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I am writing a playscript these days which includes various characters that are frequently related throughout the story. They all hold special orbs/keys that help the main protagonist progress further in his quest. It's kind of like the Matrix and each key opens the door to a new skill acquiring dojo. I have decided that every time the protagonist enters a room the scene ends and the next one begins and when he is done the process is repeated until he reaches the final room with the villain.

How do I repeat the structure of these scenes without losing the interest of the readers and audience members?

  • Hi August! Welcome to Writing.SE! Please take a look at our tour and help center pages, you might find them helpful. Your question might be bordering on the off-topic: you're sort of asking "what to write", if I understand you correctly, whereas we're usually answering questions about how: techniques, style, language, tropes, etc. But let's see what the community thinks. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Oct 25 '18 at 17:04
  • Hi August, I made some minor edits to your question to highlight the general question (as opposed to your specific problems). Please feel free to revert them if they don't match your intentions. – Chris Sunami Oct 25 '18 at 17:08
  • On the contrary Galastel! I know what to write. I just need someone to explain scene progression without making my play repetitive – August Oct 25 '18 at 17:09
  • I see now. @ChrisSunami's edit makes it clearer. Now the question is indeed firmly on topic. +1 – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Oct 25 '18 at 17:13
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Part of this speaks to the different strengths of different mediums. It's the kind of thing that can sound kind of dumb as an idea, and that probably wouldn't work all that well in a book, but could actually be very effective as dramatized onstage, where it can take on the aspects of a ritual.

In terms of writing it, however, what you want to think about is the general idea of theme and variations. The idea is that you first establish a pattern, and then you give people new information through either following or changing that pattern (or both at once).

In your specific case, you'll probably want the first two rooms to be pretty much the same, in terms of what the guardian says, and how the scene starts and ends. That sets the pattern. At that point, it will be interesting enough to the audience just to note that the repetition is happening. After that, however, you'll want to make sure something interesting is different each time. That might be as simple as what the guardians look like, or what kind of attitudes they display towards the hero. But it can also be more substantive changes, and, if possible, meaningful ones. This will also give you a great place to build running jokes, or insert surprising violations of expectations. Eventually, as you get close to the end, you'll want to break the pattern entirely (to prep the viewer for the ending).

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Repetition can be a useful dramatic or comedic device.

Lots of comedies rely on the same joke being repeated over and over. The audience comes to expect it, and this expectation can add to the humor rather than subtract from it. The play "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" comes to mind. Early in the play a character is told by a fortune teller that he must run around the seven hills of Rome seven times. And then throughout the play, totally unrelated things are happening, and suddenly this guy runs across the stage shouting "one!", then "two!" etc. The characters all stop and watch him run by, and the audience laughs at the interruption.

In drama, repetition sets up an expectation. It sets up anticipation. The audience KNOWS that that person wandering through the woods will be attacked by the psychotic killer, or that the heroine's latest boyfriend will turn out to be a jerk just like all the others, or whatever. Surprise can be effective, but so can anticipation.

Of course if it's exactly the same every time -- if you just have the same scene played out ten times -- that's going to be boring. There has to be some variation. So the audience knows that X will happen again, but they still wonder, how will it play out THIS time?

You might even break the pattern for a surprise ending. Like many things in writing, if it's done well, it can be an effective surprise. If done poorly, it can be a disappointment. "But wait, isn't he going to do X?" Or worse still, a gimmick. "Oh, he set us up to think X was going to happen, and then he did Y."

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