Writing Drama Scenes

Knowing how to write dramatic scenes for screenplays is essential to the screenwriter’s success. Without compelling scenes to link the story together, the resultant film will fall flat.
Writing Scenes Within a Screenplay
A full-length screenplay needs well-written scenes to hold it together rather like pieces to a jigsaw. If the pieces are ill-fitting and badly constructed, a coherent whole will not result. Scenes, no matter how small must link together and work together to create a sound screenplay.
Suspense Writing for Film

A scene is usually an event that occurs at a particular time and/or place. Often, there will be at least one character involved, more often more. In most cases, a scene will describe a blend of action and dialogue. Like the main story, a scene should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Most importantly the scene must have a purpose and propel the plot.

Creating Suspense in a Screenplay

The word Tension is imperative when writing a scene. This does not necessarily mean that violence is involved (although it often does) but that all is not well. There might be a conflict of interests between characters, secrets, lies and suppressed emotions might be an ingredient. This is often expressed in the subtext, which is the difference between what is overt and what lies beneath. Tension might even be expressed as comedy.
Creative Screenwriting Workshop for Improving Drama Scenes

The scene requires cutting or revision if the following applies:

  • It is not integral to the story
  • There is no tension
  • The outcome of the scene is repeated elsewhere in the screenplay
  • Nothing is revealed about the characters
  • If the action or dialogue described does not ring true to the character
  • Does not present further questions to entice the audience to keep watching

Creating Dramatic Scenes for Film

Some scenes serve merely to link two events together or express the passage of time. This is often shown as a montage or a series of events. The length of the scene must reflect its importance. Climatic scenes for instance regardless of its length in real time should be drawn out. A fight, a train crash or a conflict must be indulged in, every detail pushed to the limit. In this way, the length of the scene controls the pace of the story.

Action and Dialogue with Suspense

Every part of the screenplay must serve a purpose and contain some sort of tension. Problems can often be solved with the following suggestions:

  • Look for possibilities for enhancing tension to the limit. For instance, to make it more funny, embarrassing or edgy
  • Combining two scenes will often make the resultant scene work harder to tighten up the screenplay
  • Try enhancing the subtext, the difference between what is overtly said and the suppressed emotions.
  • Try reorganising the sequence of the scenes to see if the timing of events will improve the sense of culmination

How to Write a Dramatic Scene

A scene describes a particular event and often contains action and dialogue. A good plot will fall apart without the linking together of compelling scenes. Each must move the story forward and contain some sort of tension. The length of each scene serves to control the pace of the screenplay in that the importance of the scene must reflect how long it is. Well-written and conceived scenes will result in a well-rounded screenplay.
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© Rachel Shirley