Seven Fundamental Elements for Writing a Scene
The definition of a scene is very much like the definition of the story, but on a smaller scale. A story is usually built around a change, a really big change in character's lives. A scene is also a change, a smaller one, but a part of the big change—a story.
I started writing stories when I was ten. I even had my own school paper out. It didn't last long because there is only so much determination a ten-year-old can have. At the age of 13, I read the Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction screenplays and fell in love with filmmaking and even more so, writing. But nothing is as soul-crushing as creating a bunch of characters with the intention of something happening and just have them stand there plainly staring at each other. Or worse, stare at you with disgrace. I had no idea what they were there for. My characters didn't know what they were there for. I had no clue where to start, so I would just throw random instructions at them like, "Fight, guys, fight! Maybe you will create a purpose to this if you fight!" It was just ending up as characters aimlessly bashing each other like they had lost their minds. I knew something had to happen to drive the story forward, but at this stage can you even call it a story?
The problem was I didn't know what a scene was
The definition of a scene is very much like the definition of the story, but on a smaller scale. A story is usually built around a change, a really big change in character's lives. A scene is also a change, a smaller one, but a part of the big change—a story. You can't have a big change without smaller changes. Following from everything said above, a scene is not a change of scenery. It is not switching from one character to another. It is a change that triggers the next one and the next one, gradually building into acts, building into a story.
So, what goes into a scene?
If the scene starts off being positive, by the end it will turn negative. If a scene starts off being negative, it will turn positive. This also goes for characters—one can be presumed a good guy in the beginning and revealed as a villain at the end of the scene.
Every character has their goals—be it taking over the world or stopping someone from doing so. That's why they're there. And the characters with opposite goals result in...
Conflict is created when characters want different things, right? So each character has to push increasingly to get what they want.
The beats of the scene are the exchange of actions and reactions. All these exchanges are pushing a scene forward, building a conflict.
Something happened. The change has occurred and spun our story in a different new direction.
Connection to the Main Story
Every scene should be connected to the main story. If it doesn't add anything to the story, you don't need that scene. If it isn't connected to the big plot it will not make sense.
Your scene has to be connected to the previous scene and the scene after that. Because a certain THIS has happened in this scene, a certain THAT has to happen in the following one.
It seems complicated, but next time you are watching a movie try and notice these elements. When you know what you're looking for it jumps out at you.
Until Next Time,