It’s been a very long time since I’ve dipped into Robert McKee’s screenwriting guide, Story, so I may be misremembering the details of scene reversal. But, even if it is misremembered, this is what I need right now.
Do your scenes turn? McKee’s blogsite asks that question here, and as I remembered it, one way of doing this is making sure your character comes out of the scene 180 degrees turned around from the way she or he enters it. For example, Betty starts the scene happy. She’s going to marry her rich boyfriend, Jon, and in the process, he’s going to pay off her student loans, which frees up some important part of her paycheck so she can pay off Sidney (her step-brother who is a loanshark). But, during the first scene, Jon dumps her because his family convinced him that she’s a gold-digger. She ends the scene sad, un-engaged, and with no prospects for clearing her debt.
Scene two, she goes into the scene in the above state, and Sidney offers her a little job that will pay off her loan tidily. She exits the scene happy and hopeful.
In scene three, she enters Mr. Harper Smith’s mansion happy and hopeful that all will turn out OK. She’ll pay off her debt to her lousy stepbrother, and never have to see him again. But then she finds out the job entails kidnapping, robbery and Mr. Smith insinuates that a little sex would go a long way toward making the transaction more profitable for Betty. Ugh. Miserable and MeToo’d.
But in scene four, it turns out that Mr. Smith’s younger stepbrother, Randall Applebaum (no relation to Sidney – or is he?) is handsome, smart, and also struggling to get out from under Mr. Smith’s and Sidney’s thumbs. Hope rears its head!
And so on, and so forth. This is for a roller-coaster of a story that always keeps the reader turning pages to see what’s next.
I’m not very good at this sort of thing. I tend to like an escalator model, myself, where the characters start happy, encounter a problem and solve it neatly, and exit the scene happy and ready for new triumphs. Maybe I’m too kind to my characters.
At any rate, the reversal, twisty version of a story would make an excellent writing exercise, I think.
I am not quite sure, but I think it’d work just fine (with the right story) if the scenes themselves reverse in chronological order, and not necessarily following the POV character.
For example, Randall enters scene one happy, and becomes depressed. We switch to Betty, who enters scene two depressed, and then she’s overjoyed by the end. Betty also has scene three, where her joy is proven to be premature, and ends up down in the dumps. Scene four goes to Randall’s viewpoint, down in the dumps, but something wonderful happens and he’s happy, too. Scene five, all the happiness goes down the drain for Randall, but he is thrown together with Betty. Scene six is Betty’s viewpoint, but she’s in it with Randall, and their nightmare is entertainingly resolved, and they both enter scene seven as a team, and triumphant. Only to find in scene eight that they’d both missed one eensy-weensy detail.
Or maybe there’s a pattern where Randall is going up, up, up, but in the alternating scenes, Betty is going down, down, down into misery . . . until there’s a meeting of the minds and who knows what happens then?
At any rate, it’s something to think about in March. In like a lion, out like a lamb, or vice versa, sometimes on a daily basis.