In an effort to streamline your script and make it the best story it can possibly be, you must begin by reviewing every aspect of the screenplay. Perhaps one of the most important questions to continually ask yourself during the creation process is, “Why is this scene important?” Of course, there’s a reason you’ve written a particular scene. While during the initial writing phase you may have thought a particular element was beneficial, during editing this very seem may prove to slow story progression or muddle character personalities. It’s so important to remember that no matter how well-defined your story concept is, if you’re unable to fully explain and understand the importance of a screenplay then you’ll never truly reveal an engaging and saleable story.
Identifying and weighing out the importance of every scene is the most valuable step in streamlining and fine-tuning your screenplay. Without this process, the script may not flow and progress as it should.
Identifying Its Importance
Before determining if a scene should be stay or go, it’s essential to clearly identify its importance. Upon this knowledge you can add value to each scene and weigh out its true fit within the screenplay scope. While many various screenwriting methods exist to assist writers in the quest of identifying scene importance, I’ve found the best way to accomplish this goal while receiving usable determining factors is to simply answer the following questions:
What (if any) information is revealed during the scene?
Who is involved in the scene?
What is their relationship and how does their emotional energy drive the scene forward?
If you were to remove the scene, would the story make sense?
What are the clearly identifiable goals and objectives for each character during the scene?
What is the primary scene objective? Is it met?
The Great Sacrifice
Upon answering the aforementioned questions, you’ll have a treasure chest of scene-specific knowledge. I’ve found throughout my time as a professional screenwriter, many writers have plenty of knowledge regarding the importance of the entire story, but very little intimate understanding of every scene.
If you’ve read your answers, and truly marinated on what they hint, and you feel that the scene is not important enough to include in the screenplay, you must act on this feeling. Some of the most successful scripts were only made that way by eliminating scenes, that while carried weight, were not important to drive and tell the story.
It’s during these moments you must take a deep breath and trust your intuition. Eliminate the scene from the script and then read the script in its entirety. I guarantee you by the end of the read, you’ll have either forgotten about the scene entirely or you’ll be satisfied with the gut-wrenching task of eliminating your hard-worked words.