Change a Character’s World by the End of Every Scene

Imagine story where a man wakes up, drives to work, does his job, and goes home. If nothing out of the ordinary happens, this scene would be boring. To make a scene interesting, the end of that scene must change a character’s life dramatically from the beginning.

In “Good Will Hunting,” a mathematics professor posts a challenge on a chalkboard in the hallway for students to solve. When someone solves this problem, the professor wants to know who did it, but nobody in his class admits to it, so the professor puts out a more difficult challenge on the chalkboard.

At this point, the scene is interesting because posting a mathematical challenge is different and unusual. What makes this scene come alive is when the professor is walking back to his classroom and spots a janitor writing on the chalkboard. Thinking the janitor is just messing things up, he rushes to stop him and the janitor runs away.

Then the professor looks at the chalkboard and realizes the janitor had actually solved the mathematical challenge that he and his colleagues took two years to solve. That’s when the professor realizes the janitor is a mathematical prodigy, and this sudden realization changes his world.

Watch the scene from “Good Will Hunting” and you can see that the professor isn’t just teaching an ordinary class, but posing a mathematical challenge for his students. In general, never write scenes that depict ordinary days. Instead, write scenes that depict something different because that difference will make the scene more interesting.

The greater the difference and the more rare and unusual this activity, the greater the appeal. In the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” author Roald Dahl originally had Willy Wonka offer tours of his chocolate factory every weekend. However, Roald Dahl decided to increase the drama by making this visit to the chocolate factory something you could only win because nobody ever saw the inside of the chocolate factory.

By simply changing the story from a weekly event to a once in a lifetime opportunity, Roald Dahl made his story far more interesting. That’s what you must do with every scene you write in your screenplay. Always show us something different because that’s what will grab and hold our interest.

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