[00:00:00] So this is a tip for both screenwriters and novelists. And it's something that I learned over the course of my career that helped me greatly in terms of all styles of writing that I would ever engage and I'm hoping it will do the same for you.
[00:00:25] And in essence, it's really simple. Remember that scenes are mini dramas.
[00:00:32] Now, what do I mean by that? Well, there's a lot of times when people are writing a scene in either a screenplay or a novel where they don't milk that scene for everything it's worth.
[00:00:44] The truth of the matter is, every story you ever write is composed of scenes. You write one scene, and then another scene, and then another scene, and so on and so forth, until at the end of the day you have a completed story. But each of those scenes needs to stand alone.
[00:01:03] Each scene needs to have its own arc. Each scene needs to have a beginning and a middle and an end. It needs to go somewhere. It needs to move the story forward.
[00:01:15] Now a lot of people understand this cognitively or somehow cerebrally, but they don't actually know what that means in terms of practically or on the page. How do I know if it's accomplishing that?
[00:01:29] You do that by changing in some way over the course of that scene, the emotional state of your character. You start them out at the beginning of the scene in one place emotionally and at the end of that scene they should be in a new place.
[00:01:45] And, by the way, it doesn't have to be a radical transformation. It could be slight.
[00:01:50] So, for example, the shortest scene in a screenplay, we divide a screenplay by eighths. So, an eighth of a page, you know, there's eight parts in one page. That's how they break it down in terms of production. So the shortest scene would be an eighth of a page.
[00:02:09] It's pretty darn short. It's usually a slug line and an action line. And so a lot of times, maybe in that short scene, all you're really trying to do is get your character from point A to point B. You're trying to show the character walking from the car into the drugstore. That's it.
[00:02:27] And so a lot of times, writers will just do that. But that's not enough. That's not how you maximize the dramatic potential of each scene. That doesn't have an arc. It's an establishing.
[00:02:41] And you want to avoid things like establishing. The only time you should have establishing is if you're writing a television show and you're establishing the location. And that's a different thing altogether.
[00:02:53] Every scene in a screenplay needs to move the character in terms of their internal emotional state.
[00:03:02] So, instead of just showing them walking from point A to point B, you do something with that. As they're walking from point A to point B, they trip over a crack in the sidewalk.
[00:03:15] Well now all of a sudden they started out maybe confident and right before they go inside they trip and they feel stupid and that's going to change their emotional state. It's minor, it's subtle.
[00:03:24] Or maybe it's the opposite. Maybe they start out feeling a little insecure, you know, as they're walking up, but then somebody notices them and looks at them walking by like, um, Ooh, they're good looking. And so your character picks up his pep in this step or something.
[00:03:39] Or maybe it's something as simple as somebody noticing them, but they don't. That could also work. As long as there's a change in the emotional experience of the scene, sometimes it can be the audience's emotional experience and not the character themselves.
[00:04:00] So, for example, let's say your character is blithely going along, picking flowers in a beautiful field, and they keep going further and further. And your character is oblivious to the fact that they're getting closer and closer to the forest, and there's a change of shadow, and all of a sudden, we, the audience, know that that character is in danger, even if the character herself is unaware of it.
[00:04:24] So, what we've done then is we've changed the emotional feeling of the scene, at least on the part of the audience's experience. We've gone from la la la la la to uh, in a course of however long that scene is.
[00:04:41] Now again, this doesn't have to be huge. We don't have to go from their laughing at the beginning to crying at the end. That's not what I'm talking about. I just mean something has to happen. There's got to be some shift, some movement.
[00:04:55] So for example, I recently had a client who had a scene where they were trying to show that a character was studious.
[00:05:04] They were doing their research, they were a lawyer in the making, but they were on the bottom of the totem pole, so they had all these law books spread out and they were researching. And then she cut away from that scene because she thought she'd effectively established how this character was behaving in the world.
[00:05:20] While the rest of the world was going on around her, her nose was in the books and she was oblivious to that.
[00:05:25] And I said, well, that's not quite enough because something needs to happen in her, even if it's subtle.
[00:05:32] So, for example, what she needed to have happen was she's looking, she's researching, she's looking for clues or, you know, trying to figure out the answer in these law books.
[00:05:42] And then she notices something, and all of a sudden her light, her eyes light up.
[00:05:47] And that's when we cut away. Because now it's more exciting, now there's an emotional shift, now there's hope. There's excitement. There's, well, what did she find? And we are automatically more emotionally engaged in the scene because of that shift.
[00:06:02] That's a clue that sucks us, the audience, in. And that's really what all this is about.
[00:06:09] It's about engaging your audience. It's about engaging your reader. So if you're writing a novel, or if you're writing a screenplay, you want to try to look at each scene as its own drama. It has an opening, a middle, and an end.
[00:06:26] If you can do this, your stories will come alive. All of a sudden, every single scene will be engaging. There won't be one scene that's boring. There won't be one scene that's superfluous. Because everything will actually move the story forward.
[00:06:42] See, whenever there's that emotional shift, it means you've actually accomplished something in that scene that then necessarily moves the story forward. And one of the kisses of death in story is if you have scenes that don't matter, that don't play into the narrative. So this is one way to make sure that your scene plays into the narrative.
[00:07:01] So I hope that this tip has been helpful to you. We have new episodes every Thursday and of course, check out our website. We would love to be of service.
[00:07:10] The goal of The Storyteller's Mission is to equip writers at every facet of their writing journey so that they can reach their full potential as artists.
[00:07:20] We want to see you reach your full potential as a writer, both professionally and personally. So thank you for joining us and we'll see you next time.