March 5, 2019

How to Build a Tense Scene Reminiscent of 'Silence Of The Lambs'

Want to enjoy your scene with some fava beans and a nice chianti? 

We're all about building your best script possible (we have a free seminar on it) but sometimes you have to just learn from the masters. Ted Tally's Silence of the Lambs screenplay, based on the Thomas Harris novel, is a masterclass in tension and escalating conflict. The movie is constantly building the story brick by brick. 

We've gone over the importance of a Story Map or Treatment before writing. It allows you to move more freely and build the story, 

But what happens when you apply that granular notion to each scene?  

The Three Act Structure in Your Screenplay Scene 

While this sounds crazy, Lessons From The Screenplay actually does a very informative breakdown that shows you how you can add tension and excitement by following basic act structure at the scene level. 

I think it's pretty telling to look at these beats in the movie as an almost short film in their own right. Every scene needs a first act where we get to know the moving parts. Characters, stakes, their world, an inciting incident (like Dr. Lecter saying he can help lead to the identity of Buffalo Bill). Then Act II, the worst act to write, is all about the give and take between these two characters, as well as the building worry that Clarice will have to leave without getting what she wants. 

Check out even more screenwriting lessons from...Lessons From The Screenplay

What's your favorite scene from a thriller? Do you use three-act structure to build every scene into your screenplays? How do you express internal and external conflict with every beat? Or maybe you're having trouble being creative at all - just heed Patton Oswalt's advice and get out of your own head. Put your ideas on the page and work and rework them.  

Let us know in the comments! And get to rewriting!      

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