Make Sure At Least One Character Has a Clear Goal

Every scene needs a purpose to provide new information to the story. However, far too many novices simply write scenes that dump information on the audience. Instead of focusing on giving the audience information, focus on giving at least one character in a scene a clear and distinct goal that he or she constantly strives to achieve.

By the end of the scene, that character either gets that goal or fails to get that goal, but the drive to achieve that goal is what makes that scene interesting because striving for a goal implies conflict.

Characters never get what they want easily. They have to struggle to get it and that struggle makes a scene interesting. In this scene from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” a king and a queen sing a love song to each other.

When two characters agree and get along, that’s boring. So this scene introduces conflict by giving the king a clear goal: he wants to kill the queen. Meanwhile, the queen is completely oblivious to the king’s goal, which creates a humorous scene as we watch to see if the king will achieve his goal or not.

Study any scene from your favorite movie and you’ll find there’s always one character with a clear goal. In pursuit of that goal, there’s always conflict from other characters. Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean fighting.

In an early scene in “Pulp Fiction,” two hit men are driving in a car where one is talking about how they eat fast food in Amsterdam while the other man can’t believe it, but keeps asking for more information.

The goal of the first man is convince the second that European fast food is far different than fast food in America. The other man isn’t actively fighting against the first man, but he is providing resistance in accepting everything he says. Even though both men are getting along, there is conflict.

When writing any scene, identify at least one character who has a strong goal and another who tries to resist against that goal. Conflict can be direct fighting or simple disbelief as in the “Pulp Fiction” scene. Just don’t write a scene with no conflict at all or else you’ll just write a boring scene altogether.

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