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Scenes and Actions Part 1 – Scenes and Settings

After speaking on the topic of dialogue, I’ll be tackling the topic of scenes and actions when it comes to creating dynamic and exciting situations for any character.

In this post, I’ll talk about the relationship between scenes and settings when it comes to creating a character’s world. While one might think these concepts are one in the same, a scene involves a series of actions perpetuated by a character(s). A setting deals with the environment where many conflicts and scenes take place within the character’s world. Both are essential in the art of world building as the characters need them to create a visual presentation through words. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a great example of this as her use of descriptions and adjectives helped in creating the world millions of fans witnessed on the big screen.

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Creating and envisioning settings are instrumental in creating dynamics between characters along with their dialogue. I think about the old adage “the setting is another character” when it comes to perfecting your screenplay. It must be visually descriptive and vibrant just like the characters. I’ll use my script as an example. I need the cultural shock aspect as my main character is being introduced to a new environment. I describe everything from the pink and white decor in her bedroom to the white walls and blue lockers within her new high school to give the reader a sense of what is going on within this realistic fictional world. For me, the world is just as much a part of the story as the characters moving the plot forward.

A tip I use is creating a series or film bible for your script that way you already have the settings and descriptions in place for reference. As I revise and edit my script, I constantly refer to mine when making sure a setting is true to the vision I have.

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A scene from Life of Pi recreated by Morgan Spence

Once the settings are in place, creating scenes are a bit easier. Each scene must carry the plot forward in some way (big or small). When thinking of a scene, you must ask yourself some questions: is this important to the story? Does it move the plot? Does the rapport and actions within the scene come off as natural to the character(s)? If your scene doesn’t answer any of these questions, you might need to lose the scene. I’ve had the experience in my process as an introduction scene between my main character and her neighbor read fine in the initial writing, but once I revisited it, it didn’t make sense in the overall story. I tried changing dialogue and moving it around, but in the end, I ended up rewriting the whole scene. It was the best thing I could have done for the plot.

To save on wasted space, I would suggest creating an outline of how you want your script to flow. This way you can have your scenes laid out for you to refer back to when needed.

Hopefully, this post will aid you in creating the best settings and scenes for your characters to play in. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week to read about creating actions to enhance the reader’s experience and your characters when reading your script.

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