Simplest Way to Make Your Films More Interesting: Use 'Therefore' & 'But' Instead of 'And Then'
While Tony Zhou's most recent video essay is about creating better video essays, the lessons within are just as powerful for traditional storytelling. To advance your story in a more interesting way and keep the audience's attention, using "therefore" and "but" instead of "and then" can make a huge difference:
Orson Welles was clearly ahead of his time in a lot of ways, and F for Fake has a ton of fantastic lessons. While you might think taking advice from Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park is a little strange, they've been successful storytellers for nearly two decades now. It's one of the better pieces of storytelling advice I've come across, and it's also one of the simplest. It's really easy to just keep adding to your story with events that simply add up to: "and then this thing happened, and then this other thing happened." Stories can be much more interesting, however, when you're saying "therefore" and "but" between the events:
"But" or "therefore" gives you causation between each beat, and that's a story. Not "and then."
Here is the extended version of the NYU talk used in the Tony Zhou video essay:
They also talked about these storytelling techniques in much more detail in The Making of South Park: 6 Days to Air. Here's a clip from that:
Obviously good storytelling, in any form, is about more than just this technique, but it is one of the easiest ways to make sure that you're not just gluing scenes together that don't really belong, and therefore don't move your story forward.