I’m not sure that these rules can be applied to your scenes before you write them—you’d be putting up too many walls in your way blocking you from finding out what the scene wants to be about. As with most of the “rules” on this blog, this list is far more useful for rewriting than pre-writing. I was originally going to call this series “How to Juice a Scene,” and maybe that would have been better after all—if a scene is lacking something, this list will help you identify what that might be:
- What is the main action of the scene?
- What expectations for this interaction have been established beforehand?
- Which of these events have been foreshadowed?
- How emotional is the setting?
- What’s the character’s strategy? (tricks and traps)
- How does the plot progress at the end?
- Which old questions are answered?
- Which new questions are asked?
- Is this a reversal or an escalation?
- Are there hints of a character’s past?
- Is there reblocking?
- Is there one touch? (push and pull)
- Are there objects exchanged? (give and take)
- Is there a counterpoint to the tone?
- Does someone talk about something other than the plot?
- Does subtext replaces text as often as possible?
Of course, a checklist like this is also a tool for analysis: occasionally breaking down a well-written story and figuring out what makes it work is always a useful exercise for writers. I’ve finally been catching up with “Breaking Bad” and wow- It’s just as brilliant as everybody told me it would be. When I came up with the above list, I tested it out on the next episode I watched, and I thought that both the list and the episode came through the process pretty well. This is a breakdown of every scene from an episode in the middle of season two called “Down.” Click to enlarge, of course…