These are the things we want most in a story. We want to find characters who we can relate to, at least enough where we want to follow them around. We want a real emotional response from the characters when things change, good or bad. We want things to happen, events that push the characters onward in their lives and lead us to explore the story further.
A capable scene will touch on at least one of these elements. A good scene will hit at least two things. To have a great scene, action, emotion, and character all need to be present.
And now, a short musical interlude from Kids on the Slope.
To set this scene properly, the two leads, Kaoru and Sentaro, have been a bit distant before this scene starts. Kaoru’s love of the piano has been transformed by Sentaro introducing him to jazz music. Sentaro, on the other hand, has recently been swayed to temporarily be the drummer for a classmate’s rock band. Adding to their distance is Ritsuko; Kaoru recently told her how much he cares about her, only to find that she’s smitten with Sentaro, who doesn’t have a clue. That gives us character and establishes some past emotion.
Kaoru thought Sentaro had rejected his friendship. Sentaro was just trying to be helpful, but really missed spending a lot of time with his friends. And Ritsuko heard Kaoru play “Someday My Prince Will Come ” just for her and told him that she likes “My Favorite Things.”
At the festival Kaoru has helped organize, the rock band loses power to their amplifiers in the middle of their set. While some of the students try to fix it, Kaoru realizes he can do something to keep the audience from leaving. That’s the action–Kentaro starts playing. And Sentaro joins him.
Emotion comes in as Kaoru and Sentaro play. They reconcile their differences through music, playing until the reach the piece of music, “Moanin’,” that got them to start playing together. That would be enough to make a great scene, but Ritsuko has her own internal moment, seeing both of her friends for what they are worth, admiring them both equally.
Just remember, action, emotion, and character. Those are the keys to a scene’s greatness. Finding those elements in a story and making them build off one another will strengthen any piece of writing.
I think I’ll do that now, right after I turn on some jazz music.
[Note: I know the video is flipped. I still used this clip because it shows all the important elements that I mentioned in this post, regardless of its positioning.]