“What is the point of the scene?”

November 19th, 2012 by

I begin the scene-writing process asking this fundamental question:

What is the point of the scene?

Every single scene in a screenplay should have a purpose, a reason for its existence, a point to it.

In the External World, the realm of action and dialogue, there is a structural goal, something that ties the scene to the Plotline, intersecting with and advancing the narrative in the physical universe.

In the Internal World, the realm of intention and subtext, there is an emotional goal, something that ties the scene to the Themeline, intersecting with and advancing the narrative in the psychological universe.

This speaks to the fact that in a scene, something happens. And something else happens. There is the something we see and hear. And the something we feel and intuit.

If you want to know the point of a scene, these are the questions you need to be asking, the layers you need to be exploring.

So with every scene you write, start with this question:

What is the point of the scene?

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2 thoughts on ““What is the point of the scene?”

  1. This is great advice, it also works with dialogue within a scene.
    When I feel/sense a character’s dialogue is unnecessarily wordy, I’ll ask, “What’s their point?” It seems counterintuitive, but cutting dialogue down to fewer words can make dialogue more powerful and emotional.
    And recoup page “real estate” throughout your script.

    1. Scott says:

      Traci, agreed. While we want to be entertaining in what we write, we also have to be super mindful of advancing the narrative. And asking that question — What’s the point of this scene, what’s the point of this side — is a great way to stay on target.

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