Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

Are DAY and NIGHT the Only Descriptions You Can Use in a Slug Line?

Are DAY and NIGHT the Only Descriptions You Can Use in a Slug Line?

Any writer can tell you that traditional screenwriting is a unique form of writing. With its own rules, structure, standard format, and expectations, screenwriting can be hard to get the hang of initially. One feature unique to screenwriting is scene headings, otherwise known as slug lines. They announce the setting of a scene. Do scene headings have any other uses? Can a slug line be used for descriptions other than the standard DAY and NIGHT? Keep reading to learn all about slug lines!

Hold Your Place in Line!

Get early access to SoCreate Screenwriting Software. It’s FREE to sign up!

Scene Heading or Slug Line Definition

A scene heading is a short line of text in a screenplay that introduces a new setting in a scene. It includes three distinct parts within its master heading, including whether the location is inside or outside, where the scene takes place, and the time of day. This serves a couple of purposes: 1) to help the reader visualize the scene, and 2) to help someone reading a spec script get a better idea of budget based on the time of day and location of each scene. For example, it's much more expensive to shoot at night. 

Scene Heading / Slug Lines Example in Traditional Screenplay Format

This is how you format scene headings or sluglines in a movie or television script. 

Script Snippet - Slugline Example

INT. CARL'S HOUSE - DAY

Slug lines are all uppercase letters and best when left brief. They usually operate in one of two ways, as a master heading or as a subheading.

Master Heading in a Script

A master heading is the predominant job of the slug line. This type of heading starts the scene and alerts the reader to whether it's indoors (INT.) or outdoors (EXT.), the primary location, and the time of day. Be straightforward in your labeling of the location, don't offer up unnecessary details. As for the time of day, you can be as specific as is relevant to the story, so feel free to use day, night, dawn, dusk, morning, afternoon, etc.

Subheading in a Screenplay

Once the master heading is established, a writer might use a subheading or secondary scene heading to alert the reader to specific details with the master scene heading without creating a separate scene. This secondary heading might note a change in location within a larger single location.

When moving to a secondary location within a master location

You'll often see subheadings used when characters move to another room in a house. An example of this would be:

Script Snippet - Secondary Location Slugline Example

INT. CARL'S HOUSE - BEDROOM - DAY

Carl searches his messy room for something. He digs under a pile of clothes. He pulls out an empty coffee mug, victorious.

KITCHEN

Carl hurries into the kitchen, mug in hand, and makes a beeline for the coffeemaker. Just as he turns it on, the power goes out. Carl lets out a yell, stomping towards the basement door.

To convey the passage of time

A subheading can also show the passage of time from the previous scene if the master location remains the same. As seen here:

Script Snippet - Passage of Time Slugline Example

INT. CARL'S HOUSE - BEDROOM - DAY

Carl searches his messy room for something. He digs under a pile of clothes. He pulls out an empty coffee mug, victorious.

KITCHEN

Carl hurries into the kitchen, mug in hand, and makes a beeline for the coffeemaker. Just as he turns it on, the power goes out. Carl lets out a yell, stomping towards the basement door.

LATER

A disheveled Carl returns to the kitchen. He looks like he's been through some sort of battle. He goes to the coffee maker and presses the button. It starts brewing. His shoulders sag in relief.

To draw focus to a character

Subheadings can even signal a type of shot or draw focus to a specific character within a master scene. For example:

Script Snippet - Character Focus Slugline Example

INT. CARL'S HOUSE - BEDROOM - DAY

Carl searches his messy room for something. He digs under a pile of clothes. He pulls out an empty coffee mug, victorious.

KITCHEN

Carl hurries into the kitchen, mug in hand, and makes a beeline for the coffeemaker. Just as he turns it on, the power goes out. Carl lets out a yell, stomping towards the basement door.

LATER

A disheveled Carl returns to the kitchen. He looks like he's been through some sort of battle. He goes to the coffee maker and presses the button. It starts brewing. His shoulders sag in relief.

Just as the machine gurgles coffee into his mug- BANG!

A large golden retriever rushes in, knocking over a kitchen chair. Startled, Carl flails, knocking the mug to the ground.

ON CARL

His eyes widen in fear. He screams a silent slow-motion NO.

Note: regardless of what the subheading is doing, they should all receive the same formatting, written on their own line in all caps.

My example wasn't particularly artful, so to see master headings and subheadings in action, check out the pilot script for NBC's Hannibal. The first few pages are full of subheading examples with proper traditional screenplay format.

Now you know all about sluglines! From master headings to subheadings, they're particularly helpful for immediately informing the reader of important information. If this is new to you, give different subheadings a try sometime! Happy writing!

You may also be interested in...

Use Capitalization in Traditional Screenwriting

6 things to capitalize in your screenplay

How To Use Capitalization In Traditional Screenwriting

Unlike some of the other rules of traditional screenplay formatting, the rules of capitalization are not written in stone. While each writer's unique style will influence their individual use of capitalization, there are 6 general things that you should capitalize in your screenplay. The first time that a character is introduced. Character names above their dialogue. Scene headings and slug lines. Character extensions for "voice-over" and "off-screen." Transitions, including FADE IN, CUT TO, INTERCUT, FADE OUT. Integral sounds, visual effects, or props that need to be captured in a scene. NOTE: Capitalization...

Script Writing Examples for Almost Every Part of a Traditional Screenplay

Script Writing Examples for Almost Every Part of a Traditional Screenplay

When you first start screenwriting, you’re eager to go! You’ve got a great idea, and you can’t wait to type it up. In the beginning, it can be hard to get the hang of how different aspects of a traditional screenplay should look. So, here are five script writing examples for key parts of a traditional screenplay! Title page: Your title page should have as minimal info as possible. You don’t want it to look too cluttered. You should be sure to include the TITLE (in all caps), followed by “Written by” on the next line, followed by the writer’s name below that, and contact info on the lower left-hand corner. It should ...

Format a Title Page in Traditional Screenwriting

Make a strong first impression with a properly formatted title page.

How To Format A Title Page In Traditional Screenwriting

While your logline and first ten pages both play a major role in whether your screenplay will catch the attention of a reader, nothing makes a better first impression than a properly-formatted title page. You can start your screenwriting process with the screenplay title page as some software automatically does, or save it until your final draft. "You never get a second chance to make a great first impression." Not sure how to make the perfect title page first impression? Fear not! You’ve come to the right place. We’ll walk you through all the elements you should and should not include on your title page ...