Make Every Scene a Fight, Seduction, or Negotiation to Make it Interesting

For too often, novices write scenes in their screenplays that serve exactly one purpose: to provide exposition. That creates a boring scene because the entire screenplay is written with these exposition scenes with a handful of interesting scenes telling the real story.

Think of a chain. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link so your screenplay is only as strong as your weakest scene. If you have scenes that do nothing but introduce character, settings, or situations, they’ll likely be boring and kill your entire screenplay as a result.

What you need to do is think of every scene as a mini-story. Ask yourself if someone just saw that one scene, would it grab their attention and make them want to keep watching?

If your scene only provides exposition, the answer will always be no, which means your entire screenplay will eventually be bland, dull, and utterly forgettable.

What makes a scene interesting is conflict. That means every scene should be a fight, seduction, or negotiation.

A fight can be physical combat, or more likely, emotional combat. If you were in a shopping mall and saw a couple arguing, that’s far more interesting to watch than another couple getting along. Conflict is interesting, even if it’s not physical.

In “Pulp Fiction,” the early scene between John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson is a form of emotional conflict where John Travolta is talking about how Europeans eat fast food and Samuel L. Jackson is in disbelief. That’s a humorous conflict because John Travolta is trying to convince Samuel L. Jackson that it’s real and Samuel L. Jackson keeps asking for more details because he’s not convinced it is real.

While physical fighting is easy to see, emotional conflict like the “Pulp Fiction” scene is far less obvious. Sometimes without conflict there’s a negotiation where two sides are trying to come to some type of agreement. As a result, both sides are negotiating for the best result for themselves.

In “Star Wars,” Obi-wan is trying to convince Luke to join him but Luke hesitates and says he needs to stay on his uncle’s farm. In this case, Obi-wan loses his negotiation and Luke wins, but just having a negotiation makes a scene more interesting to watch than a scene just tossing out more exposition.

Seduction scenes might normally be associated with sex, but it’s a more intense form of negotiation. Someone is trying to convince another person to do something but that other person is resisting.

In “Star Wars,” when Luke discovers that Princess Leia is being held prisoner, he has to seduce Hans into helping him rescue her. To do this, he dangles the prospect of a large reward. When Hans isn’t sure, Luke says the reward will be larger than Hans can imagine. That convinces Hans to reluctantly go along with the plan.

Study the scenes in any good movie and you’ll find a fight, a negotiation, or a seduction. Watching to see who wins makes any scene far more interesting than just vomiting out more exposition and expecting audiences to care.

Nobody cares about exposition. Everyone cares about conflict through fight, seduction, or negotiation. Then during this struggle between two characters, you slip in the exposition.

Think conflict first and then exposition. Without conflict, nobody will care about your exposition.

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