Wednesday, 20 July 2016

SCENE OF DEATH

Another quick post about something really important. 

The scene of death.

What is a scene of death?

It is any scene that does not move the story forward. Most often these scenes don't have any conflict in them either. 

The best way to identify if you have a scene of death in your script is to go through and look at EVERY scene individually. 

Take each scene out of your script one at a time. Go ahead. Just delete the first scene. Now read your script. If the story still makes perfect sense - you know that scene was very likely a scene of death. 

A great example of the most common scene of death scene there is - is the infamous - 'arriving somewhere scene'.

You have a character arriving at a party. Or you have your character walking into work.

Hey wait up, if I show my character walking into work - that's not a scene of death, because I've moved the story forward by showing you where they work, right?

Wrong.

You could show us where your character works while simultaneously having your character get into an argument with a fellow work colleague. That's far more interesting than seeing them park their car, ride in the elevator then walk to their desk. 

Go through your current script and look at any scene where a character is arriving somewhere - if we don't learn something really important about them or the story as they're arriving -- delete that scene of death. 

The second most common scene of death scene is when two characters are just talking. 

You might have two friends out fishing and they're talking about their kids. 

That doesn't move the story forward at all. It gives us some clunky exposition about their children perhaps - but that's information that you should be able to weave into another scene.

There's another type of scene of death scene that often goes unnoticed. 

The scene where the story does move forward - but only by a little bit. 

Go through your script and look at each scene - write down what beats in that scene move the story forward.

In scenes where there is only one beat moving the story forward and that beat isn't hugely significant - see if you can delete that scene and MOVE that beat to another scene.

This way - your story will seem more layered. There will be multiple story beats occurring in each scene - this way your scenes will become more engaging. 

CONFLICT - is the big story mover. 

Remember - drama is conflict.

You don't HAVE to have conflict in every scene - but if you have three scenes in a row where there's no conflict - where everyone is getting along really well - you're going to soon lose your audience. 

I would urge you to never have a scene without conflict. But in those moments where you simply can't work conflict in organically - what ever you do - don't follow that scene up with another non-conflict scene. 

That's all for today.

Just a short and sweet piece of screen writing advice. 

Now go and apply it to your latest script and see if you can make it scene-of-death-free.