Every good movie should start off with a big question that grabs our attention from the start and carries through until the end. If you watch a bad movie, this big question is often omitted, which means you have no idea why you’re seeing anything in particular so there\s no sense of direction or purpose. When you start off your story with a big question, people want to know the answer.
In “Star Wars,” the big question is what is Darth Vader trying to get? Eventually we learn that he wants the stolen Death Star plans but that big question drives the entire story until Luke confronts the Death Star at the end. In the 1993 drama, “Lone Star,” some men on a military base find a body. Now the big question is whose body is it and how did it get there. As the sheriff probes deeper to find the answer, he gradually uncovers lots of secrets that the townspeople would rather keep buried in the past until he reaches his final revelation.
Got your attention by promoting a big question and leaving you hanging to find out what happens at the end? That’s exactly what a big question does for your story when you promote it in the beginning as a mystery. In every romantic comedy, the big question is whether the hero will find love. In every action thriller, the big question is whether the hero can stop the villain. In “Die Hard,” the big question starts off if John McClane will get back with his wife again. Then it switches to whether John McClane can defeat the terrorists. When he does, the finale finally answers the big question that John McClane does get back with his wife again.
Take away John McClane’s desire to get back with his wife and you wind up with all those bad “Die Hard” sequels that promote a lot of action but no compelling big question beyond whether the hero will stop the villain or not. Every story needs a big question to keep the audience sticking around. Without a big question, there’s no reason for your audience to keep watching, and then you wind up with a bad movie that nobody cares about.