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Starting with a bang vs. not so much. (1 Viewer)

notawizard

Senior Member
I'm honestly not sure about how it would work in a city. Maybe you can contact a police officer and ask for an interview to answer some of the questions? I've done that before (lol, asking about what happens when a body washes up on shore, no less. Good thing they trusted I was just a writer!)

You can probably explain some of the other things without flashbacks. Or at least without full flashbacks? I'd be fine with a detective figuring out stuff without seeing it myself, personally. Since it's a screenplay and therefore visual, you could also do something like have the detective figure something out, then show a quick few seconds of flashback that's related to that rather than having a full scene.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
I can probably do that, thanks. It's just that in the opening crime one of the antagonists, gets cold feet, and cannot go through it. He ends up ruining it and the others chase after him which leads to a chase. This is what causes the police to be called, and causes the main character to come across it.

The antagonist who turns good, goes through a character change and felt I needed to show that, in order to make things more clear. I could show it in a flashback later, but didn't think it would have the same impact, compared to showing it from the beginning. Unless I am being too fussy about it and should just go for the flashback later, if telling things from the main character's point of view at first is better.

But as for having the detective figure it out, I don't think the detective would be able to figure out what actually happened, and I was told before it would be impossible for him to figure it out. Therefore, I thought maybe it's best I just write it so he doesn't figure it out at all, and just show the reader what happens from the villains point of view, so they reader then knows, and the detective doesn't have to figure anything out therefore.
 
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notawizard

Senior Member
Is this a character who is important for the whole story? If so, maybe you could do a split where you have the two scenes running at the same time? You could possibly play up the contrast, too. Showing the detective doing something like making coffee at the office and talking to someone calmly while the other scene is the bad guy running and calling the cops, etc.? It could be visually really cool. You'd still be able to establish the detective as the main guy (and the bad guy as another main character) while not having to do a flashback.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay, I just thought that something like making coffee could be boring before but maybe I'm wrong :). That's how I originally wrote was he was just stopping to get some take out food and gets the call. But I thought that might be boring, and I should just cut to the main character pulling up in his cop car, with his sirens on as his first entrance, unless that's bad?

The character who causes the crime to go wrong is important for the whole story, yes.
 

notawizard

Senior Member
As someone who has completely rewritten the shit out of things, my opinion is that you can always try and see if it works. If it doesn't, maybe you'll get an idea for something that does in the process. Always save what you have now because at the end of the day you might decide you like it better.
 

gwell66

Senior Member
For my screenplay, it's a crime thriller, and the first scene I open with is a crime comitted by the villains that kick starts off the remaining plot. After the opening crime, I then introduce the main character, who is a detective that arrives at the scene to start to investigate the crime.

But I was told by readers that so far, that it's confusing as to who the main character is, because the main character is just a detective, doing regular detective stuff, and we don't know anything interesting about him at this point, so it comes off as he is interested as just any other character

My Go-to example is Eddy Valiant in Roger Rabbit..

We don't start with him walking up to a crime scene and looking at the chalk outline of the guy who got killed by a safe.

. We start with building who this man is, what his deep-seeded flaws and tragedies are and then we build on that by having characters interact with him.

The camera does this using his personal office as an exposition dump. Dusty old chair and a dusty work station on the opposite side of the desk from Eddy. Articles and photographs show the other desk is his brother's. They were detectives, goofballs and all around nice guys who earned accolades helping toons. There's other info like a pic of him, Deloris and his bro but you get the gist.

And what's the first we see of him in the flesh? Face-down, passed out on his desk. This character has lived a full life by the time we see them and is dealing with the trauma that life provides.

A detective wakes him (inventively I might add) and subtly drops some info about how he's fallen off from what he used to be and has struggled to recover from his brothers death.

Boom. Everything you need to know succinctly covered in just a few visuals and remarks (which you could write out the visuals if it were a novel). We establish audience investment in the character by teaching about him and the obstacles he has to overcome.) It helps that the rest of the movie revolves around him coming to terms with what happened and getting back to the person he used to be (Albeit a bit more jaded)

For your protag, give us critical info about his flaws or obstacles in a way that relates to the story. Get the audience familiar with this character and ROOTING for this character. Then we aren't disappointed to find he's the protag bc we are already rooting for him and want to see his story continue.
 
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ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay. I could start out with a scene where he is with his wife and discusses some personal stuff if that's better? I have this scene later on, after the opening crime, but I could have it come before if that's better?

