Writing a screenplay is among the most interesting experiences I’ve had the pleasure of doing multiple times. While figuring out character idiosyncrasies and personality quirks is enjoyable, perhaps the most pleasurable aspect of screenwriting is watching each scene lead to the overall climax of a story. It’s with this thought, this article came to mind. It’s important to realize every scene must not only stand alone with its information and purpose, but it must also lead into the next scene. In a way, a scene begets a scene that begets the next scene, and so-on and so-forth.
Creating a screenplay requires multiple thought trails; however, the most important is how the current scene leads, or transitions, into the next.
Scene Transition Checklist
Throughout your writing process, always remain aware of how the current scene will transition into the forthcoming one. While one would think this would be common sense, there are far too many scripts circulating that feature sloppy scene transitions. This leads me into my next point, the term “transition” doesn’t only mean visual transitions. The emotional transitions within the borders of the story are far more important. Are scene transitions logical considering the current emotional state and objectives of involved persons?
As you create your screenplay, always be mindful of how scenes are not only internally constructed, but how their construction supports the overall story structure. The following checklist may help maintain this essential screenwriting element:
Check dialogue to ensure it features a logical process. Be mindful this logic may not be similar to your own. Even characters who feature psychotic tendencies have a logical emotional process that is unique to them. As scenes progress, be very careful to write the character according to this foundational truth while also allowing emotional freedom in responses and interactions. Freedom within the boundaries of core character elements cultivates genuine, truthful and complex characters.
Is the appropriate amount of information revealed to push the story forward while simultaneously setting up the forthcoming scene? As a screenwriter, never reveal too much information regarding intimate story details within one scene. To ensure each scene seamlessly flows into one another, pace the flow of vital information to maximize the weight of your big story reveal(s). Writing according to this method boosts the flow and succinct nature of the entire script.
Are significant time changes between scenes laid out in a logical sequence? Within the realm of your script, there are moments when one scene ends and the next begins, but in the future. While it’s not always necessary to specifically inform the audience what day of the week (or even if it’s the same week) during each scene, it’s important to make references to the duration of time that’s passed if confusion could potentially erupt. Be creative when revealing the current date. You never want to write in such a manner where you insult the audiences’ intelligence and ability to piece together bits of relevant information. Provide an easy challenge for viewers.