Anatomy Of A Scene In Your Screenplay


Screenwriting is an economical writing medium so every word, every scene in your screenplay must serve the story. Screenwriters cannot afford to add scenes purely for their aesthetic value.

Every scene should function as a self-contained building block to the greater story in order to write a solid screenplay.

Essential elements of scenes in your movie script

PURPOSE

What is the overall objective of the scene? What is happening? Why? How does it relate to the main character’s goal and the overall story? How does it make the audience feel? It should explore theme as well as propel plot dynamics.

LOCALE

Where is the scene set? What does this setting reveal about the main character or the story? Is the locale a character in your screenplay?

DECISIONS

This relates to changes are made in response to the initial journey. Given that the main character has obtained new information or tools, what choices need to be made to achieve their goal?

PLOT

This refers to the story trajectory based on the main character’s chosen course of action. Are their choices forced or unforced? The physical actions that drive the story. Is it direct or indirect action? Is there suspense, tension, comedy, foreshadowing, forewarning or twists that add surprise and interest to the story?

OBSTACLES

These refers to interaction between the main character and the antagonist. Sources of conflict include:

  • Man vs Himself
  • Man vs Another Person
  • Man vs Monster
  • Man vs Place
  • Man vs Society
  • Man vs Universe

WHAT’S GOING ON? 

Not so much what is happening, but how it happens? How is the physical activity being performed? This reveals a character’s inner thoughts and subtext.

CRITICAL INCIDENTS

These are major story beats that change the direction of the story. It is typified by changing balance of power between characters. It can be a complication, plot reversal, revelation or key dramatic event.

EMOTIONAL RESONANCE

How does each character feel? How do they react to a situation? How do their feelings change? Are your characters mad, glad, sad or bad?

Hey there fellow screenwriters. Just letting you know I’m available for script consultations through my Script Firm banner. Click on the link below to find out more.

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For in depth Film & TV script analysis visit Script Firm.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Hackett says:

    My company, Audio Movies teaches writing skills to our radio play writers. Your articles are spot on and come in very handy. Thank you for taking your time to help us all write better.

    1. awww shucks!!! blush!!

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