Start After the Story Begins

Read most novice’s screenplays and their scenes often begin with a boring event. Two characters greet each other, sit down, and start talking. That’s a sure-fire recipe for boredom. A much better solution is to start a scene with action right away and to do that, you have to start after the story begins.

Every scene is a mini-story. You don’t want to start at the very beginning. Instead, you want to start after the mini-story begins. This immediately creates questions in the audience’s mind as they try to figure out what’s going on.

Even better, starting the story after the beginning lets you jump straight to the exciting part. Think of the opening scene in “Pulp Fiction.” It didn’t begin with a couple waking up, deciding to eat breakfast at a coffee shops and then driving over there and finding a table to sit at.

Instead, the scene starts with the couple already in the coffee shop as they talk about robbing places to make money. That’s when they decide to rob the coffee shop that they’re in.

The general rule is to start a scene late and leave a scene early. In the “Pulp Fiction” opening scene, we meet the couple right before they decide to rob the coffee shop and we end just after they pull out their guns.

Starting late means we can start a scene right when the excitement happens. Leaving early means unanswered questions pulls the audience along until they can figure out how the rest of the scene ends.

In “Pulp Fiction,” the couple robbing the coffee shop start at the beginning of the movie, then they don’t appear until the very end. Yet that unanswered question of whether they succeed in robbing the coffee shop is withheld for the entire movie.

So start every scene late and leave every scene early. That will make your story far more exciting and keep your audience in suspense for as long as possible so they’ll want to see the rest of your story until the very end.

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