But that’s not always the case.
scenes, even if the overall hero of the story is present, the audience is
actually rooting for someone else. Sometimes we’re rooting for someone else to set the hero straight. Frequently, for instance, when Buffy and Willow disagreed, the audience sided with Willow.
Buffy was better in a fight, which made her the capital-H “Hero” of the
show, but Willow was wiser, which made her the “hero-of-the-scene” for most of her
scenes with Buffy.
about scenes that don’t have any of our “heroes”? There still needs to be conflict within that scene, and the
audience should be able to pick a favorite to root for in that conflict. Think of the scene in Die Hard where we
cut away to the local news coverage: the anchorman mistakenly refers to
Stockholm Syndrome as “Helsinki Syndrome” and his co-anchor rolls her
eyes. Even this small scene has
its own hero and villain.
Even if the
scene merely consists of two villains, then that scene also needs its own “hero” that we want to see “triumph” in this interaction. We should admire one villain’s reaction
to this situation (even it’s only to admire the competence of his or her
villainy) and we should disdain the other.
If your hero
and villain keep running circles around inferior scene partners in separate scenes, then the audience will get
more and more excited about their eventual confrontation. The audience will start
saying, “Wow, these two both dominate every scene they’re in! What happens when they’re finally in a
scene together?” Which one will continue to dominate,
and which will be humbled for the first time?
This rule is
something you need to keep in mind when you’re building your ensemble: You have to multiply everything by two. It’s tempting to say, “Okay, the aliens
invade and we show how the whole town reacts, so we cut back and forth between
the sheriff and the priest, and the school teacher, and the general at the army
base, and...” Wait, stop! In order to write actual scenes, you’re actually going to need two cops, two priests, two school
teachers, two army commanders, etc,
at each location. And each of
those pairs need contrasting personalities because you’ll need to have conflict between the scene
partners. Doesn’t that make you
re-think you inclination to have so many settings?