inside? GRACE You could have texted that BEFORE I just yelled "hello"! JOSH Crap. GRACE It's fine. No one answered. GRACE Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, though. GRACE You really think it might be a burglar? JOSH If there's as much blood in there as you say there is? JOSH I don't know, baby. I doubt someone cut their thumb. GRACE Well, thanks, Josh, I am now officially terrified. GRACE Can you come over here please? I can't do this alone. It's too scary. JOSH Can't. My mom has the car. GRACE Oh god, what do I do? JOSH Just keep going. Like you said, no one answered when you yelled. JOSH I don't think you're in any danger. GRACE Unless someone heard me, and is now hiding and being extra quiet.
Note that when "..." is spoken by a character, that's not the same as the special NARRATOR usage. Josh is typing "…". It's not an actual pause.
JOSH ... GRACE I guess I just have to keep going. GRACE You can do this, Grace. Deep breath. NARRATOR [#time] ... GRACE Oh my god. JOSH What? What is it? Did you find something? GRACE It's the footprints. They're lead into... my bedroom! JOSH What?! GRACE And the door is closed! JOSH Maybe whoever's hurt was looking for you? GRACE I don't think so, Josh. GRACE Two things. 1 - there's no way out of the house from my room. JOSH So? GRACE So 2 - the footprints only lead in. There are none leading out! GRACE That means whoever went in there is probably STILL IN THERE. JOSH That still doesn't mean anything bad, okay? JOSH They're probably just waiting in there for help! GRACE THEN WHY DID THEY TAKE THE TIME TO CLOSE THE DOOR?! JOSH You're asking me? GRACE Oh god, oh god, I am losing it over here! JOSH You're not going to want to hear this, but... GRACE I am standing in a pile of blood leading into my bedroom. GRACE You think I can't handle a text message?! JOSH You already made noise, right? GRACE Yeah... JOSH So if there IS someone bad in your house they already know you're there. GRACE Right... JOSH If this person wanted to hurt you, you're in trouble whether you go in or not. GRACE You think I'm in trouble?! JOSH I told you that you didn't want to hear it. JOSH What I'm saying, though, is that there's no reason NOT to open that door. JOSH Not at this point, anyway. GRACE Alright, I'm doing it. GRACE Deep breath. NARRATOR [#time] ... JOSH Well? Did you do it?
I defined what this image looks like in the header.
GRACE [& FootstepsCloset] The footprints lead to my closet! That door is also closed! JOSH You know what to do. GRACE I can't, Josh. This is too much. JOSH Come on, Grace! I believe in you! NARRATOR [#time] ... JOSH Grace? NARRATOR [#time] ... JOSH Grace?! Where are you???
Grace is freakin' out, so I'm going to ignore some normal conventions and put this next line in all caps without punctuation.
GRACE JESUS JOSH What? What happened?!
Things are a bit calmer, and Grace has returned to complete sentences with correct punctuation.
GRACE I opened the door and a huge shovel fell out. GRACE Scared the absolute crap out of me. GRACE There's blood all over the handle. Like, hand prints. GRACE Looks like there's nobody in the closet, but... JOSH But what? GRACE I found the shoes. JOSH Well?
People don't actually text like this, but in this sort of format, we sometimes need to text more like actual speech in order to drag out moments in an entertaining way. Use these techniques with caution, though. Go too far and you risk pulling your reader out of the story.
GRACE They're... GRACE They're mine. GRACE What is this? What did I do last night, Josh? JOSH Well... GRACE WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WELL? JOSH I didn't realize you left that trail. I was pretty drunk, too. JOSH And it was dark. I guess I didn't notice it last night. GRACE So you DO know! JOSH I really didn't want to tell you this, but... GRACE TELL ME! JOSH Last night, you came home early from that party. JOSH And you maybe sort of kind of... JOSH Caught me. JOSH And your best friend Lauren. JOSH Together. JOSH In your room. GRACE You cheated on me?! JOSH You went crazy! Got into this huge fight with Lauren, and... GRACE And what?! JOSH You killed her, Grace. JOSH You killed her and you buried her outside in the backyard. GRACE Oh my god. OH MY GOD. GRACE What have I done? What have I DONE? JOSH I know, I know. I'm sorry you had to find out this way. GRACE Wait. JOSH What is it? GRACE My shoes... GRACE The sides are all stretched out. JOSH Uh, you were drifting side to side pretty badly. Probably explains it. GRACE No I mean like REALLY stretched out. And the heel is flattened. JOSH Uh... GRACE I think I remember now... I remember now!! JOSH What? Uh, you're probably just in shock about Lauren. GRACE Lauren called me last night crying about how she was seeing you behind my back! GRACE She was here, in my bedroom. She sounded super scared. GRACE She said she'd just told you she was going to tell me about it... JOSH Uh... GRACE Your friend Dave at the party gave me that drink right before... GRACE Did you have him put something in it to make me black out?!? JOSH Baby, let's just meet in person to talk about this. GRACE I didn't kill Lauren. It was... IT WAS YOU!
When your script ends, it ends. No need to do anything special.