Grab Attention Right Away by Starting With a Problem

The best way to grab attention is to start with a problem. As soon as you start with a problem, then audiences will want to know how the characters in the story will solve that problem. Problems grab and hold attention so you can tell a story.

Watch “The Matrix” and you’ll see that the story begins with a mysterious conversation between two hackers, and then shows police rushing to arrest a female hacker hiding in a room. Right away there’s a problem because we want to know what’s going on and whether the female hacker will get away or get caught.

Now watch a mediocre movie like “Don’t Worry Darling.” The first scene simply shows the hero laughing and having fun at a party where she’s balancing a drink on her head in competition with two other women. No problems are introduced, which means there’s no tension or suspense either.

Then the next scene shows the hero’s husband teaching her how to drive as they drive wildly in circles. Once again there’s no problem so there’s no sense of where the story is going.

The third scene shows the hero helping her husband rush off to work along with the wives of everyone else in the neighborhood. Once more, there’s no sense of a problem so audience’s have no idea what’s going on or why they should care.

“Don’t Worry Darling” wastes close to 15 minutes doing nothing but showing the hero living a happy life with no sense of a direction or goal to pursue. Not surprisingly, “Don’t Worry Darling” is a structurally flawed story that created a mediocre movie.

Watch “Saving Private Ryan” and the first scene shows an old man walking through a cemetery to pay his respects to a grave. The man appears solemn and serious, so there’s an immediate sense of something wrong. Then the next scene throws us in the landing on Normandy Beach with American soldiers struggling to get ashore while German soldiers machine gun them and blow them up. That shows immediate conflict that grabs our attention.

Go back to the beginning of “Don’t Worry Darling” and it simply shows the hero living a happy life with no sense of urgency, direction, or desire. That creates a boring introduction that simply leads to a flawed, boring movie.

The beginning is your only chance to make a great first impression. In screenwriting, that first impression better grab our attention by posing a problem right away. Fail to do that and you’ll wind up with a mediocre movie like “Don’t Worry Darling.”

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