But how come other movies start out with the opening crime though, and you still manage to care about the main character. For example, in the opening to the first Dirty Harry movie, the first scene you see is the villain committing a murder, and then Harry comes in after. Or how in The Matrix for example, the first scene you see is Trinity fighting the villains, and they do not introduce the protagonist until after this?

Or how in Star Wars, the first scene you see is a battle between space ships with one of them being captured, rather than opening with Luke, wanting to leave the planet, but his Uncle forbidding it? Why didn't they make that the first scene, in order to establish who the main character is faster? How do those movies get away with it?
 

notawizard

Senior Member
I think those sorts of examples are closer to a prologue in novel. Prologues generally aren't directly connected in a linear way to the next scene. It's something that the author knows will be hearkened back to. For example, you often see a crime committed in a crime novel, and then you know that at some point in the next chapters it's going to tie back to that scene (often done to create mystery around who committed the crimes). Or you might have a flashback or a flash forward and you know that you'll get to find out how it connects as the story goes on. While prologues are often hated, one that is done well can really help create tension because the reader always has this underlying awareness of something more that is going on under the surface and they're trying to put the pieces together as they read.

I haven't seen Dirty Harry so I can't really compare, but in the Matrix, it works in a similar fashion. You see Trinity in these futuristic, mind blowing (I will never forget what it was like to see that first opening scene) visuals being chased by bad guys and you don't really understand what's happening, and that juxtaposition with the next scene with Neo, who seems to be in the normal worlds doing relatively normal things creates that tension. You wonder how the two parts are going to connect.

A prologue doesn't really work as a prologue if the next scene sort of continues where that one left off and uses the same characters. It misses some of those cues that tell the reader (or in this case, viewer) that there is a separation between events.

Is this a project that's already finished or one that you're still working on?
 

gwell66

Senior Member
Oh okay. I could start out with a scene where he is with his wife and discusses some personal stuff if that's better? I have this scene later on, after the opening crime, but I could have it come before if that's better?

But how come other movies start out with the opening crime though, and you still manage to care about the main character. For example, in the opening to the first Dirty Harry movie, the first scene you see is the villain committing a murder, and then Harry comes in after. Or how in The Matrix for example, the first scene you see is Trinity fighting the villains, and they do not introduce the protagonist until after this?

Or how in Star Wars, the first scene you see is a battle between space ships with one of them being captured, rather than opening with Luke, wanting to leave the planet, but his Uncle forbidding it? Why didn't they make that the first scene, in order to establish who the main character is faster? How do those movies get away with it?
Roger rabbit actually starts with a cartoon of Roger rabbit saving a cartoon baby. It's just once Eddie is introduced, the introduction does all those things to get us invested in him. With Luke, we see his isolation and desire to be a part of something greater as something greater sort of lands at his feet.

You can start with something besides the detective but when we finally do meet him something needs to be done to get us invested in him as a character. Hopefully something that will tie in with the themes of the story, his arc as a character, etc. From what you were describing, it might have been a bit too vanilla and uninteresting when we meet him which made it disappointing for the reader's when things shifted to him.

Something personal to the character is likely going to be a step in the right direction. Of course, it's all in the execution. GL!
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay well my detectives first scene is him arriving when the crime is happening and immediately goes into action, the way I wrote it so far, but is that bad?
 

gwell66

Senior Member
Oh okay well my detectives first scene is him arriving when the crime is happening and immediately goes into action, the way I wrote it so far, but is that bad?
I'd be happy to take a look and tell you but if we know nothing about him then as far as the reader is concerned he's just an extra (like in a tv show).

We've got to like him and/or find him interesting in order to care about him being the one to examine the scene. How would you describe him as a person? What are his flaws and main motivations in life before he stumbles on this case?
 

ironpony

Senior Member
That's true, lots do. But if it's fine to start off with a bang, then why are readers tell me they want to get to know the protagonist first? Why are they ignoring that other works of fiction start off with a band and it's okay? Unless I am doing something different most likely when I do?
 

wild

Member
For my screenplay, it's a crime thriller, and the first scene I open with is a crime comitted by the villains that kick starts off the remaining plot. After the opening crime, I then introduce the main character, who is a detective that arrives at the scene to start to investigate the crime.

But I was told by readers that so far, that it's confusing as to who the main character is, because the main character is just a detective, doing regular detective stuff, and we don't know anything interesting about him at this point, so it comes off as he is interested as just any other character, rather than a protagonist, and so reader feels confused and possibly cheated later on when they find out he is the protagonist.

Therefore, I was thinking, should I introduce the protagonist before the opening, and introduce his personal life, and his marriage, etc, before showing the crime that kickstarts things off?

