Story Momentum

Story Momentum in Witness
Story Momentum in Witness

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AT WORST A TALE without story momentum flatlines and dies. At best it bores the reader.

In her book, Making a Good Script Great, Linda Seger shows us how to avoid this fate for our stories by establishing story momentum.

What is Story Momentum?

Seger defines story momentum as the force, or, perhaps more appropriately, the glue that causes one scene to stick inexorably to the next. Inexorably, because the relationship between scenes is one of cause and effect.

There are, of course, scenes meant to 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 abound.

The end of act two in Witness ushers in a powerful and telling sequence of scenes in this regard: The young Amish boy, Samuel, identifies detective McFee as the murderer. This prescribes the next scene in which John Book visits his boss to tell him of this, but is asked to keep it quiet.

This causes John to return to his apartment where he is shot at by McFee. John realises that his boss is one of the murderers. As a result, John picks up Rachael, Samuel’s mother, and Samuel himself, and drives to the Amish farm to hide out. It leads to 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 is tightly related to the next through causality. The result? Momentum is maintained throughout.

Summary

Story momentum arises as a result of consecutive scenes being causally related to each other. It maintains tension and contributes to the main plot through-line of your tale.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

2 thoughts on “Story Momentum”

  1. Good post. It comes down to character and their situation. Perhaps the most critical element that sparks cause and effect is the opening image . The environment in which we first see the character predetermines tone , motive and a reader’s / viewer’s interest. Films like Kill Bill. Wolf of wall street and Goodfellas all have powerful opening images – They ask the question how did we get to this place? . They are all also non liner story structures.

    In short : Sometimes the best way to generate momentum in a story is not to start at the beginning but rather with the inciting incident . Who is the blood splattered bride? Why did he want to be a gangster?

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