There is consensus within the go-to screen-writing guides (of Snyder, Field, McKee and so on) that each scene ought to include a set of emotional highs and lows, and a source of conflict.
This conflict can be physical (an obstacle, a fight etc.), mental (a trait or belief that a character has to suppress etc.) and lots in between. As such, it is generally defined as ‘something the protagonist of that scene must overcome’.
I’m finding it difficult, though, as I scribble down Act II of Honest Charlie, to emphasise (or make explicit) the conflict on each card.
Does this mean that the premise isn’t strong enough? Are the situations I’m putting together too flimsy? Quite possibly. So I look again (at the characters’ arcs, at the themes, at the relationships, at the plot etc.), but the scenes seem to work.
I’ve structured the first part of Act II as if it were a miniature film (set-up, midpoint, finale), and I really like it. There’s some good symmetry, the pace and tension are in step, and the situations seem realistic. And that’s the kicker: it feels believable.
Putting in little fights or obstacles would detract from the realism, or change the characters, or somehow make the whole thing feel less like the film I want to write. The tension between what I think will make a good film, and what I’m told makes successful scripts eases off as I remember what else it is that Snyder says: but you’ll ignore this, you’re a bullhead.
When I first read this (a year or so ago), I wasn’t sure why someone writing their first script would buy a book on screen-writing and then ignore its contents (it’s not as if Save The Cat is a beautiful decoration for one’s wall), but now it’s clearer: follow the rules until you’re good enough, or confident enough, or comfortable enough with them to break away. Much of the structure for Honest Charlie relies on the screen-writing guides, but hopefully what will make it great is my bullishness. It’s either that or a re-write.