If you watch trailers for different movies, you’ll notice that they show the best, most exciting parts of the movie. That means if the movie is awful, the trailer showed you all the good parts already. If the movie is good, then the trailer will have provided just a hint of what the rest of the movie can offer.
When writing your screenplay, strive to make every scene worthy of appearing in your movie’s trailer. That means making your dialogue clever, unpredictable, and informative.
What novices often do is write most scenes as “filler,” which simply serves the function of moving the plot along. Then they write a smattering of interesting scenes so the whole screenplay winds up being mostly dull, mediocre filler scenes with a sprinkling of interesting major scenes. The result is a good idea poorly executed, which means it will likely never be produced.
On the other hand if you strive to make every scene interesting and worthy of appearing in a trailer, now you’ve suddenly made every second of your story interesting, compelling, and fascinating. String these interesting scenes with your big action scenes and you’ll wind up creating an overall great story.
Scenes aren’t just meant to advance the plot but to entertain the audience at the same time. Every scene should start off with a challenge of some kind that immediately grabs our attention. Then the second part of a scene should have characters pursuing a goal. Along the way towards pursuing this goal, the characters need to get closer to achieving their goal, but suddenly obstacles get in the way and threaten to derail the character’s goal.
Often times a scene also plants the seeds of a future scene, or pays off the set up from an earlier scene. This helps keep all action unified and focused. Finally, the scene ends with a cliffhanger that makes us want to know what happens next.
If your scene lacks one of the following, chances are good it’s dragging your screenplay down. Some elements that every scene should include are:
- Start with an initial problem
- Show a character pursuing a goal to this problem
- Show obstacles keeping this character from achieving the goal
- Plant seeds for a future scene or pay off a set up from an earlier scene
- End with a cliffhanger that resolves the problem one way or another
The more exciting you make each scene, the more exciting you’ll make your entire screenplay. A screenplay is only as strong as its weakest scene, so if you allow too many dull scenes to creep into your script, you’ll wind up creating a mediocre, dull screenplay.
Think of every scene as a miniature movie. If people only saw a single scene of your screenplay, how would you make it as interesting and compelling as possible? Once you know how to do this for one scene, you’ll know how to do this for every scene, and that collection of strong scenes linked together will help make your overall screenplay much stronger and attractive to Hollywood.