Or is it better to open with more of a bang, such as an opening crime with the villains then opening with a character's more quiet personal life? Thanks for any advice on it! I really appreciate it!
Someone probably already said this but the way I would try (not saying this’ll work) is start off with the bang, then show the detective’s family life/morning routine or whatever, and after that have him go to work and take the case and whatever comes next.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks. Well I could make the main character part of the opening with a bang as well, depending on how I do it. Here are three ideas I have to open it so far, if one is better than the other?

The villains want to recruit a new member into their gang and set up an initiation test for the new member to complete in order for him to get in. The new member has to commit a crime against a victim, but gets cold feet morally and cannot go through with it. This causes a fight, and the whole initiation goes wrong. I'm not sure how it goes wrong yet since I am still developing the plot. After it goes wrong, the police are investigating the crime scene, and they find the victim and one of the gang members, and this new plot point takes the story in the direction I want it to go next. But there are three ways I can think of to get the main character onto it the crime investigation.

1. When the gang goes to meet the new recruit for the initiation, the protagonist, a police officer, is in the distance and he sees the gang search the new recruit for a wire and weapons. He then decides to discreetly follow them to see what they are up to, and then witnesses the iniation and can stop it. However, I don't want him to recognize the new recruit, because he knows who he is, but I don't want the protagonist to know he was there. So he cannot recognize him if he sees him being searched.

2. The gang tries to get the new recruit to do the initiation but the new recruit gets morally cold feet and cannot do it. This leads to a fight and chase with the gang. The protagonist, while on patrol, sees the chase and intervenes, but still cannot recognize the new recruit of course.

3. The gang fights and chases the new recruit and the chase causes one of the gang members to become immobilized, and the would be target of the initiation becomes immobilized as well. The police are called and respond and the protagonist responds and finds the two of them left behind.

Does one of these openings sound better than the others to use?
 

Lawless

Senior Member
Does one of these openings sound better than the others to use?
If I had to choose one, I'd choose #1, especially if you want the new recruit to be good at hiding and disappearing. The police officer can find himself wondering how the hell he got away and it will intrigue the reader. In general, though, I think all three are fine. The choice depends a lot on what you want to happen later.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
If I had to choose one, I'd choose #1, especially if you want the new recruit to be good at hiding and disappearing. The police officer can find himself wondering how the hell he got away and it will intrigue the reader. In general, though, I think all three are fine. The choice depends a lot on what you want to happen later.
Okay thank you. I forgot to mention, I don't want the protagonist to know that the new recruit is there, because he knows who he is. If he saw the new recruit being searched, would he still recognize him from the distance especially if it turned into a chase soon after
that he gets involved in?
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
Okay thank you. I forgot to mention, I don't want the protagonist to know that the new recruit is there, because he knows who he is. If he saw the new recruit being searched, would he still recognize him from the distance especially if it turned into a chase soon after
that he gets involved in?
The new recruit could always dye and restyle their hair or wear a wig. Even add a pair of glasses for good measure :)
 

ironpony

Senior Member
That's true. My worry about the first plot idea though... Does it come off as a coincidence the the protagonist is there the exact same time to randomly spot the crime before it goes down?

Is the second plot idea stronger because the crime gets out of hand and then he is dispatched to it as a result, as opposed to a coincidence being the result?
 

Lawless

Senior Member
about the first plot idea [---] Does it come off as a coincidence [---] the protagonist is there the exact same time to randomly spot the crime before it goes down?

Is the second plot idea stronger because the crime gets out of hand and then he is dispatched to it as a result, as opposed to a coincidence being the result?

Dispatched to – yes, that's more plausible. However, if he's traveling by his usual daily route, then it's not implausible that he would see something happen. After all, crimes are attempted here and there every now and then. That's why the police are patrolling the streets in the first place.

Ultimately it all depends on how big a mess you want to be made in the beginning: a) they are tying to do something but are prevented, b) they get into conflict/fight/chase.


don't want the protagonist to know that the new recruit is there, because he knows who he is. If he saw the new recruit being searched, would he still recognize him from the distance especially if it turned into a chase soon after that he gets involved in?

It depends on how well he knows the guy and what time of day it is.

Maybe he is used to seeing him in good light and decent clothes, but in this scene it's evening and the new recruit is wearing different clothes. Maybe he has his back turned, the cop approaches, shouts something, the gang runs away. Maybe another gang member has a weapon, so the cop focuses on him and doesn't pay much attention to the new recruit and therefore fails to recognize him.

Scenario #2 is easier to write in this respect, but #1 is not impossible either.
 
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