When in doubt, rely on irony to spice up your story. In “Titanic,” there’s irony that a woman feeling suicidal is stuck on the Titanic, which will sink in a few days, killing more than half the passengers and crew.
In “Groundhog Day,” it’s ironic that the day the hero hates the most (reporting on if the groundhog sees its shadow) is the day he’s forced to relive over and over again.
In “WALL-E,” it’s ironic that the hero wants to find somebody to love, but he’s stranded on a dead Earth with nobody on the entire planet to talk to except for a friendly cockroach.
Any time your story starts feeling flat, look for ways to make it ironic. Perhaps the most crucial way to use irony to spice up a story is when your hero enters a new world as the transition from Act I to Act IIa.
When the hero enters a new world, he or she is chasing their dream, but there’s always a catch and that catch is based on irony.
In “WALL-E,” WALL-E stows away on a rocket to follow the love of his life, another robot named Eve. Unfortunately by following Eve, the irony is that he’s now stranded in space after leaving Earth behind.
In “Star Wars,” Luke finally gets a chance to leave his boring planet, but the irony is that he’s now being hunted down by storm troopers.
In “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle has traded places with her father so he can go free. The irony is that she’s now a prisoner inside the Beast’s castle.
At the end of Act I, the hero chooses to enter a new world in pursuit of a dream. However, that dream always comes with a catch and that catch is based on irony. By making your hero’s new situation ironic, you create a problem that he or she must solve and that keeps your story moving forward.
So look for irony in Act IIa of your screenplay. If your screenplay feels flat in Act IIa, chances are good your hero’s plight isn’t ironic enough.