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Bringing Dramatic Action Into A Scene

The purpose of this exercise is to help us bring dramatic action to our scenes.

Firstly we should examine what we mean by Dramatic Action?

Dramatic Action is the tactics a character is using to achieve his or her goals.

There will be the overarching goal of what the character wants that will be played out over the piece as a whole. However, each scene needs to have its own goals and objectives that are immediate and distinct to that particular scene. A mini-play if you like.

If the purpose of your scene is to merely relay information to the audience then it will be flat and inactive. In order to make that scene “active”, the protagonist will need to have a goal or objective that he/she will be trying to achieve within that scene. Once we have identified what that objective is and how our character is trying to achieve it our scene will jump off the page and the audience will be wondering, “I wonder what they’re up to?”

So let’s try this: I’d like you to write a scene. There are two characters in it – Character A and Character B (give them names if it helps). They can be whoever you’d like them to be (male or female, old or young, or a combination of these things). They can have any relationship (relatives, friends, work colleagues, although don’t make them strangers for the purposes of this exercise).

Character A enters the scene with an objective; he/she wants to borrow £500 from Character B, but there is an obstacle that he/she needs to overcome, they have already borrowed £150 which they have failed to pay back.

I’d like you to think about what tactics Character A is going to use to achieve their objective and overcome the obstacle.

Could it be that Character A starts the conversation with:

CHARACTER A: You know in France the utility companies have to go to Parliament if they want to raise the fuel price more than 3%.

Can you see what is happening here? Character As opening gambit is to bring up extortionate fuel prices. Perhaps later we’ll find out that he/she has just got their bill, they may even throw in the fact that not only have they just received a very high bill, but the car needs an MOT as well and that their credit card is maxed out.

Is their tactic pity?


CHARACTER A: Remember that time I saved you from drowning when we were on holiday?

A bit clunky I know! But you see what I’m doing…

The tactic is guilt!

So what tactics are your characters going to use?

Before you start writing think about the tactics your character is going to use to get their £500, try and start as far away as possible from the £500 question, but also think about when and if the other character is aware of what is going on, and how they are going to counter those tactics.

Now write the scene.

What I’d also like you to do is finish before the end, see where you can take this scene, does our character get the £500? Does he/she fail? What is the impact on the next scene?

Has this exercise ignited an idea of a bigger piece?

If it has, carry on writing, and remember finish before the end!

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