Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Share, Show Off, Outdo, Strike Back, and Connect — Finding the right audience leads to the best writing

Who are you writing for?

One early piece of advice I got came from Vonnegut's disclosure that all his writing was aimed at his sister – even after she had passed away. Through my career, I found choosing an individual to write to has provided focus that directed my tone, choices, vocabulary, structure, and humor for the work. Specificity is one of the strengths of good writing, and writing to one person enforces specificity.

By luck, three things have pushed me toward a new insight about choosing a reader. Instead of selecting someone to write to based on my notions of what's best for the material, there are cases where I can create material for specific people. The chief benefits of doing that are new approaches to ideas and increased enthusiasm for rewriting (my least favorite and most problematic part of the writing).

I'll begin by saying a little bit about how I got here and then I'll provide a process you might use to take advantage of what I discovered.

Three things converged in my writing life:

First, I found myself writing for specific actors because I'm now part of a local theater group. Most recently, I deliberately thought about two older women who take on material and twist it in marvelous, quirky ways. They don't get enough opportunities to show what they can do because there is a bias toward writing characters who are "in their prime." So before I began a recent work, I let myself remember some of the moments I'd seen them shine. In no time at all, a scene between the two of them popped into my head, and I was on my way.

Second, I was asked to develop a sitcom idea by a friend. He is a delight to work with, and I don't sit down to bring the stories to life without imagining how I can surprise, entertain, delight, and get a chuckle from him. The ideas I select for the episodes emerge from what I imagine might amuse him, and I deliberately twist each scene to get him to lean forward, looking for what's next.

Third, I decided to dedicate 2020 to shorter works. I've always gravitated toward short stories and one-act plays and articles and speeches. Yet, most of my time in recent years has been committed to novels and feature film scripts. It's time for a break and a refocus, so I'm going to attempt to write 50 short pieces in a year. That will take a lot of ideas, and I'll need to have the enthusiasm to complete these stories. My usual process is unlikely to allow me to hit this goal.

An idea on how to get those 50 stories done came from the first and second parts above, my experiences with the actors and my friend. Here's what I've decided to do. (I've already begun, and it seems to be working.)

1. Create a long list of people. Obviously, relatives, friends, coworkers, bosses, subordinates, and colleagues come to mind easily. But I also found myself reaching into the past to include people I knew well in school, neighbors, mentors, and people who have connected with me through others I know. Some valuable folks showed up on my list late — rivals, cheats, and bullies. Finally, I listed a few famous people I've never met and people who are no longer among the living, both those I knew who impacted me and some historical figures (especially favorite writers).

2. Edit the list. Since I intend to write 50 short pieces, I decided to cut my list down to 50 people. I did this first by eliminating those who did not elicit a strong emotional reaction from me. That still left a long list, so I imagined each person speaking, doing something, or, in the case of people like the writers, their creations (characters, film clips, quotes, images, etc.).

This process was amazing. It wasn't difficult for me to think of moments of kindness, instances of inspiration, and times I suffered trauma – all of which helped shape me as a person and a writer.

Ultimately, I ended up shifting the balance of the list by budgeting myself to a small number of famous contemporary famous people (3), dead people (13), and people with whom I basically have positive connections and memories (24). I forced myself to retain 10 people who evoke negative emotions. I don't think I could write a long work keeping one of these folks in front of me, but I feel like I can immerse myself in bad feelings for something short. I've done it for scenes and sequences in larger works, and it always makes stories stronger.

3. Relive moments. So now that I had this list of individuals, I have discovered the best way to go from audience to story is to do what I did with the actors. I re-experience something meaningful connected to them. With little trouble, ideas begin to emerge from such moments. I let those flow, getting down fragments at first, but forcing myself to create full sentences about the ideas before I let them go.

4. Note specific scenes that emerge from reader-inspired ideas and create specific scenes. In my process, I don’t write these scenes out right away. I  allow myself to sleep on them before composition begins. But do what works for you.

5. Determine why you wrote the story to that person. Once a story is drafted, I usually define the theme before revision begins. Here's where this approach provides a major advantage, a real impetus to get the rewriting done. I found that because of the way these stories are coming to be, it's easy for me to connect the draft to the reader in terms of why I wrote the story. Often, it's a matter of simply wanting to share something with someone I care about. Sometimes, especially with those who have mentor me, my purpose seems to be showing them the gifts they gave me are valued... and here's the proof. For rivals, it's about demonstrating that I can outdo them. In cases where the reader is someone who caused the harm, it's about striking back.

