Sunday, May 17, 2009

Water Cooler Moments

I can't remember which of my friends once said it or where I read it, so I can't give due credit here, but this is not my idea.

Someone once said that in every script, there should be at least five water cooler moments. Five moments that were so mind-blowing, that they are what people are going to be talking about around the water cooler Monday morning. It beats talking about how much you hate Mondays.

I think this can be a very helpful concept for writers because it pushes our scenes. One thing I've been learning a lot about the past couple of months is getting the most out of your scenes. I need to be continually upping the stakes, creating more tension, exploiting the opportunities in each scene. Sometimes this is difficult to see in your first draft. It's easier to see the ways to get more out of the scene when you actually have one written. Going through your script and pinpointing your water cooler moments (or potential water cooler moments) will help see if your scenes (and subsequently your script) are nearing completion. You don't want someone to read your script and think, "This scene is good, but there are so many possibilities unexplored by the writer." You don't want to give a reader this option. I feel like it's one of the tell-tales of an inexperienced writer, a writer who doesn't know how to open their scenes up, a writer who is too timid to delve deep into their story.

Not all water cooler scenes have to be big special effects explosions, a la the destruction of NY in every disaster movie. As I go through my scripts, I'm going to be looking for those special effects moments, but also for the emotional moments, the character moments, the relationship moments, to give a good balance to my scripts.

And maybe it wouldn't hurt to chat up your coworkers around the water cooler and see what moments stick out to them.

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