Everyone can come up with a great idea for a story. That’s easy. The hard part is turning any idea into a great story. The answer lies in making every moment count. From start to finish, every scene must entice, captivate, and seduce the audience. To do that, it all boils down to writing great scenes one after another.
A scene acts as the basic building block of story-telling. Like a chain that’s only as strong as its weakest link, so is a story only as strong as its weakest scene. Tell just one weak scene and your entire story risks falling apart. Watch great movies like “Star Wars,” “Casablanca,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Titanic” and there isn’t a single scene that distracts from the story. Instead, each scene pulls you along from start to finish, holding your attention and sending you on an emotional roller coaster. By the end of the movie, you may not even realize how many scenes you’ve seen. All you know is that you’ve experienced an emotional rush without even realizing how much time has gone by.
To write a great scene, you need to understand the basic structure of how a scene works. Every scene must tell a mini-story that introduces a problem to grab our attention and conflict between two characters who are each trying to achieve a goal. During this conflict, problems arise until the scene ends with one character getting (or not getting) their original goal.
Although scenes act like mini-stories, they must link with other scenes. That means each scene needs to end with a cliffhanger that makes us want to know what happens, and that links to the next scene. More importantly, each scene setups crucial information that pays off in later scenes. The combination of cliffhangers and setups/payoffs keeps multiple scenes connected to each other to tell a strongly structured story.
Writing a scene involves knowing how to use description, how to write action, and how to write dialogue. Once you know how to write one compelling scene, you can write multiple compelling scenes to tell a captivating story. Knowing how to write a scene for a screenplay is a skill that’s often overlooked, but it’s crucial to master to tell your story the best you can.
“Writing Scenes for Screenplays” covers these topics:
How to Use This Book
Part I – Understanding Scenes
Chapter 1 – The Purpose of Every Scene
Chapter 2 – Shaping Scenes with the Initial Problem
Chapter 3 – The Theme
Chapter 4 – Problems Move the Story Forward
Chapter 5 – Dilemmas Must constantly Challenge the Hero
Chapter 6 – Outlining the Emotional Change
Chapter 7 – The Main Characters
Chapter 8 – Defining All the Subplots
Chapter 9 – Foundation Scenes in a Story
Chapter 10 – Paired Scenes – The Beginning and the End
Chapter 11 – Paired Scenes – The False Victory and the Climax
Part II – Writing Your Own Scenes
Chapter 12 – Writing a Scene
Chapter 13 – The Structure of a Scene
Chapter 14 – The Elements of a Scene
Chapter 15 – Action, Dialogue, and Setting
Chapter 16 – Starting the Story
Chapter 17 – Introducing the Symbol of Hope
Chapter 18 – The Symbol of Hope Scenes
Chapter 19 – The First Half of the Hero’s Story
Chapter 20 – The Second Half of the Hero’s Story
Chapter 21 – The Physical Problem
Chapter 22 – The Emotional Problem
Part III – Structure Your Scenes
Chapter 23 – Act I Scenes
Chapter 24 – Act IIa Scenes
Chapter 25 – Act IIb Scenes
Chapter 26 – Act III Scenes
Chapter 27 – A New Way to Write
Chapter 28 – Where To Go From Here
Appendix – Major Scenes in Every Story
Until you learn how to write a compelling scene, you will never be able to write a compelling story of any kind. Scene writing is a crucial skill that every screenwriter must master and this book will show you how to do it.