Making a Scene Interesting

Every scene must be interesting or else you risk losing your audience. A dull scene can wreck the best story so it’s important to make every scene as compelling as possible. To make a scene interesting, focus on three elements:

  • Choose risk over safety
  • Choose fancy over plain
  • Choose unusual over the ordinary

What’s more interesting, watching a man walk down the sidewalk or watching a man walk across a tightrope strung between the two World Trade towers (“The Wire”)?

Obviously the threat of danger makes the riskier scene more interesting to watch. That’s why every scene needs to put something at risk. The simplest type of risk is physical danger. In the opening scene of “Die Hard,” a passenger sees the hero’s gun and immediately is scared until the hero assures the man that he’s a police officer. Yet that brief glimpse of the gun makes us alert to the danger as well until the hero informs us that he’s a policeman.

Besides making a scene risky for one or more characters, make the scene fancy as well. Fancy means something different. In “The Wedding Crashers,” there’s a scene where a woman strokes a man’s genitals at dinner. By itself, this is a funny scene, but what makes this scene even funnier is that it takes place during a fancy dinner with the entire family watching although they’re unaware what’s happening.

This fancy family dinner makes the consequences of getting caught greater while also highlighting the scene’s actions because of its fancier setting.

In “Four Lions,” four jihadists plan to detonate their suicide vests during the London Marathon. However, they need to hide their suicide vests so they put on ridiculous costumes of an ostrich, a Muppet, and a clown. Because their costumes are so outlandish and ridiculous, they stand out, making the entire scene funnier and more interesting.

Finally, put scenes in unusual locations to make them more interesting to watch. In “Harold and Maude,” a young man is hanging around a much older woman. They enjoy a picnic but instead of putting it in a park, they picnic near a junkyard so they can watch old cars getting demolished.

Risk, fancy, and unusual. Those three ingredients added to a scene can make any scene more visually interesting. Now you just have to make sure there’s something interesting happening in that scene through action and dialog that supports your story.

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