If you’re writing a scene for television, every scene needs to include these essential elements:
Think of every scene you write as a mini-story. Use the three act structure model and make sure your scene has a beginning, middle and end.
Think of it like this:
- Departure from the ordinary world
- Initiation into the unknown world
- Return to the ordinary world, but changed forever
If you are writing drama, your scene needs to change your protagonist. What can they do at the end of the scene they couldn’t do at the start?
Look at this scene from the Flight of the Conchords. Our protagonist’s have a series goal – to be a successful band; and in this scene they have an episodic goal – to fire Murray
Have they changed within the scene?
MOVE THE STORY FORWARD
Television chews up story. Does every scene move the story forward? Cut the scenes of characters travelling from A to B – we don’t need to see that detail. Cut any scene that doesn’t move the story forward, it’s wasted air time.
Is there a moment that undercuts the audiences’ expectations? A moment where the direction you thought the scene was going in, changes direction?
Look at this scene from THE POLITICIAN from Netflix – there are several moments where our expectation change with the story.
Make sure your protagonist’s story goal is clear in every scene. Look at this scene from Black Mirror where the protagonist has a goal; there is so much dramatic tension in the scene as she must be polite to get what she wants – also look out for the beginning, middle and end and the switch moment:
In both comedy and drama, it’s important to escalate the action. Look at how many escalations are achieved in 60 seconds of drama from Friends:
The main drive of television is to have a cliffhanger at the end of every scene, so the viewers want to come back for more. Does you scene end with a killer hook?