Seger defines story momentum as that which causes one scene to lead inexorably to the next. Inexorably, because the relationship between scenes is one of cause and effect. There are, of course, other scenes, which serve the subplot, that are less tightly bound into the main plot, but in terms of the plot itself, a causal relationship between scenes should be the order of the day.
The end of act two in Witness provides a telling sequence of scenes in this regard: The young Amish boy, Samuel (Lukas Haas), identifies detective McFee (Danny Glover) as the murderer. This prescribes the next scene in which John Book (Harrison Ford) visits his boss to tell him of this, but is asked to keep it quiet. This causes John to return to his apartment, only to be shot at by McFee. John realises that his boss is one of the murderers. As a result, John picks up Rachael (Kelly McGillis), Samuel’s mother, and Samuel, and drives to the Amish farm to hide out. This initiates the next scene in which, as a result of his injury, John passes out. This, in turn, leads into the second act with John hiding out at the Amish farm, with Rachel looking after him.
Note how every scene described above is tightly related to the next. In future blogs, I shall have more to say about the specific structure of these causal scenes, and the important actions or beats within them called action points, but for now, I mention that the inciting incident and turning points, discussed at length in previous posts, are certainly cause-and-effect scenes.
Story momentum is a result of scenes being causally related to each other, contributing to he main plot through-line. Interwoven with other “looser” scenes that comprise the subplot, they make for a story that has both forward momentum and variation in pace, tone, and subject matter.
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