It’s a law of physics that every time there’s a cause, there’s an effect. Unfortunately in bad and mediocre movies, this law gets ignored all the time. When you don’t have cause and affect, things seem to pop out of nowhere just to advance the plot.
For example, in “The Hunger Games,” Katniss is trying to impress the judges before the event. When they ignore her, she shoots an arrow through an apple that was in a pig’s mouth that the judges were eating. This immediately grabs the judge’s attention and causes them to rate her higher than anyone else in the game. That’s the initial effect, but the later effect is that because Katniss is rated so highly, all the other contestants want to kill her first. That’s an example of cause and effect. Something the hero does causes something else in the story to happen.
In “The Last Stand,” a mediocre Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, there’s a scene where Arnold decides to block his town to keep the villain from driving through. Then the villain’s henchmen show up in town to kill anyone blocking their way. The problem is that there’s no reason for the villain’s henchmen to do this since the town is so small it seems possible to just drive right past it. The henchmen also have little motivation to kill Arnold because they don’t even know who he is. In an earlier scene, Arnold saved two cops from being gunned down by the villain’s henchmen, but these henchmen never really get to see Arnold so it doesn’t seem personal. As a result, the villain’s henchmen have little motivation to attack Arnold later.
“The Last Stand” also suffers from choppy edits. In the final scene, Arnold chases the villain into a cornfield and both cars crash. The villain crawls out of his car and runs towards a bridge leading him to Mexico and freedom. Suddenly, Arnold appears standing in the way. While this may seem dramatic, it violated the cause and effect feeling that makes us understand the connection between events.
How did Arnold get to the bridge before the villain when they both crashed at the same time? It would have been stronger if we somehow saw Arnold struggling to intercept the villain rather than have Arnold magically appear on the bridge ahead of the villain. When we can see a direct cause and effect between separate events, we can better understand the story. When any story ignores cause and effect, the story feels choppier, less connected, and more fragmented, which results in a weaker story.
So make sure you keep cause and effect linked together. The more your story events are linked, the stronger your story. Mediocre movies often fail to link events by introducing an event and never connecting it to something important, or suddenly throwing an event into the story that was never set up earlier in the movie. Keep your events linked and your story will make more sense. It’s easier not to write connected and linked events, but that leads to mediocre screenplays. The stronger your screenplay, the better your chances of success, so keep your events linked so you can write the strongest screenplay possible.