One huge mistake many novices make is writing scenes that serve no purpose but to provide information about the story.
The real purpose of every scene is to grab and hold our attention. To do that, scenes must show conflict. On the simplest level, conflict can occur between two people fighting such as in any James Bond movie. However on a more complex and possibly interesting level, conflict can occur between two people who actually want to help each other. The conflict comes from their different beliefs.
In the following scene from “Good Will Hunting,” the hero and his best friend talk while at work at a construction site. The conflict comes when the best friend tells the hero that he’s going to spend the rest of his life doing construction but the hero has the brains to get out but won’t.
Now the conflict is that the hero wants to stay in construction to grow up and be around his best friend, but his best friend thinks the hero is wasting his life doing construction when he has an opportunity to do so much more.
So even though these two characters like each other and want the best for each other, conflict makes the scene come alive.
Through conflict, we learn what each character thinks. In a novel, we can read what each character thinks but in a screenplay, we must learn what each character thinks through conflict, action, and dialogue.
A second key element of this “Good Will Hunting” scene occurs at the end when the best friend tells the hero that the best moment of his day comes when he shows up at the hero’s house and for a moment, he thinks the hero has taken off to a better life without even saying good-bye. That foreshadows the moment when the hero does exactly that, and the best friend is overjoyed for the hero.
Watch the following scene, but be aware the two characters speak using plenty of profanity.
Watch any good movie and study a single scene. You should notice that what makes the scene interesting isn’t what you see, but the conflict between the characters in the scene that makes the action interesting. Then notice how scenes, especially early in the movie, often foreshadow events that occur later in the story.
Remember, every scene must grab and hold attention. If a scene fails to do that, the audience may lose interest and drift away.