Well, in the first pages of chapter 2 from [MCKEE.R. Story. itbooks. New York, 1997.] Mckee present to us some basic elements of which a story should be costituted of. Of course that this is him view of how to write, but despite of that, I consider this book a standard begin on "how to write". So, I'm struggling very funny with the basic elements.

First of all, the so called "event". It's obvious what a event is, but the interesting part of it is that they are, in this context, a synonym for change in the story -of a character or not- and they are "measured" by the so called "values" -like good/bad- and then, a constant path in the story means that nothing interesting is happening, hence this isn't a good story; the occurence of events in the writer's text means that "things are happening" hence you can perceive some movement on the story.

Furthermore, we have the so called "story events" which seems to me more strong (and Mckee pointed out that they are more "meaningful") because deals principally with characters. These kind of events seems to be like inflection points in characters time-line and this interpretation of mine seems to be quite reasonable.

Then comes the next structure, the "scene". Mckee defines it as follows:

A SCENE is an action through conflict in more or less continuous time and space that turns the value-charged condition of a character's life on at least one value with a degree of perceptible significance. Ideally, every scene is a Story event

Well, I understand a scene more or less like a greater structure which is made of both events and story events. But with the Mckee's this interpretation of mine becomes somekind of loose one.

So, my question is: A scene is really a greater structure? Like a set made of events and story events?

1 Answer 1


A scene in a screenplay (or a play) is clear because it all takes place "in more or less continuous time and space". Screenplays, especially, are made of a series of scenes, and McKee is emphasizing to budding screenwriters the idea that every scene must "turn".

Understand who his audience is. McKee is explaining that while "a series of scenes" is the obvious structure to a screeplay, every scene needs to change the stakes for the character(s). A budding screenwriter will imitate the obvious structure: a scene in a cafe, a scene on a train, a scene where the character talks to his mother…, but miss the subtlety that each scene also needs to convey a story event large enough to impact "the value-charged condition of the character’s life". The scene in a cafe can't just be idle dialog and people-watching. The scene on a train can't just be MC goes home at the end of the day. And the scene where the MC talks to his mother isn't just to show that the character has a mom. Again, McKee's message is aimed at screenwriters who are stringing together plot "events", but not "story events" – writers sometimes make a distinction between "plot" and "story" which is analogous to McKee's "event" and "story event".

A scene in a novel is not necessarily "continuous time and space". In a book, a "scene" might follow a single thought-process, or establish a habitual pattern (the sort of scene that might become an edited montage in a film). In a book, an entire side-history might be told in detail as a story-within-the-story, but in a screenplay where every minute is money, this full history might be compressed into a a single representative event because it must be told within a continuous scene, or it might become a flashback presented as it's own scene. It's the nature of Hollywood films that an "empathy rollercoaster" of changing-circumstances (story events) need to fit into a tight hour-and-a-half screenplay. The motivation of this dual structure is so the audience does not have a chance to become bored. Scenes that do not change the character's life (the "value-charged condition of their life") are not serving the dual purpose of supporting the plot and the story.

A book has no such time or pacing constraints, but readers still become bored when parts of the novel just describe stuff that happened with no change in stakes for the characters. The concept of "a scene" is somewhat abstracted, but McKee's advice can still be applied. Every "scene" – which might not be a continuous time and place like in a screenplay – needs to progress the plot as well as the story.

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