Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene For Your Movie

Elements of a perfect scene

Ah, the elusive perfect scene. Great movies are filled with them. Many movies only have a few of them. What does it take to write the perfect scene? I'm not claiming to be an expert on it, but here are a few suggestions I've learn over the years as a screenwriter.

A perfect scene contains the following elements: Setting, Character, Action and Dialogue. If you can manage to covey all four in each of your scenes, you are on your way to writing the perfect scene and becoming an accomplished screenwriter.

Every Scene is About the Hero

Every scene in your story should be about the hero. It should help the reader identify with the character and define what his role is in the story. Everyone else in the scene is there to support the hero, complicate his life or reveal something that moves the story forward. If the supporting characters in the scene don't accomplish one of those three things, then maybe they don't belong in the scene.

George Clooney

Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - Michael Clayton (2007)
Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - Michael Clayton (2007)

Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle

Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - Young Frankenstein (1974)
Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - Young Frankenstein (1974)

Each Scene Chronicles the Hero's Quest

In the overall story, the hero is on a quest. He wants something and the story chronicles that search. A scene is a mini story within the whole and every character in the scene needs to want something. Also, each character's desires need to be in conflict with what everyone else desires. But, since our characters are there to support the hero, then those desires must in some way be connected to the goal of the hero.

Heath Ledger

Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - The Dark Knight (2008)
Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - The Dark Knight (2008)

Scenes should create anticipation

Create anticipation and leave them hanging at the end of the scene. Keep them interested and wanting more. Likewise, make your audience feel smart. Create puzzles for them to solve and give them information that the characters aren't aware of. Pace your scene to add momentum to the overall structure of the story. With each scene the conflict should increase as you race towards the final outcome, the final hurtle, the final mountain to be climbed before the hero gets or doesn't get what he wants.

Movement in Your Scene

In many scenes, characters move around and interact with other characters in the scene. How and why they move should be consistent with the character and add to the scene. If there is a purpose behind moving character X from point A to point B, then by all means let him move, but otherwise, leave him be. Also characters movements and actions should be consistent with their background, job description, personality, age, etc. Move them according to who they are.

John Candy

Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - Spaceballs the Movie (1987)
Screenwriting - How to Write the Perfect Scene - Spaceballs the Movie (1987)

Dialogue Within the Scene

The way a character speaks and what he says should be consistent with who he is. Dialogue should sound natural and unforced. This can be accomplished by using contractions, and omitting names between characters who know each other. Vary sentence length and cut off your character's words. Reveal the subtext of the scene through dialogue. Don't use dialogue to explain what is going on in a scene. Show don't tell, show don't tell, show don't tell, we can't be reminded of that enough. Show don't tell.

Each scene is a story in itself with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Each scene contributes to the overall structure of the story.  A great scene will reveal character, conflict, move the story forward and leave them wanting more at the end.

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Comments 6 comments

gksquire9 profile image

gksquire9 7 years ago from America

Very nice, short, little hub. Thanks for that.

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

I've always wondered how different screenwriting is from the other forms of writing. Now I have an idea. Thanks for sharing this. A very entertaining read :D

Btw, is there a difference between screenwriting and scriptwriting?

lafenty profile image

lafenty 7 years ago from California Author

Screenwriting and scriptwriting are the same thing. Thanks for your comments.

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

very nice hub good tips

M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 6 years ago from United States

It is definitely important that each scene should contribute to the story as a whole. There is nothing more frustrating than a sequence in a movie or play that makes no sense and is glossed over in the ending, as if it never happened. The key to a good script is saying the most with the least.

creativegenius profile image

creativegenius 4 years ago from United States

I love your tips. I tend to focus on one scene at a time and sometimes forget to make sure the story progresses from scene to scene.

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