There’s this thing in writing called candy bar scenes. It’s the small storytelling moment in the story that makes the story memorable.
In Pretty Woman, it was Richard Gere snapping Julia Roberts’ fingers in the jewelry box.
In Indiana Jones, it was Indy being faced with a man wielding a huge saber and slashing it through the air, waiting to slash Indy to ribbons. Indy then pulls out his gun and just shoots him.
The funny thing is, both of these scenes were adlibbed by the actors. They were not originally in the screenplays.
But notice: the (actors as their) characters made the decision. And it fit their personalities.
How To Find Your Candy Bar Scenes
This is the thing—you can’t pre-plan a truly wonderful candy bar scene. I was reading a blog in which one writer in the comments section said, “My whole story is a big collection of candy bar scenes—I don’t need to be told how to write one!”
But the thing is, you can’t preplan for the candy bar scene. What that writer had done was torture his story to make that candy bar moment happen. And the writer had done it before the story was written and had shown its true nature.
Where’s the organic magic in that? The candy bars might have looked like Hershey Kisses to that writer, but they went down like bird poop for the reader.
It’s all about adding candy bars AFTER the story has been written and revised a few times for logic and plot issues.
Then, your characters will show you where they’re pretty awesome—and how you can ramp up that awesome. How? You should:
- Look for cliché moments. You wrote a perfectly serviceable scene. It’s done its job with moving story forward with everyone saying what was on script. But look for something to add to the tone of that scene as it relates to your character’s personality (Richard Gere’s playfulness, Indy’s reluctant hero).
- Think about images that add to the candy bar tone. If there’s a cat in the room sleeping in the sun, for instance, and a sister and brother are fighting as the cat sleeps…think about if this is fitting with predetermined plot or if you’re missing a candy bar moment. If a man and woman are kissing and it’s raining and that’s it…what can you do to amp it up to turn the cliché into candy?
Here’s to you finding your candy bars. May they not taste like bird poop.