10 Signs to Know if You’re Reading a Strong Script

Before I get into this, I just want to make one thing clear.

I love writers. I respect writers.

I know how hard it must be to write a script from a blank page. Just as I know how hard it is to draw a storyboard from a blank page. It’s very easy to come in after it’s finished and pick out what could be better.

I just want you (and the writers) to know how artists see their scripts when taking them to the next level in production. I’m writing this from a visual storytelling point of view. And it’s all for the good of the story, right?

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I see myself as the ‘fresh eyes’ when I get a script. Board artists can point out things that may have been overlooked by the writer and director. Sometimes time runs out and it just has to be good enough…because hey, there’s schedule to keep! I get that completely.

I write this out of my experience and opinions of animation scripts.

  1. GOOD SIGN: On the first read, the script flows like a great novel you can’t put down. Meaning, you just sit back and enjoy it from beginning to end. You see it all clearly in your head. Like a little movie is playing in your mind and it flows smoothly. LOVE that.
  2. BAD SIGN: On the first read, you do the ‘flip-back’. Meaning, as you read, you pause mid-page and ‘flip-back’ to a previous page because you think you missed something. If I’ve done a couple of ‘flip-backs’, I know I could be in for a frustrating ride.
  3. GOOD SIGN: As you read, you can always envision where everyone is and the possibilities of how the action could be staged.
  4. BAD SIGN: You’re already worried that you don’t know how you’re going to stage this. You’re saying to yourself, “Where are they?” and wonder how the characters are going to do what is written.
  5. GOOD SIGN: Even if it’s the first script you’ve read of a series, you get a good feel for the characters’ personalities. You may not have read the show bible or any director’s notes yet, but you still really ‘get it’.
  6. BAD SIGN: The script is all action with no ‘character’ showing through. Or too much witty dialogue and not enough visuals. They’re running around doing a bunch of ‘stuff’, but they seem like puppets. Like it could be any character doing this…and that’s not good for a cartoon (or any story for that matter).
  7. GOOD SIGN: You easily envision ways to take what is written and expand on it. Make it funnier, better. And guess what? That’s the storyboard artist’s job. This is by no means an insult to the writing…this is just the next step.
  8. BAD SIGN: You feel you have to fix the script. There may be some gaps in action or logic, and you have to fix it visually without changing the dialogue (because you usually never can). There’s a difference between enhancing and repairing…and ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
  9. GOOD SIGN: When you finish reading, you’re enthused to get started on this one. You have some good ideas and visuals in your head to make it even more entertaining. That’s a good feeling.
  10. BAD SIGN: You feel confused by the story and dread getting started. Maybe you’ve made some screwed-up faces while reading (or is that just me?). This is worst case-scenario of course. No one wants their script to be viewed like this!

“OK, but what do I do about it?”

Well, if you’re the board artist and get a script with a lot of ‘bad signs’, you may not be able to do much about getting them fixed. If the script has been approved and that’s it…then that’s it.

It’ll be a longer haul for you and a bit more frustrating while doing some ‘repair work’. But this can help you become a better board artist. It’s challenging to fix story glitches and with the right attitude, it can be fun and rewarding. Sorta.

If nothing else, the studio will see you as someone they can depend on to do the job with your head, not just your drawing hand. That’s a good place to be and what you should be striving for, so don’t knock it.

Of course, I’d rather be getting those great scripts that I can take to the next level. So to all the writers who gave me those…thank you!

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23 thoughts on “10 Signs to Know if You’re Reading a Strong Script

  1. Debi

    All of what you said, that all goes for live action scripts too.
    I’ve notice with “repair work”, it gives you a chance to have a bit more of a voice in the story too (if the writers/directors are ok with that of course), which can be kinda fun.

    Great post as always! I’m loving the title drawings…so cute. πŸ˜€


  2. KJL

    Hey Debi,

    I figured as much. It all depends on who you’re working for, of course. It’s good to have that wiggle room for changes…makes you a better storyteller.

  3. Pingback: Storyboard Artist Karen J Lloyd Separates the Good Scripts from the Bad Scripts :

  4. sly

    hello Karen!:) im so happy that i found your blog..
    im not a professional artist but i really like to draw and I have a friend, who writes very good stories and I would like to make a comic strip of her stories..i hope so will succeed..we will see^^..your blog is very inspiring and I would like to say thanks for the templates too..
    i wish the best for you Karen


    p.s: sorry for my english.. its not too good bcz im hungarian..

  5. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi sly and welcome!

    You don’t have to be a professional artist to hang out here. Just someone who likes stories. πŸ™‚

    That sounds like a great idea teaming up with your friend. Good luck with it!

    I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful. Have fun poking around. And thanks so much for the kind words (and your english is great!).

  6. Mikki


    These are all amazing tips, I’m giong to be heading to college to be an Animator, and now that I’ve seen what both the Good and Bad Signs are, I can be confident in my future work!

    ^_^ Thanks!

  7. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    You’re very welcome Mikki. πŸ™‚

    Glad you found them helpful. Every little bit helps when you’re getting ready for college, right?

    Good luck on your new path. Wee!

