The first workshop in the Introduction to Screenwriting series is now available as a downloadable pack under Resources

The scene

What a scene is, how it's constructed, what it does and how to build it so it drives character and plot together.


We've got a structure for our story, now we ned to reassess it in terms ove events.

During the story, what happens and in what order? Who needs to be present and why? Who knows what's happened and who doesn't? Whose goals are advanced by the event? Whose position is weakened? What did the characters each think was going to happen at that moment? What actually did happen?

A scene contains one or more plot events. Ideally it contains at least two, and the characters move from one to the other in the scene itself. A scene also takes place in a specific place at a specific point in the plot. While the events are the basic building blocks of the story, the scene is the basic building block of the film. Structuring the screenplay into scenes is what makes it a screenplay rather than any other kind of storytelling mechanism.

Once you've got your scenes, I'm sorry to say, the next part is trying to delete them.

Stripping out scenes

Once you have your events put into scenes, the next thing to do is to see if you can delete any scenes by moving events into other scenes. There are generally three ways of doing this:

  • Rearrange the order of events, placing events that are geographically co-located into a larger scene. Instead of scenes that switch back and forth between events that happen at two locations, use two scenes only, one at each location and put them next to each other.
  • Strip out any events that simply show 'another' example of something already demonstrated. If you do this you may find there are some scenes that can be omitted.
  • Finally, look at scenes containing only one event. Delete them if they aren't essential to the plot.

This process can be heartbreaking at times. Stiffen your resolve and be willing to suffer for your art.

The finished scene

The finished scene contains events that drive plot. Events that drive character transition. Events that affect motivation. Finally they, in finished form, contain the real bones of the script, actions and dialogue.

Broadly you show the events rather than tell people about them. Action trumps dialogue. Despite this, a good screenplay will have plenty of both.

"I'm going to assume that 148 percent of the people in this room have seen a therapist."

William Goldman