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Humanities LibreTexts

13: Scene

  • Page ID
    39590
  • A scene is a character’s attempt to solve a problem. At the beginning of your story you introduce the world of the play and the characters who inhabit it. You then need to establish a normal day for the characters in the world. At the end of the first scene you will need to introduce the major conflict of the play. Every additional scene is a character attempting to solve the problem or conflict and by failing to do so making their plight worse. Each scene should build in intensity and the character’s desire to resolve the conflict should grow along with the consequences of failing. By the end of the story the conflict should feel insurmountable and difficult and the character should be consumed with resolving the conflict and solving the problem posed in the first scene.

    Scenes vary in length and can be adapted based on the needs of the story. A common length of a scene is usually around 7-10 minutes. While writing, estimate that the actors speaking your text will average about 1 minute per page and so a 10 minute scene would be roughly 10 pages of text. If however, you have a character giving a monologue the speech will take a lot longer and your page count will diminish.

    When writing a scene remember to infuse your characters primary need into the conflict of the scene and make the stakes sufficient that the character’s need for the objective will pull them through the scene. Intention and obstacle are the name of the game in scene work. Each character in the scene needs to have a strong intention or desire and there needs to be an obstacle in the scene where the characters need to overcome in order to get closer to fulfilling their intention or goal. In overcoming the obstacle they also progress the plot, develop relationships, and increase the stakes of the play. Ask yourself what each character wants in the scene and what each character wants from each other? Then ask yourself what happens if that character doesn’t get what they want? And finally why does the character need it now? Make it your goal to have a strong scene where each character’s intentions are clear and to have your scene both serve the plot and be able to stand on its own if taken out of context.

    Playwriting Activity 1

    • Choose 2 characters you have created and give each a strong intention.
    • Write a scene where: Each character needs something from the other but is not allowed to communicate directly what they need. Have them work to achieve their goal and by the end the relationship is strengthened or weakened.

    Playwriting Activity 2

    • Choose 2 characters you have created and give each a strong intention.
    • Write a scene where: Each character needs something but they encounter an unexpected obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to achieve their intention. Have them work to achieve their goal and a relationship is weakened or strengthened, conflict is furthered, and the scene builds to a climax

    Playwriting Activity 3

    • Choose 3 characters you have created and give each a strong intention.
    • Write a scene where: Each character needs something from the other but is not allowed to communicate directly what they need, but they encounter an unexpected obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to achieve their intention. Have them work to achieve their goal, furthers the conflict, a character reveals something about his/herself that strengthens/weakens a relationship, and builds to a climax

    Playwriting Activity 4

    • Choose 3 characters you have created and give each a strong intention.
    • Write a dialogue where one character reveals something about themselves through a monologue.
    • Make sure that you answer the following questions for each character before you begin writing: Who wants what? What happens when they don’t get it? Why now?
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