If you ever think one of your scenes is dull, you're having trouble starting a scene, or you just want to try an interesting warm-up assignment, The Intruder Alert exercise is for you.
An intruder is basically anyone who interrupts your scene. He or she could literally enter the room or he or she could enter "through" a conversation (Meaning a couple is arguing and he brings up the fact that she spent the whole party talking to his best friend. His best friend has "intruded" in on the conversation.).
I have found that rarely can any film/screenplay hold my interest when there's just one person in the scene. Cast Away managed to do it with Tom Hanks stranded on an island, but notice that they created "Wilson" so they guy could talk to someone. Monologuing doesn't go over as well in film as it does in theatre.
Notice that when you add a person to the scene, the drama/conflict has more potential. Especially if they want different things.
1) Start off with a warm-up: The Scene that needs to be written is... ( write for 5-7 minutes)
2) Pick THREE characters who are central to this scene and label them A, B, and C.
EXAMPLE: A = Howler, B = Celia, C = Stilt
3) A and B will be "on screen" and C will be the "intruder."
4) Pick one of the following start lines of dialogue and take 10 minutes to quickly write the scene (action and dialogue).
One character says to the other:
What do you think you're doing?
Where is the...
Tell me about the....
I don't know if I can...
At some point during your scene, have the intruder (Character C) enter the room. Does he pick sides? Does he make the other two uncomfortable? Are they hiding something from him? Does he have an agenda? (remember: what do your characters want? what are the stakes? what are their secrets?)
5) After you have written the scene once, write the SAME SCENE again. This time, make Character B the Intruder. Character A or C has the start line.
6) Repeat this process for a third time, making Character A the Intruder. Character B or C says the start line.
It is important that it is the SAME SCENE each time - meaning it's in the same place and time in the story. But notice how the dynamics change when different people are put together alone in a room and the intrusion happens in another manner. It's just a way to write it differently that you might not have thought about.
Also, it MAY help you decide how many points of entry to have. Say you really like the dynamic of your protagonist being the intruder and knowing what's been going on before she stepped into the room. You might decide to have another point of entry in your script (or a different point of view in your novel).