Writing A Good Scene

On Writing A Good Scene

Writing a good scene (whether that scene be for screen or fiction or memoir) requires keeping audience attention fixed on key information. The challenge in writing a great scene is keeping the audience glued.

There is nothing more stale than a fiction scene that features two characters sitting in a room and talking. Heard this before from one of your beta readers or your feedback group?

Remedy this with the tried and true, “Pope In The Pool” method.

The term “Pope In The Pool” comes from a script called (somehow fittingly) The Plot To Kill The Pope. Screenwriter George Englund understood that he could not afford a dull scene in his hot, breakneck thriller. Setting his characters in a room drinking tea would have been downright boring.

What did Englund do to remedy his drab original idea? He devised a scene that conveyed the exact same dialog and information except he placed the Pope, his central character, in a swimming pool.

Now rather than watch the same stuffy old men sit around a dark room talking dark room topics Englund presented his audience with an interesting set of images and ideas to reconcile.

Who knew they had a pool at the Vatican?

Even you somehow knew this, does anyone really think of the Pope out taking an afternoon swim?

By putting his central character in an interesting and unexpected place, Englund made a memorable scene out of what may have been dismissed as simple exposition. While this kind of thinking won’t necessarily remedy problems with pacing, it does allow those droll necessities an opportunity to live and breath.

Much like fiction, life is a lot of walking into a room and talking to someone. You’ve done it today. I’m about to do it right now. That reality doesn’t make the ordinary moments in life cinematic or memorable though. We can, however, look at necessary scenes in new ways if we shake up what the focus character is doing.

Can your love addled heroine be out walking an enormous dog while talking on the phone?

Would it work if your edgy hitman was trying desperately to figure out how to work a juicer in the safe house kitchen while sharing his menacing backstory?

The trouble with slow scenes doesn’t necessarily come from limited locations. The trouble comes from looking at your locations in a limited way.

 

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Erick Mertz is a Portland, Oregon based freelance writer. He works as an assignment ghostwriter for clients in fiction, non-fiction and screenwriting. He lives in Woodstock with his wife, Lisa, his dog Boris and two cats.

Erick MertzWriting A Good Scene

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