What Austin Powers Teaches Us About Scene Length

Whether it’s a scene in a movie, or a chapter in a novel, there’s an important lesson to be learned from this moment in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery.

This joke wouldn’t work at the other end of the scene, because it’s a punchline. But if you did try the same thing at the start, you would learn something about the set up. If you had them mumbling and making small talk as they waited for the feed to connect, you’d dampen the impact of the scene, and you’d inevitably ruin the joke at the end.

Treat all of your scenes like a joke, and they will automatically get better.

Start late, leave early.

A good philosophy for writing a scene, and a good philosophy for a day’s work.

There should be nothing in the scene that’s extraneous, it detracts from the ‘punchline’. And the quicker you can get to the ‘punchline’, the better.

That’s why the above joke works, because it plays on our expectations of the scene convention.

This article should have ended a paragraph sooner.

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