I'm still exploring this process. I'm a long way from my 50 stories. But I'm encouraged that something new and valuable is happening with my writing. I also hope that what I'm learning along the way will add an extra level of power to my other works — mostly longer works — that still need to be revised. I'd be delighted to find that rewriting can become less of a task for me. (Fingers crossed.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Seven Ways to Stretch as a Writer

What will your 2020 look like? Since I prefer to create my own future (as much as possible), as opposed to stumbling forward, I take October to plan. What do I want to accomplish next year?

I have works in progress to finish (including rewriting), submission goals, work I owe others, and obligations to people I teach and mentor. These are all obvious and easy to put onto my calendar and set time aside for. I also do some analysis for myself on creative aspirations and the choices those imply. That's a big topic. Worth more than one post.

But the last area I consider is how I'll stretch as a writer. In the past, this part has been optional in my plans. Something that makes it onto the calendar, but may need to be dropped when life gets in the way. However, this year I'll carve out obligatory time. When I get stretch work done, it always pays big dividends. So come to respect the time it is allocated.

For instance, I took an improv course to get out of my comfort zone, and it opened doors, eventually, to my being head writer on a web series. A foray into horror writing (a genre that creeps me out) provided me with new approaches to building tension in a scene. And a course I just took on creating look books gave me a lot of insights, especially in how to present the images in my head, clearly communicating with a limited number of words, and establishing and committing to tone in storytelling.

Stretching may be the best way to raise the bar by exploring writing in new ways. Looking back, I found that my stretching exercises fit into seven different categories. I'll share those here:

1 Courses. When you have a good teacher, a curriculum that promises fresh material, and fellow students who share their talents and skills, getting methodical and academic can help uncover possibilities, deficits that need to be addressed, and new approaches to finding answers to the problems stories present. In addition, discipline, repetition, and practice can provide techniques and confidence that flow easily into your creative activities.

2 Favorites. I found that an important key to understanding what I meant to write, what I am passionate about, and my philosophy or perspective on creative work is most accessible by simply reviewing works I love and return to over and over again. Just listing out my favorite movies or TV shows or songs or authors — especially when I make the lists long and then do some forced ranking – reveals my values, priorities, and aesthetics in ways that might otherwise be hidden. And once this work is done, choosing a few works to "sit with" pays dividends in my appreciation of the impact of these works and how that impact was achieved. When possible, I try to follow up my new understanding with action, even if that means writing a scene or short story that has nothing to do with my current efforts.

3 Getting out of my comfort zone. This is a big one, and one of the most difficult for me to achieve. Usually, I have to make a commitment that means spending money. Not wasting cash is a great way to motivate myself to do something that is unpleasant. Your choice on what is out of your comfort zone is not likely to be mine. For instance, I mentioned an improv class above. When I tell people I took this class, the general reaction is, “What fun!" My reaction is (and was) “How awful!" The course was actually taught well and included charming and talented students. But improv is not designed for shy and awkward people like me. Enough said. I'm still glad I took the course.

4 Mastery. There are a lot of dimensions to storytelling. Great storytelling does not require excellence in all these dimensions. For instance, I love the quirky perspectives of Philip K. Dick's work. His prose, not so much. But, while it's not necessary to be perfect in every way, it is valuable to assess strengths and weaknesses (I give myself letter grades) and actively seek out one or two areas where it might be the right time to dig in and work at a higher level. I just finished a series on brilliant scenes. It involved a lot of review, study, and analysis on my part. I hope it was useful for readers, but my primary motivation was to extend my understanding of how my own scenes might be substantially improved.

5 Problem-solving. One of my early mentors, back when I was focused primarily on nonfiction (speeches and articles) said that every answer I needed could be discovered by reading the New Yorker magazine. He was mostly right. By seeing how stories were built, readers were engaged, explanations were made, and, mostly, arguments were made persuasive, I was able to see how I could improve my choices and have better answers to the writing problems presented by my day-to-day assignments. As a result, even if I find an acceptable answer to a story conundrum, I make notes about my struggle, my concerns, and what I ended up doing. These brief reviews help to articulate concerns I'm sure it hit again and help to focus my attention on the work of others.

