Thursday, November 18, 2010

Making a scene stronger

Today the kids were all working on group projects or taking a state-mandated standardized test so I was just sitting at my desk all day. At one point I popped open Movie Magic and cranked out three pages, so I finally made it to page 50.

As I wrote I made sort of a mental note of my process and I thought it was kind of interesting.

Years ago while I was working on Not Dead Yet I had a scene where my protagonist dispatched a bunch of zombies in a totally badass way. Someone read it and gave me a note that changed the way I write. Instead of having her be a badass who defeats all her enemies, why not back her into a corner and make us fear for her life?

From that point on, I constantly run through my options when I write a scene, always thinking about the way I can put my character in the most danger and up against the most conflict.

So today's scene revolved around a woman who breaks out of her hospital room by knocking out the cop guarding her. She takes his shirt. She ends up outside in the parking lot, kidnapping a guy and stealing his car. While she's in the parking lot she talks to her kidnapping victim for a minute to get some needed information before she can leave - nevermind why. That's the set up.

As she stands there, a security guard making his rounds sees her from a distance so she hurries her kidnap victim into his car before the guard starts to wonder why she's there.

Then I thought, if it's a security guard, why not make it a guard who knows who she is when he spots her? Then I decided to make the guard hustle, so she grabs the kidnapping victim and shoves him in the car.

Then I thought, if it's a security guard who's after her, why not make it the cop she knocked out upstairs? That means he woke up, realized she stole his shirt and is pretty pissed off. We have a shirtless cop hauling ass through the parking lot to get this bitch.

Now it's personal. She hates this cop. She wants to kill him. She's not running away. Much better than a security guard out on his rounds casually spotting her in the distance.

I ran through all of this in probably less than a minute, constantly figuring out how I can up the stakes of the scene until I had a configuration that works. I do this with just about every scene, and every time I do it I get a little bit better and faster.


  1. Thanks for that Emily, I hadn't thought of looking at different scene options in that way before.

    Will be useful for my next script and re-writes.

  2. Yay! I'm glad that was helpful.

  3. Damn, that was one sweet polish. (And vicariously thrilling and inspiring, thanks for sharing.)


Please leave a name, even if it's a fake name. And try not to be an asshole.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.