Here’s what too many screenwriters do. They write a scene with a lot of action, and then they jump to another scene with a lot of action. This constant jumping from one action scene to another focused solely on fights, gunfire, and special effects, but fails to let us know the characters so we even care about what happens to them. This is the basic flaw of “The 355,” a movie about female spies from different countries who band together.
By constantly jumping from one action scene to another, writers think they’re telling an interesting story but they’re really creating a jumbled mess. Instead of constantly jumping from one exciting scene to another, it’s far better to slow down and spend as much time as possible on revealing the personalities and motivation of the different characters.
In “Rye Lane,” the bulk of the story takes place within a single day where a man and a woman meet, gradually get to know each other, share adventures together, and eventually break up by the end of the day.
Because “Rye Lane” focuses so much time on letting the characters act and react to each other and their surroundings, the movie makes its two lead characters engaging and sympathetic. Even tiny actions like doing karaoke together or having lunch takes on greater meaning because we know more about each character’s goals and dreams so every action becomes meaningful.
In comparison, movies like “The 355” or “Fast X” simply bombard us with one action scene after another so the characters become flat stereotypes that we know little about and care even less about.
When writing your screenplay, focus more on letting us know who the characters are and less on action because too much action eventually becomes meaningless. One of the greatest action films of all time, “Die Hard,” offers little action in the beginning because the screenplay is gradually letting us know who the characters are and what they want.
In other words, the “Die Hard” screenplay delays action to let us know and like the main characters. Only after we care about the main characters will we care about the action.
Remember, action should always threaten a character’s emotional state, not just their physical state. In each action scene in “Die Hard,” we care because what the characters care about is at stake, not just their lives.
When your main characters care about something other than pure survival, your audience will too and that’s a sign of a well-crafted story.