  8. Soh Fia


    I’m really glad to have found your blog, its so helpful especially since i’m doing storyboarding and video production classes right now, its great to get insights and learn from people and places beyond my classroom. Thanks again!

    soh fia

  9. Sharon A.

    Hello Karen,

    First and foremost, I have to thank you for the advice you’ve given me about an animation gig. I don’t know if you remember. But, I just wanted to say thanks for that.

    My question is, as a storyboard artist, is there a such a thing as a script that just can’t be ‘fixed’? And is it okay to turn down a job because of the script?

  10. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Sharon!

    Well, I guess there could be such thing. A script can always be fixed…but if it’s THAT bad, it would have to be on the writer’s end. A storyboard artist can only do so much. And someone has already approved the thing if it got to the storyboard stage, so you really couldn’t do an overhaul without permission anyway.

    If you get a bad script and they tell you not to change anything and it stinks, you can suck it up and make the best of it.

    Or yes, of course you can always turn down a job. But if you are on a contract for 6 shows and you just don’t like one of the scripts, I would say no. You can’t just refuse that one and pick and choose the best ones. In animation they are on a schedule and you have to take what you’re given. You’d just have to make the best of it.

    But if it’s an independent project and the script is horrible, use your best judgment. Do you want to spend all that time on it if it stinks?

    Hope this helps a bit. πŸ™‚

  11. Sharon A.

    Thanks Karen,

    Let me first say, it’s a movie that has a chance at making it production.

    And I pretty much agree with you about not being able to pick and choose. I mean, I’ve worked with bad scripts before just fine and it wasn’t a problem for. Thanks to imagination, my liking of drawing and the fact there were actual descriptions of scene and characters. With this one, it’s absolutely no character description and no real setting and the dialog isn’t much help because everybody talks a like. Now, dialog isn’t an issue for me, because that’s not what I’m boarding. But, it seems more like I’m reading notes instead of an actual script.

    And the deal, right now, there is no contract at this point. I haven’t agreed to anything, yet.

    Maybe, what I really should have asked was how do you tell people that their script, idk, needs a little work without coming off as a snooty tooty? lol.

    I don’t want to take over nor do I just want to leave ’em hangin’ with a bad script. You know?

  12. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Eesh. That script sounds like a mess!

    I guess the first question would be, “Do they have any money?” (Yes, I can be shallow like that.) Are you SURE you’d get paid? If you’re not sure, I’d stay away from it myself. No brainer there.

    If there is money and you *will* get it, then I’d do this: ask them how they feel about the script and if you have any freedom with it (and how much). If they come across as ‘in love with it’ and won’t change anything, then you could forget it or take the money and do the best you can with it.

    When presented with crap, I just have the attitude that I did the best job *I* could do and that I didn’t write the thing. Just like how actors take on crappy roles for the money or experience. They know it’s a cheesy movie but do the best they can with what they’re given.

    It’s not your responsibility to overhaul their script or even tell them it stinks. You can point out where things aren’t clear for you and suggest a few things to improve it, but after that I’d leave it.

    If it’s worth the trouble and you are getting paid, then do it. If not, then consider passing on this one.

    My humble 2 cents. πŸ™‚

  13. kennytan

    thnx for this board,just what i need to learn
    I been an indie who did everything from music to mv
    My 1st mv been posted at
    I’t sung in thai language but i think it may have foreigners giggle a little or even laugh.
    If you have time please check it out and comment

  14. Christina

    Hey Karen,
    I’m really happy to have found your site. I’m a screenwriter and have really been wanting to storyboard my own scripts. I’m looking forward to picking your brain.

  15. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Christina and welcome!

    It’s great to have some screenwriters visiting too. Yay! That’s a great idea to storyboard your own scripts. More writers should try that even just as an exercise.

    Poke around in the Archives and pick away at what little of my brain is left these days. πŸ˜‰


  16. Camilla

    Greetings Karen.
    I have just fallen over your page, my excitement shot into the air when I saw it. . My biggest dream is to become a known movie-director in the UK(I’m Danish). After the summer vacation I’m beginning my education, but I have all ready started to prepare myself so my big dream can come true. I do all sorts of reading, writing, searching, anything really so I can keep learning about the process of making a movie. I want to learn about storyboards, scripts, the function of a video camera absolute everything attached to the fabulous art of film-making. So this page is so fantastic. I can’t thank you enough.
    I hope you are being well.
    Your sincere, Camilla

  17. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Camilla,

    I certainly *love* your enthusiasm! It’s great seeing people who know what they love and want to do and go after it.

    I wish you much success at school and in the future! Do stick around and if you ever have any questions, let me know. πŸ™‚


  18. Jane

    Hi Karen, and all, Good to have been able to join…

    Can someone tell me what a panel is and show me how it works? It’s not a shot is it?

    Thanks, Jane

  19. Tim Creed

    Hey Karen! I’m an aspiring film director who is just really getting started in the Indy film world. I’m not a writer or a storyboard artist but I have the right ideas for a good story. This forces me to become a writer if I like it or not. I’m really having trouble getting my ideas into script-form so I decided not to write it, but to draw my ideas out instead. I’ve hit a couple creative-road blocks so I came searching for tips on good ol’ Google. Then I found your blog. =) This is a hugely motivational site that helped me out a ton. Reading the advice on here is getting me through the writing/story-boarding process a lot easier. So I just wanted to say thanks a million.

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