For instance, while big motivations for action by a protagonist tends to be apparent, actions, opportunities, and comments that nudge characters toward more important choices (often precluding the best actions) are harder for me to come up with. I'm too eager to jump to something larger. But, as I've been re-watching the series, Homicide: Life on the Streets, I've seen a myriad of ways the characters are redirected or lured toward actions that make doing what's right harder. Those examples I discover are golden.

6 Sample something new. If it's not enough, it might take me out of my comfort zone. But, often sampling something novel, especially when recommended by a friend, can open up new vistas for me. This need not be creative works like novels or paintings or sculptures or films. For me, nature, travel, or something like a TED talk can provide fresh facts, perspectives, and areas of interest. I should add that making time for pure curiosity fits neatly into this category.

7 Connection in collaboration. This is one of the great ones, especially when the people are right in terms of teaching you something new about the world, experience, and yourself. For me, one of the greatest parts of this category is working on something that really matters (often with high-stakes) with someone who is committed, talented, capable, and different from myself. The opportunities for learning and growth, both as a writer and as a person, are great. Lots of things might be shoved up my calendar if I get the chance to stretch with the right person.

It's not necessary to have a stretch project in each of these categories every year. The impact of seriously engaging with one or two over the course of a year (or longer) can be enough to provide tremendous value. Choosing quality over quantity is best. In addition, these things can go wrong. Or life can get in the way. Or an experience can be horrible without delivering what you might be looking for.

It's good to remember that these are about stretching. That means they need to be put into perspective and not consider essential obligations. (Presumably, your essential obligations are already on your to-do list for the next year before you even explore stretching.) So… Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And sometimes, quit while you're ahead.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Brilliant Scenes for Your Story 6: A guide for writers

Exploring the scenes created by masters of cinema provides examples to emulate. How did they do that? Why does it matter? Is this something I can use? Each of those comes to mind when I reexperience and analyze what Wilder and Hitchcock and Demme and others have accomplished in their stories.

Throughout this series, I've tried to point to techniques and effective choices. The list has gotten long, and perhaps ungainly. With that in mind, I'd like to try to make insights that have helped to guide my own work, based on these brilliant scenes, something more useful and practical. So here's a guide that may indicate opportunities for you to improve your own scenes.

My suspicion is that not everything that comes out of this process will be best for your story. I often find my choices, once they are expressed in my writing, did not come out as well as I expected or hoped. But one thing that always happens for me when I make these attempts is the attainment of a deeper understanding. I come closer to mastery of a technique by using it. I also calm closer to finding what a scene needs by seeing what doesn't work. I don't consider any of the unsuccessful experiments as wastes of time. In fact, they're invaluable to me as a writer.

On the other hand, it's a delight when the choice made based on looking at excellent work these directly to my creating moments, scenes, sequences, and stories that accomplish what I'm hoping for. Often, in fact, they go beyond what I imagined.

So here is a guide, based on brilliant scenes, that I hope will help you improve your craft and take full advantage of the potential inherent in your concepts.

I'll review what's needed to get the most out of a scene from vital to valuable. It may be that the way you work is less methodical and hierarchical. If that's the case, feel free to use this as a suggestion list. I hope some of these, brought together here, will inspire new possibilities for your story's scenes.

1 — The scene should have a purpose. Scenes are important building blocks for telling tales. When they are thrown in and don't fit the story logic, they diminish the power of the story. Scenes may expose character or show the protagonist achieving (or failing to achieve) a step toward the story goal. They may be there to reveal essential information or just to hint at it. The scene may create questions for readers or lead to new obstacles, complications, or consequences.

Now often, a writer may include a scene because of the language or the humor (don't cut funny) or because an incident — perhaps what inspired the story in the first place – is difficult to delete. Such scenes will always bring storytelling to a halt and risk losing readers' attention. It may be justified, but it always should be questioned.

2 – Conflict drives a scene. Do you remember how your English teacher taught you the stories were about man versus man (character versus character), man versus nature (character versus nature), and man versus himself (character versus self)? Scenes are like that, too. At least one character, battling for something essential, is required for most scenes. When everything goes well and everyone gets along, there isn't a story.

3 – Beginning, middle, and end. Something needs to be set up, explored, and resolved in most scenes. (This is true for most stories, too.) Now, the resolution usually will lead to something else, will open the door for more storytelling, but the scene needs to go somewhere. It must continue the forward momentum of the story.

