Every Scene Adds New Information

Every scene must be interesting but it must also do more by providing us with new information. When you combine interest with new information, each scene constantly moves the story forward.

In “The Hateful Eight,” an early scene explains how a black bounty hunter has a letter from Abraham Lincoln. A white bounty hunter asks to read it after hearing about it for so long. Then in a later scene, another man says it’s ridiculous that a black bounty hunter could ever know Abraham Lincoln, let alone receive a letter from him. That’s when the black bounty hunter provides new information about the letter, namely that it’s fake and used to protect him from white people.

By constantly giving us new information, each scene keeps moving the story forward. Not only are the actions of the characters interesting, but the new information we learn also keeps our interest up in the story. In another part of “The Hateful Eight,” the black bounty hunter says that he has a reward on his head and that white guys keep trying to kill him to collect that reward, but he winds up killing them first.

Then the black bounty hunter meets an old Southern general who viciously slaughtered an entire black regiment because they were black. Earlier this Southern general had mentioned that his son had come out to this area but had never returned. Now in a later scene, we learn why this Southern general’s son never returned. It was because he had tried to kill the black bounty hunter and the black bounty hunter had not only gotten him first, but humiliated him before killing him.

“The Hateful Eight” trickles information about the various characters a little at a time. Just as we think we know them, new information appears that makes us change the way we think about them. That’s because every scene gives us new information that makes the story richer.

“Star Wars” did that too. Initially Luke casually mentions Old Ben as a strange hermit who lives out in the desert. Then we learn that Old Ben is still alive and saves Luke from the Sand People. Later we learn that Old Ben is really Obi-wan Kenobi. “Star Wars” keeps dribbling out information about Obi-wan a little at a time. By the time we get to know all the information about him, we can understand his actions.

In your own screenplay, go through every scene and see how each scene adds new information about one or more characters. If a scene doesn’t add new information, it’s just wasting time so either cut it or revise it. By making sure every scene gives out new information, you’ll keep your screenplay compelling enough to hold an audience’s attention from beginning to end.

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