What makes a perfect scene?
Short answer: it hits each of the five points on the Simplified Story System.
What are the five points of Simplified Story System?
1: Introduction and setting
2: Things go to plan
3: Realisation of a bigger problem
4: A choice must be made between two bad options
Do I have an example of a perfect scene?
I have several.
But for now, let’s focus on a recent example.
It comes from the Amazon Prime show The Boys.
This is your spoiler warning.
First, a little background on the show.
The Boys is set in a world where superheroes exist. These superheroes work for a corporation called Vought International. Vought International acts as PR for them and makes money for them.
When not in public, these superheroes are corrupt, arrogant and downright evil.
There is more to the show than that, but for the purposes here they aren’t relevant.
The perfect scene I’ll be talking about happens in the fourth episode of the show.
To set up the scene, we’re going to analyse here’s what you need to know:
Vought International want to get a contract with the military.
Terrorists have hijacked a plane.
Vought International see this as a golden opportunity to impress the military.
Vought International sends the two heroes Homelander and Queen Maeve, to save the day.
Now you know the background here is
A Perfect Scene summarised
Homelander and Queen Maeve get on the plane. They find passengers panicking, and they see the terrorists guarding the aisles.
Homelander and Queen Maeve make their way from the back to the front of the plane. Dispatching terrorists as they go.
When they get to the final terrorist Homelander uses his laser vision. His laser goes through the door and fries the flight controls.
The plane is going to crash.
Homelander decides the situation can’t be fixed and makes his way towards the exit.
Queen Maeve offers alternatives which Homelander shoots down. Homelander tells her nothing will work. Passengers panic and Homelander threatens them. He makes his way to the back of the plane. Queen Maeve protests. Homelander says she can stay on the plane and die with the passengers or join him.
Reluctantly she takes his hand, and he flies the two of them away.
The plane crashes.
This is a perfect scene.
It’s got good acting, directing, special effects, name it.
It doesn’t shy away from the despair of the passengers.
In fact, it personalises the tragedy by having a little girl who idolises Queen Maeve begs her to save her. A lesser show would let you see the spectacle of the plane crash without forcing us to confront despair.
That is one of the reasons why this scene struck a chord with people.
But you know what the main reason is, don’t you?
You saw what I’m getting at before you have it explained to you.
You’re smart, and you know exactly what I’m going to say.
What makes it a perfect scene?
The reason this scene works so well is because it hits every point of the Simplified Story System, in order.
1: Introduction to the world (a plane), it’s players (superheroes, terrorists, passengers) and the rules (superheroes have immense powers compared to the terrorists and passengers).
2: Things go well – The superheroes dispatch the terrorists with ease.
3: Realisation – The superheroes see they have destroyed the flight controls. They cannot save the plane.
4: Choice – Homelander gives Queen Maeve a choice. Stay on the plane and die or come with him. Betray the people they’ve sworn to protect with the chance of being revealed later on.
5: Aftermath – The superheroes get out, the plane crashes.
Here’s the reason why I picked this scene. This scene showed me that on some level, every scene has the Simplified Story System. At the micro-level to the macro level.
It makes the writing process more manageable. See these points as guideposts. Use them to navigate the inner world of your story.
Now when I first saw this scene play out, it opened my eyes. Every scene in some way should play out like this. Every act should play out like this.
This doesn’t mean that everything you do should comprise of 25 scenes. Sometimes you might take a little longer or a little shorter dependant on what you want to do.
Hit these points, and your story will resonate with your audience stronger.
If you want more check out my original post on The Simplified Story System.
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