It's always great when the resolution makes readers turn to the page to see what happens next. It's also wonderful when the resolution of the scene is not predictable. (I doubt many moviegoers expected the cornfield seen in North by Northwest to conclude with an explosion.)

4 – Perspective. If you look at great scenes, over and over again it will be clear that there is one character who provides the viewpoint. Often this is a character the readers or audience already identify with. Empathy is a powerful ingredient in scenes. It makes the emotion personal. Likewise, the point of view character's emotions and agency can intensify a scene. When the point of view character acts with ingenuity or courage or has to face something that's terrifying or painful, you've created a memorable scene. One more thing—making sure characters have agency helps identification because readers like to exercise free will. They don’t want the characters they connect with to be at the mercy of the author.

5 — Escalation. There are many ways to add emphasis or intensify a scene. One of these is increasing risk or stakes. Another is becoming more extreme (as with the attacks on the hero in North by Northwest). Including more people (as with the Some Like It Hot scene), introducing scale, and contrasts can also intensify a scene. There are two other tools here that may be valuable. One is implication, as when the T. Rex is mentioned in Jurassic Park. The other is irony, which gives the audience superior knowledge, enough to worry more than the point of view character.

6 — Turns. During the scene, the focus may change several times. A good rule of thumb is to have 3 to 5 turns per scene. Often these indicate a power shift, and probably the easiest example is an argument, where characters seesaw back and forth based on how they successfully bring up points. Often turns our surprises (which often thrill readers) or the elements of purpose, like revelations or raising questions (see above). So it's good to keep in mind that purpose can occur within a scene, not just of the end.

Frustration and delay (both for characters and readers) are good tools to use to add power to turns. Also consider action/reaction, set up/payoff, and confusion/realization as elements that can be included. Reveals need not be all it wants. They can come gradually as when the dinosaur's true scale becomes apparent slowly in Jurassic Park. Interruptions and false victories may also be of value here.

7 — Delights. Reading or watching a movie can be a sensual experience. I remember telling one writer that I love the feel of his words in my mouth when I read his work allowed. Great languages and limited to poetry. Descriptions can paint pictures that are unmatched. The unseen monster presented by the changes created or the responses of characters or nature can be the most terrifying because it allows readers or moviegoers to participate, filling in the blanks. Some writers make it a point to include all the senses in novels and short stories. This often can enrich a scene (though all the senses would not be appropriate in a film script). One caution (which is a more general concern) is to keep things in balance. Make sure whatever is in a scene serves a larger purpose. When what’s included is charming, it might enhance, but it also might redirect attention and mess up the pacing of a scene. Delights are the spices of scenes. Use them carefully.

Just as story logic reaches beyond the individual scene, two other ingredients connect with larger purposes. Symbolic imagery provides a subtle way to create connections and mythic textures to the whole work. And the theme can dictate choices that strip away what’s unnecessary to the impact and purpose of the story.

There are more lessons from scenes. I’m sure that if I went back to those covered in the previous posts in this series, I’d discover useful approaches. But, here, in one place, should be items worth considering as you attempt to get the most out of you scenes and your stories.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Brilliant Scenes for Your Story 5 - The wonder of Jurassic Park

A triumph. A joke. A scare. A thrill. These were at the core of each of the previous posts in this series. (Those scenes and this week’s can be found in 36 Of The Greatest Movie Scenes Ever Made.) Most people can easily think of times when stories have led them to cheer, laugh, shiver, and sit on the edge of their seats. It’s harder to come up with examples of wonder. It’s difficult to get audiences to move outside of themselves. Even introducing dinosaurs, skillfully rendered with CGI is not enough. Cinematically, this scene from Jurassic Park leans heavily on camera work (zooming in on faces five times, plus getting to faces in clever ways like bringing others into the close-ups), lighting (especially sunlight), acting (physical reactions), blocking (movement and placement of characters), and elevated music (Williams’s take on Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto).

