I’m sure you’ve made this mistake before. Nobody wants to sit through a minute of exposition in a two minute scene! Just because you goofed this one up this one time doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it and correct your mistakes for next time!
CUT TO THE ACTUAL BEGINNING OF THE BLOG POST!
Today, I’m writing about starting your scenes in the middle of the action. A scene doesn’t have to start with the beginning of a story or with the first time characters meet. Some of the most important scenes take place in the middle of the action of that story world. There’s a reason we’re focusing on these two people in this moment and only so little time to do a scene. Instead of starting off with these characters meeting, or beginning to describe what they’re doing, why not start in the part that matters and let the exposition come later. (Much like this blog post, see what I did there.)
When you start a scene, you and your partner are making a ton of assumptions based on body language, the suggestion given, and the few lines that may have been spoken. You and your partner are working together to build a foundation of facts so that you understand how the scene works and what the story world’s rules are, but you don’t have to spew them all out at the top. Every specific you lay down in the scene tells us a little more about the story world.
If this scene is actually going to be about, let’s say, two thieves blaming each other for a score gone wrong, we don’t have to start with the thieves getting caught. Details will be revealed line by line, but the important core of this scene isn’t that they were caught stealing, but about the differences in their personalities that has caused this theft to fail. The thieving is really just set dressing to a story about two people with differing work ethics. And in that example, we want to hear more about their problems with each other’s work style, we definitely didn’t need to see how they reacted to be caught, that’s not the important part of the story.
Imagine your scene like an episode of TV or a movie. There’s a reason the story starts when it does and ends when it does. The same is true of your story! The events that happen after or before what happens in the movie aren’t really that important, though someone should tell that to the people who make the Star Wars films.
Star Wars was original just Star Wars, but later it was edited to be Episode IV. They decided they needed to tell more stories and that this one was really in the middle of everything. But this was the first film made because what matters is the story of a son redeeming his father and saving the galaxy, not seeing how his father became an evil dude, or seeing what the legacy of his actions would be. Sure it’s fun to see more scenes based on scenes we’ve seen before, but do we really need to know how Lando pulled his maneuver at the Battle of Tanaab? No. It’s not important. The heart of the entire Star Wars saga was the fourth episode in the whole tale. So imagine your scenes as the good star wars movies, the only part of the story that really matters.