The Art of Screenwriting – Part 6

The Art of Screenwriting – Part 6
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I’ve already written five articles on the skills required for screenwriting and today, this sixth and last one focuses on another essential element that is required from all screenwriters.

The Skills of a Screenwriter

  1. Scripting Effective Scenes

“You always attack a movie scene as late as you possibly can. You always come into the scene at the last possible moment.”

 – William Goldman

All the different elements that we discussed in this ongoing series come together in the scene. The scene is the building block of the screenplay. Usually consisting of no more than two or three pages, the scene must drive the plot forward. At the end of the scene, the characters involved in the scene must have moved from A to B or from C to D. If a scene does not achieve this, it does not belong in the script.

Visualise the script as the journey a river undertakes from its source to the sea. At times, the river might be nearly stagnant. In some areas, it builds up its force and speed when approaching a waterfall. Sometimes, the river is shallow and other times, it is deep. The river is constantly changing. Yet, it follows one course within which all the different sections are connected to form its overall trajectory. Each scene is a different section of that river and the script is the river. Some scenes slow down, preparing for or following a fast-paced or high-strung scene. A long scene follows a succession of very short scenes. The scriptwriter tries to create a contrast among scenes and introduces peaks and valleys within each scene.

A well-written and effective scene serves one purpose. In an academic essay, each paragraph contains one main argument. Similarly, each scene has one main objective. This quality of a scene applies to both types: the dialogue scene and the action scene. Although a dialogue scene consists mainly of dialogue, it also contains some action. Similarly, the action scene also contains bits of dialogue. The scene is the means by which the scriptwriter tells the story. Each scene drives the story forward and prepares the audience for the climax and end of the story.

Creative, Show Creativity, Write, Light Bulb

A scene can be easily identified by observing the place and time of what happens on the screen. Each scene begins with a scene heading, or slugline, which reveals the scene’s place and time. INT. DINING ROOM – AFTERNOON. or EXT. THE BEACH. SUNSET. A scene change happens when either or both elements are altered. In a scene, a family is having dinner. The next shot reveals the view from outside the window. The following shot shows the family having breakfast. This is a new scene the time has changed. Similarly, there is a scene change when an interaction between a couple shifts from the restaurant to the house, even if it happens in the one evening.

But one of the scene changes that personally irritates me is those scenes in Indian cinema where a boy is taking a girl to bed and poof, scene changes to next morning. I mean come on, who didn’t want to see the “action” that happened during the night?

Anyway, one of the golden rule when writing a scene is to enter the scene at the latest possible moment. Scriptwriters must be ruthless with useless information. Eliminate all information not necessary for the audience to comprehend the development of the story.

A well-written scene shows, develops or introduces one aspect of the larger conflict in the film. It never resolves the conflict unless it is the climax of the story. The scene finishes with the conflict remaining unresolved, thereby creating the need for future scenes. Even in scenes in which a problem is resolved during the film, the main character must not yet achieve the main objective of the story.

So, now my dear followers, we have come to the end of our ongoing series. Of course, it was a pleasure to write for you and to make you discover the world of screenwriting. So, please share your opinions in the comment section below!


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