How to Write a Scene – Get the Best and Cut the Rest
The rules of a good juicy scene are the same as going to a party: Come late and leave early. When approaching a scene:
- Target the heat of the conflict.
- Ask, what is this scene really about?
- Boil it down to one or two sentences.
Examples of boiling it down: This scene is about the fact that after 14 years, Rick is no longer in love with Pam. This scene is about two men who both want to run a top company their own way, now realizing that only one can be the leader. This scene is about a president realizing that his country is about to go to war. This scene is about two people who have been in love from a far for six years, finally admitting they want to kiss.
How to start your juicy scene:
Start your scene in one of two dynamic places or “hot spots”. Begin:
- When the flame is turned on or
- when the oil sizzles
1. When the flame is turned on: find the moment when the tension is palpable, when the two opposing forces are finally in the same room, when the elephant in the room is brought up, when the issue is exposed.
2. When the oil sizzles: this moment is almost smack in the middle of the conflict, just before fists fly. This is the moment when, as an audience, you are on the edge of your seat. It is the moment before the emotional peak.
How to end:
- End on a question. (you can answer it, or begin to answer it in the next scene) End with an unanswered issue on the table (a cliffhanger)
- End with a shock or a twist – an unexpected (but planted) moment.
Exercise: Pick a scene from the examples above. Try starting at one of the hot spots. Read it out loud to yourself or a group. See if you can start any later in the scene and still have it make sense. See if you can end on a question or a cliffhanger. Leave us dying to turn the page…