Beat 1 Grant looks. It takes a moment for what he sees to register.
Beat 2 Grant’s face shows awe. He stands.
Beat 3 Grant pulls Sattler into the experience, literally.
Beat 4 Sattler reacts with awe and standing.
Beat 5 What they see is revealed. Not all at once, but slowly. A dinosaur.
Beat 6 The scientist exit the car and go toward the dinosaur as if drawn to it.
Beat 7 Grants techno-babble grounds the experience with information that is dwarfed by the audience experience.
Beat 8 Grant (endearingly) stutters out the obvious, “It’s a dinosaur.”
Beat 9 Hammond heads over, chuckling. He provides a new perspective—pride.
Beat 10 Malcolm provides another point of view, seeing this as madness.
Beat 11 The scientists look up, as we do, at the gigantic dinosaur. An awe-inspiring perspective.
Beat 12 Grants techno-babble grounds the experience with information that is dwarfed by the audience experience.
Beat 13 The dinosaur bellows. It drops its forelegs, creating thunder and shaking the earth. This adds to the sensual experience, which had been mostly just visual.
Beat 14 Gennaro provides another perspective. This means money. He misses the wonder.
Beat 15 Malcolm seems to abandon his concerns, caught up by the wonder.
Beat 16 Hammond slips in new information as data. Yes, top speeds. But… another escalation with the casual reveal of the existence of a T. Rex.
Beat 17 Sattler is stunned. Grant is overwhelmed.
Beat 18 More dinosaurs. (12 dinosaurs are shown). This is not just a zoo. It is a new world.
Beat 19 It’s subtle, but Grant shares the implication of social behaviors (moving in herds).
Beat 20 Hammond moves from pride to awe.
Beat 21 Grant asks how did you do this? 
Beat 22 Hammond says, “I’ll show you.” A promise.

Note: This could have been played for horror. That’s hinted at by Malcolm’s initial reaction. But Spielberg holds very much to wonder, with only Malcolm and the clueless Gennaro as the dissonant notes.

The plot would have been served by seeing one dinosaur and having Grant ask, “How did you do it?” Given the quality of the CGI, the audience would have felt some of the awe, especially with our look at how Grant takes it in. But the film provides almost three and a half minutes of rising emotions to reach an apex of wonder.

This great scene:
    •    Gently and organically reveals.
    •    Gives us a character who experiences the wonder, so we can share it.
    •    Grounds the fantastic with mundane techno-babble. This makes the experience more believable.
    •    Provides scale (human-dinosaur).
    •    Endears us to Grant by making this brainy guy into a kid again, stating the obvious.
    •    Provides contrasting points of view (pride, concern, greed).
    •    Literally provides perspective, with a shot looking up at the dinosaur.
    •    Creates a varied and appealing sensual experience.
    •    Escalates with another popular dinosaur and more dinosaurs and the society of dinosaurs.
    •    Turns emotionally. Even the guy who knows (Hammond) is moved to awe. This further pulls the audience toward wonder.
    •    Through Grant, raises a question for the audience.
    •    Ends with a promise, “I’ll show you.”

The art, perhaps unteachable, is the pacing and balance of this scene. And it’s an extraordinary accomplishment because wonder here depends on correctly using a variety of brilliant scene tricks. We’ve seen many of these before: escalation and going to extremes, a viewpoint character, contrasts, a powerful sensual experience, bringing in more characters to make the experience less private and more public, and revelations. Conflict is present (suggesting future developments), but it is soft-pedaled so it doesn’t distract from the wonder. I’d argue that there is also a power shift here. Humans, imagining they are in control, describing and predicting. But even Hammond, who thinks he created this world, ends up in awe of it. Jurassic Park is bigger than his imagination, and this almost foreshadows how it is not in his control.

There are a few more elements I haven’t explored earlier. Anticipation, based on hints, plays a major role in the emotions this scene creates. In particular, things are withheld and emerge relatively slowly. There is a deliberate use of scale and perspective. (Think of how BIG the destroyer is at the very beginning of Star Wars. Think of how alone and tiny Bowman is when he is locked out of the Odyssey by HAL in 2001.) Grounding makes it much harder to dismiss what is shown, and that’s essential in a scene that pushes the limits of willful suspension of disbelief. And I particularly like how thoroughly this scene explores different human responses and how it draws us in, bit by bit (more and more of a dinosaur, more and more kinds of dinosaurs, more and more dinosaurs, more and more dinosaur behavior), to a new world.

It takes a lot to keep an audience engaged so they experience wonder instead of mere spectacle. A lot of tools need to be mastered. Talent, experience, and great collaborators help. My posts can’t guarantee success like this. Nonetheless, I’ll try to pull together elements of brilliant scenes into a guide to creation. Next week.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Brilliant Scenes for Your Story 4 - The tightening spring of North by Northwest

Great shots. Great moments. Great writing. I’ve already explored some ingredients that go into scenes from Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, and The Silence of the Lambs. Let’s see if some other useful elements might be teased out of the crop-duster scene in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. (Once again, the scene can be found in 36 Of The Greatest Movie Scenes Ever Made  .)

