"Ideally, every scene is a story event."
How do you structure great scenes? Each scene should tell its own story, reveal the characters' values, and move the plot forward. If it doesn't, you should trash it. At least, that's the wisdom shared by award-winning screenwriter, journalist, author, and podcaster Bryan Young (SyFy.com, StarWars.com, /Film, HowStuffWorks.com) and screenwriting guru Robert McKee.
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We interviewed Bryan on the topic of writing great scenes and sequences in your screenplay, and he said it comes down to two elements: positive and negative charges.
That means that the scene needs to turn and needs to act as its own movie within the movie. A scene has to present some conflict, whether that's within the character, an obstacle in the character's way, or a value at stake for the protagonist – whether that's truth, love, or something else.
Luke's uncle is standing in the way of him and his adventure.
But then, everything changes.
And this continues.
If a scene does not feature an opposite charge at the beginning and the end, you have to ask yourself what purpose it serves in your screenplay. As McKee explains in "Story," often writers will say that the scene serves as some exposition for the screenplay, whether that's location, current events, or background, but a great writer will weave that exposition in elsewhere. It should not take up an entire scene. "If you can chart out in your screenplay the positive and negative charges of your scenes, your screenplay is not going to have any monotony to it," Bryan concluded. "It's going to have constant, dynamic changes, [and] that's going to make your screenplay sing, and it's going to make it so that people reading it are going to want to turn pages to find out what happens next."
That's what we're aiming for. A real page-turner,