Friday, September 5, 2008

Back to basics: scene study

Sometimes you've been working on a project so long, you forget the basic, simple, screenwriting 101 rules. In the tangle of rewrites and motivations and act-outs and polished description, be sure to go back and ask yourself:

What was the theme of this episode that I had decided on?

Do I have interesting visuals?

Do my scenes have emotional shifts? Do people leave or end scenes different than how they started?

Are all my scenes crucial to the story?

And, most simply, but most importantly: Do my scenes all have conflict? People wanting things, and obstacles getting in their way?

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Dan Williams said...

Your 101 rules sound great.

The character enters a scene with an intention, and then we track the character as he or she runs into an obstacle. There is surprise, maybe, or maybe the character struggles to overcome the obstacle or get around it.

There is some kind of realization or change or growth. "Ah, now I know what to do!" And there is a resolution, and then the new intention. "Now that Dave will loan me some money, I can buy that car I want!" And off she goes.

Scene writing is great. It's so much fun. As the character struggles, the characteristics she or he has come to the surface, and we see the fascinating inner world of the character.

script doc said...

Too right, Amanda. The most difficult thing to remember, as you wander through the ninth circle of Development Hell, is what you originally set out to do. Scenes get pushed around, squeezed, reshaped. You always have to remember why you wrote that scene in the first place. Do the changes make the scene better? If not, they're the wrong changes - or the scene shouldn't be in the script.