3 Ways to Create More Exciting Scenes

The biggest and most common flaw of most screenwriters is writing boring scenes. The scenes are boring for two reasons.

First, nothing happens. There may be plenty of activity but there’s no sense of direction for what the characters want and what they’re trying to achieve. Often times characters are simply talking and using dialogue to reveal more of the story background to the audience. This is about as effective and interesting as listening to a school lecture.

Second, scenes are boring because there’s no conflict. Characters get along and cheerfully cooperate with each other (while often revealing the story background to the audience). Don’t do this.

One way to make a scene more exciting is to shatter expectations. That means a character expects one thing to happen in a scene (and we, as the audience, expect that too), but then the scene completely shatters that expectation.

In “Legally Blonde,” an early scene shows the hero going off to dinner with her boyfriend. This might normally be boring and dull, but the hero thinks her boyfriend is going to propose marriage to her so anticipation is high for both us and the hero.

Then the boyfriend dumps her.

That’s a huge unexpected outcome that immediately makes the scene far more exciting than if everything went well and everyone’s happy with each other.

A second way to make a scene more exciting is to add conflict. Conflict can be between other characters and/or the environment. In “Star Wars,” there’s a scene where Luke is trying to find R2D2 and he’s caught by the Sand People who attack him. Conflict between characters always makes a scene interesting.

A different type of conflict occurs when the characters must fight against the environment. In “Die Hard,” the hero is trapped inside a skyscraper with no way to call for help. His efforts to find a way to communicate with the outside world makes every scene more impactful because we know what he wants and we want to know how he’s going to achieve this goal.

A third way to make a scene more exciting is through irony. In “Dual,” the hero lives in a world of the future where humans can be cloned. When she believes she has an incurable disease, she agrees to have herself cloned so that way her family and friends won’t miss her.

However when she goes to see the doctor, expecting to be told how long she has to live, the doctor tells her that the disease is in remission. That means now she’s going to live and she has to deal with her clone. Since only dying people can have a clone, society says the clone and the original person must fight a duel to the death to see who will live.

Irony is closely related to shattering expectation, but when you use conflict, irony, and shattering expectation, you can create a scene that’s far more interesting than a scene lacking any of these elements.

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