There’s a big difference between showing an audience something and getting them intellectually and emotionally involved. Bad movies just show an audience different scenes like car crashes and explosions, and hope lots of action will make up for the lack of a coherent story line. Good movies get an audience involved and one way to do that is through revelations.
A revelation is when a character and the audience suddenly learns something important. In “Blood Simple,” a young man having an affair with a married woman confronts her husband. Her husband laughs at him and says that he’s going to be surprised one day when she pretends to be innocent and says, “I didn’t do anything funny.”
Later when this young man believes this married woman killed her husband, he tries to get her to admit it and she says, “What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything funny.” That moment is a revelation for the character because suddenly he’s worried that her husband was right and she can’t be trusted. It’s also a revelation for the audience because we can now understand why he takes the action that he does.
In “Up,” the old man constantly looks at his dead wife’s notebook of their shared dreams. Suddenly, he turns the page and sees a message from her urging him to go out and have another adventure. This revelation causes the old man to gain courage and confront the villain.
In “Die Hard,” Bruce Willis is talking to a cop who says he accidentally shot a kid with a toy gun and he hasn’t been able to use a gun ever since. Near the end of the movie, this same cop shoots the last terrorist about to kill Bruce Willis. Not only does the cop save Bruce Willis, but we as the audience get the revelation that he’s finally overcome his fear of using a gun and he’s emotionally healed again.
Revelations consist of two parts. First, there’s the setup that just seems like part of the story. Second, the revelation comes out of nowhere but has added significance based on the initial setup.
“Star Wars” has one of the biggest revelations when Darth Vader reveals that he’s Luke’s father. Any revelation suddenly makes the character’s actions and past behavior suddenly clear for good or bad.
When creating your screenplay, consider putting in a revelation that affects both your characters and your audience. Any revelation will draw your audience deeper into your story, and that’s always useful for telling a compelling story.