This one is all about tightening the spring, increasing the tension. A desperate everyman, Roger Thornhill (played by Cary Grant), has stumbled into a complicated intrigue. After being promised some answers, he takes a bus to an isolated location.

Beat 1Surprisingly, the bus leaves Roger in a flat expanse in the middle of nowhere.
Beat 2 Roger checks his watch. Where’s the man he’s supposed to meet?
Beat 3 A crop-duster drops a load of insecticide on a cornfield in the distance.
Beat 4 The plane turns to head toward Roger, who looks puzzled.
Beat 5 No coincidence. Danger! The plane is heading right for him. And dropping down to Roger’s level.
Beat 6 Roger hits the dirt just in time to avoid the plane.
Beat 7 Roger stands back up.
Beat 8 The plane circles back for another chance at him. Danger again!
Beat 9 Roger drops into a drainage ditch, just in time.
Beat 10 This time, the plane also strafes Roger with bullets, but misses him. The danger is greater.
Beat 11 Roger races out to the road, tries to flag down a car.
Beat 12 The car blows by him.
Beat 13 The plane is circling back for a third attempt on Roger’s life.
Beat 14 Roger runs like hell. Knocked down, bullets again.
Beat 15 Roger runs into a corn field and hides.
Beat 16 The plane’s pilot does not seem to be able to spot him. Success!
Beat 17 The plane dumps insecticide on the corn field (and Roger). A new danger, hinted at earlier.
Beat 18 Roger runs out of the field to get away from the poison, but he’s back in the open.
Beat 19 A truck speeds down the road.
Beat 20 Roger rushes into the road. Stands in front of the truck.
Beat 21 Despite honking, Roger holds his position. 
Beat 22 Before it can stop completely, the truck hits Roger (without injuring him badly).
Beat 23 The plane slams into the truck and explodes. It’s a fuel truck
(Note: This is the first time music occurs in the scene.)
Beat 24 As the fire spreads, the drivers exit.
Beat 25 One driver says to Roger, “Get out of here. The other tank may blow.”
(Note: This is the first dialogue in the scene, at 3:36.)
Beat 26 The drivers keep running into the clear.
Beat 27 Roger is running away as the other tank, indeed, blows.

The plot would have been served by one clearly threatening pass by the plane, which would show the danger and the broken promise. If the car had stopped for Roger at Beat 11, the story could have continued. Instead, we saw the danger escalate and Roger pushed the the limit. We learn about who Roger is and worry about him more because his enemy is extreme.

This great scene:
    •    Isolates the hero.
    •    Pulls an adversary out of an unlikely, apparently mundane situation.
    •    Shows the hero threatened with being smashed, shot, poisoned, and engulfed in flames.
    •    Pushes the hero to show ingenuity in the face of few resources.
    •    Forces the hero to show determination and courage.
    •    Goes to extremes, with Roger risking begin crushed, with the killer so intent on his mission, he loses his own life.
    •    Provides the audience with a powerful sense experience,
    •    … with amazing purity. (A nearly an empty location. The only sounds coming from the plane — primarily the plane’s motor.)
    •    Our attention is focused. There are no distractions, so the audience is immersed in Roger’s world.
    •    The power shift (and Roger’s survival) are held to the very end of the scene.

A thrilling scene (which can be in genres other than thrillers) depends on escalation, especially increasing concern for the protagonist. The adversary is show to do more than attack. He creatively responds to Roger’s moves and shows determination. This demands more from the hero.

Showing the main character acting heroically can bond the audience to him/her. (This adds emotion, like falling in love with a character, making the scene more memorable because of what happens inside us, not just in the scene.) The more that is stripped away from a scene (props, music, dialogue), the more the audience is forced to participate. This is one of the most immersive scenes in cinema because it is so spare. Here, action alone reveals Roger’s intelligence without leaning on words at all (dialogue or voice over). We see Roger’s choices even as we are looking for options for him.

Note that not everything from previous posts are in the analysis of this scene. And it provides new tools, adding to our list. While you can use what I’ve provided so far in your own scenes, I promise I’ll provide a post that includes all of them. But not quite yet. I have another scene to share.