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Taking My Own Advice; Loving a Scene Enough to Cut It


Anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that I have advised in the past that you need to love your work enough to completely change it. If you have a character that is great but does nothing for the overall story, you need to cut it. If you have a scene that has witty dialogue, great character moments or riveting action, but does nothing to advance the story, you have to cut it.

I was confronted with this issue with my own screenplay. I was at a table read with several people and we got to the last scene of the second act, which is a crucial scene between the two main characters and will determine the direction of the hero heading into Act III. The consensus was that I had to increase the drama in the scene and not get the main character out of it so easily. Which is another thing I’ve said in the past, which is love your hero enough to put her in painful situations because that’s where the real drama is. I didn’t have a hard time re-writing the scene from that angle. As I re-wrote the dialogue and the action, I realized almost immediately that I had a stronger scene and a stronger script because of it.

The problem was that there was a dialogue exchange at the end of the scene that I really liked. I liked it a lot. It was a terrific character moment and it did a lot for the relationship between these two characters as well. Unfortunately within the new context of the story, it didn’t make sense. Here’s where I went awry. I tried to figure out a way to cram what was now a square peg into what had become a round hole. That exchange no longer worked within the context of the story and it had to be cut.

Fortunately I didn’t spend a ton of time laboring over this and in the back of my head I knew all along that the change had to be made. That way when it came time to bite the bullet and make the change, I was able to do it. I was sad, but I did it. And you know what? I read the script this morning and it’s better. So even though only myself and the few people that read the first few drafts of my script will know that exchange ever existed, I can feel some pride about it because I was able to see the big picture and let it go.

Ultimately that’s what should be your over-riding concern when writing a screenplay. What is the big picture? Yes obviously small details are very important and even the smallest missed detail can derail en entire script. But the details, from the smallest to the largest, all must be dealt with when you have the big picture in mind.

Quite often it’s hard to see this when you’re evaluating your own work, so getting a professional evaluation could be the answer. Monument Script Services can evaluate your script and impartially let you know what’s working and what needs work. Click the link below to see which of our services best suits your needs.


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