Sunday, March 12, 2017
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Never Change the Topic of Conversation in a Scene
But if you’re not writing a play, you have the freedom not to do that, which means that you’re pretty much not allowed to do that.
I’ve found this frustrating in my own scripts: I have two characters, I’ve brought them together in a certain time and place, and they two different discussions they need to have, so why can’t I just get halfway through the scene and have them say, “Anyway, moving on, I also thought we should discuss…” But such transitions never work. After that scene gets attacked by every reader, I have to reluctantly break it up or cut it.
Scenes should be short. You should use any possible excuse to change the scene, and a change in topic is the most obvious excuse you could have. Cut to later, as the characters are doing something different, to cover the next topic of conversation. Ideally, in fact, you would break it up with another scene, because it’s best not to have two scenes in a row with the same two scene partners.
Another thing that they have to do in plays that you should therefore avoid in any other medium, in order to avoid staginess: Whenever someone enters a scene and announces that something visually interesting has just occurred elsewhere. Cut away and show us the thing happening!