What is Fountain - Intro to Screenwriting Markup Language

Writers work anywhere, anytime. Work is not restricted to a table and a desktop, but happens on the go, anywhere outside an office, at home, or while travelling. Inspiration can occur at any time and at any place, and we have the ability to whip out a smartphone, tablet or laptops to pen down our thoughts on work on existing projects anytime.

When the need to write occurs, writers often open up a text editor application or general word processor of their liking to jot down their preliminary thoughts or ideas first. Screenwriters work on their storyboarding, character development, dialogue ideas etc. to build their script step by step. All these ideas would eventually culminate in a final screenplay.

When working on writing from anywhere and anytime, writing often occurs on multiple platforms or devices. Files often need to formatted or translated across different applications or devices. For screenplay writers, formatting and notation can get muddled and they might find themselves fixing these nitty-gritty details up again and again. This can get vexing, and cause valuable writing time and energy to be lost.

This is where Fountain can come in; to ease these troubles and allow you to remain focused on your content and story instead of worrying about formatting and file transferability.

What is Fountain?

Fountain allows for rules and screenplay style of writing to exists independent of the application or file format that writers utilize. Writers can create a formatted screenplay in any text editor, on any device, and via any software that edits text files. It can be used for writing, editing and sharing screenplays in plain, readable text.

It enables you to work on your screenplay work anywhere and on any device, giving you the freedom to work on any word processing application and have it automatically formatted for you.

Benefits of using Fountain

1. Compatibility and transferability

Fountain is compatible as an exchange format between various writing platforms. Despite the text file that you choose to write in; be it Word, NotePad, TextEdit, or Pages, Fountain would be compatible with whatever you choose to write on. Conversely, Fountain files can be created or opened in any text or code editor, making it interoperable.

Writing on a universal and accessible format gives you space to work freely without barriers, and you don’t feel restricted on a software. Granting writers the option of choosing which editor they prefer working on eases the writing process.

2. Simplicity

Compared to its more heavyweight counterparts like Final Draft of Movie Magic Screenwriter, Fountain is a more lightweight, simpler syntax that helps with constructing structured text like screenplays. Formatting requires little extra syntax in your text, and markdown would identify what you want the formatting to look like. This makes the entire process more seamless and intuitive.

3. Focus

As a simple markup syntax, Fountain allows writers to dedicate time and focus on the meat of their writing; the content and its semantics (dialogues, descriptions, etc), instead of the technicalities such as margins, indentations, alignment, capitalization, line breaks, etc.

Fountain Syntax

1. Headings

For headings, the syntax required to indicate it's formatting would be the pound sign, #. The number of pound signs indicate the heading level as well.

E.g. # Heading 1.

2. Bold and Italics

To bold and/or italicize texts in Fountain, you can use the asterisk sign, *, as such :

- To italicize, place one asterisk before and after the text, *italic*. - To bold, place two asterisks before and after the text, **bold**.

Simply press the space or return key and your text will be bolded and italicized accordingly.

3. Scene Headings

Scene headings in screenplays begin with either an INT., EXT., or INT./EXT., followed by the location and time of day (DAY, AFTERNOON,EVENING, NIGHT)

You can also force a scene heading with a period, ., in the front of your text.

4. Action

Action, or scene descriptions, reflect audiences and readers would see, hear and feal during a scene. In screenplays, they do not meet criteria for another element (e.g. Scene Heading, Character, Dialogue, etc.)

You can decide when to use single spacing or double spacing in your action lines and Fountain would interpret this as intentional. You can also force an action line by keying in an exclamation point ! before the first word.

5. Characters

In screenplays, character names are capitalized, entered in the middle of the page, and are followed by their dialogue in the next line.

On Fountain, character names are to be capitalized for it to be recognized as a name. A character line will also have a blank space before it, and the dialogue in the next line.

You can also force a Character element by using the symbol, @, to account for names that are in other languages that cannot be capitalized.

6. Parentheticals

Parenthetical elements usually follow a character line or a dialogue, and are wrapped in parentheses, ().

7. Dialogues

Dialogues have relatively straightforward formatting rules. They follow after a character line or parenthetical.

To include a dual dialogue, include a caret, ^, behind the second character’s name and this will be recognized as a dual dialogue.

8. Transitions

Transitions are input in uppercase, with an empty line before and after it and would end in TO:.

You can also force the transition formatting by beginning a line with a greater-than symbol, >.

9. Emphasis

Fountain has simple rules for emphasizing text.

*italics*, **bold**, ***bold italics***, _underline_

Writers can feel free to play around and combine bold, italics and underlining, for emphasis in their writing. It only does not allow for underscores to be mixed. Underscores are used for underlining, and this is not interchangeable with italics in screenplays.


The flexibility and extensibility of Fountain prevents you from feeling tied down or restricted by a single screenwriting software. Working at any time and from any place would be less of a hassle and more accessible if you are privy to this syntax, which is simple and easy to pick up. A single tool to make formatting your screenplay easier and less daunting, Fountain allows you to stay focused on the more creative aspects of your story writing.