I'd like to write an app that would utilize dialog from a play script, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel. Is there an open format for encapsulating characters, locations, dialog, scenes, acts, etc? I was sure there must be, but all I see is references to proprietary software packages. There are the classes Shakespeare XML/DTD files, but they don't seem to have any widespread use.

3 Answers 3


The Text Encoding Initiative's XML language has a module for "Performance Texts" by which they mean plays, screenplays, and other sorts of scripts. If you're looking for very prescriptive rules, TEI will disappoint you (there's usually more than one way to do anything in TEI!), but if you want a hospitable markup language with a lot of existing scaffolding, TEI should work nicely.

The best way to get your head around TEI is TEI By Example, which has a module tailored to drama.

Good luck!


Most screenplays for film and television are written and produced using FinalDraft [ wiki link ], a proprietary software.

If you're conducting research, you're most likely to find screenplays, and other document as PDF's (an Open Format). Using PDF's as a starting ground you may find yourself looking into various scraping techniques, depending on what you'd like to do with them.

Fountain.io is an MIT Licensed plain-text markup style that allows the creation of screenplays in a more open format.

  • Thanks. Not quite what I need (it's about formatting, not structure), but a good link.
    – Arian Kulp
    Dec 23, 2013 at 21:20
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    I can't speak for the OP. But I'll say for others benefit, I believe the Fountain.io standard does everything the original question as it's written asked for. It concerns itself with structure - not formatting. It encapsulates characters, scenes, etc. It's free/open. It has good tool support ("widespread use"). Jan 16, 2022 at 23:32

I know an ontology related to this. Maybe you can use this one.


  • Thanks for the link. The abstract sounds like a possible option, but it costs money to read the actual document. If there's a data format associated with this paywall'd presentation, I doubt it's free.
    – Arian Kulp
    Dec 22, 2013 at 5:24
  • You can read the pdf here eprints.soton.ac.uk/272337/1/2010_-_22337.pdf and maybe page 2, Fig1 will help you. I don't know if it will be paid or free. But you can contact with them and ask it.
    – Tasos
    Dec 22, 2013 at 10:38
  • Thanks @Anastasios. The diagram is a good conceptual model for getting started. I just wish there was a free/open model already established. I've found non-XML markdown formats, but they aren't all about layout, not structure.
    – Arian Kulp
    Dec 23, 2013 at 21:18

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