Posts Tagged ‘scene structure’

I met up with a friend over the weekend and he asked me what was new in my life. I told him that my second novel had been typeset and was on target for an early 2010 release. (Come to think of it, he was more an acquaintance than a friend because friends already know, courtesy me harping on incessantly about it.)

As I was basking in his fulsome praise, out came the spoiler. He asked what was next and I told him I’m attempting something different for my third, and since it’s an area relatively unknown to me, I’m doing research. Since when, he asked me. Since two months, I told him. Be careful, he warned me, you look like you’re stuck in a research rut.

And then I came back and caught Steven Soderbergh waxing about his latest offering, Che on the telly. And he was talking about them getting stuck in a research rut and having to wade through a veritable information glut as a result.

That got me a little anxious and I immediately booted my laptop and hacked out a detailed (I already had a fledgling plot in mind) plot. Then I broke it down in order of scenes. How does the novel open, what happens next, what happens after that, where is plot point I, where is the interval, what is plot point II, etc. That’s how I usually write. It’s impossible for me to think up a story in terms other than a screenplay.

And you know what, it really helped. Now I know exactly what information to seek, instead of aimlessly reading up trivia.

At that point, I was feeling so good about myself that I even hacked out the first five hundred words. And then someone told me that that day was Naag Panchami and a very auspicious day for new beginnings (tautology, or what?). That augurs well for the project, n’est pas?

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The difference between a screenplay and a short story/novel is that in a novel most of the action takes place in the protagonist’s head whereas in a screenplay most of the action is physical. Only what the character does gives us a glimpse into his character.


Also it is a very tight document that leaves absolutely no scope for any flab. If a scene has no bearing on the story but is there for the express purpose of illuminating a character trait, it has no place in the screenplay.


Also, another ploy that is used to trim the fat and keep the tension going is the scene structure. Just like a story/screenplay, a scene has a legitimate beginning, middle and end. But we DON’T always have to begin at the beginning and take it all the way through to the end. When writing a scene a good theory to employ is, ‘enter as late as possible and exit as early as you can.’


For example,






Seven potted plants lined up against a wall.



                                     Number seven suits me.


Reveal BAASI, sitting on two chairs. He wears two watches, two necklaces, two shirts etc. OMI sits respectfully in front of him. Seeing Omi’s quizzical gaze, Baasi explains,



                                    I do everything in twos. As you can see I wear two

shirts, two watches, I even eat from two plates.



And sleep with two wives?




How dare you? And so loudly? What if my first wife

heard it?



                                           (EMBARASSED LAUGH)

You’d have to die twice?




Let’s get on with it, shall we? What’s your name?





Baasi looks pleased.



                                     It’s a good name. It will lead to good things like

                                     celibacy and nirvana.



                                     Good God!



                                     Yes, he definitely is.



                                    No what I meant is I don’t want all that. In fact, the

very reason I came to you was so that..that…


Omi leans closer and whispers into Baasi’s ear. Baasi smiles widely.



Why didn’t you say so?


Baasi throws a pair of dice, shuffles some cards, makes some calculations.



I’ve got it. What you need is the letter K.






RADHIKA, MANOJ and PIDDI looking bewildered.



       (CRACKS UP)

KOMI?! You are going to call yourself Komi?




What other choice did I have? The other options

were Omik, which sounds like a milk brand, and

Okmi, which sounds like a Japanese geisha.


We go into scene 1 late, dispense with the introductions and enter scene 2 late, thereby avaoiding duplication of infomation. 


In fact, these days, with more and more emphasis on keeping manuscripts tight, even novelists are taking screenwriting classes to learn tips on how to hook their readers from the word go.


Excuse the formatting errors. I’m still not getting it!


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