That’s a good question, Ashley, and difficult to answer in theory, I’d have to see it in context to know how it would play on the page. If the scene feels like it quite literally has nothing to do with the plot, it might work as, say, revealing something interesting about a character. That, at least, moves the narrative forward somewhat in revealing something new about that character. If in the context of that scene, you include some bit of business which later on proves pivotal to the plot, that could work. Basically, you’d be ‘shrouding’ the key plot element by focusing on the character.

That’s a theoretical example. The first thing that comes to mind from a movie — and I can’t find the specific scene online — is the film Sea of Love. IIRC, there are a few guys sitting around a table in a diner or something, and one of them tells a joke with a raunchy punch. That’s how the scene starts. Then Al Pacino and someone else enters and we follow the action with them. So the joke just seems like silly banter, a throwaway side of dialogue. Later on, that same guy turns out to be the serial killer and the line in the joke actually refers to the way he likes to sodomize and kill women. Here’s the scene where he attacks Pacino:

In retrospect, you look back at that first scene and it feels clunky, but in 1989, perhaps it worked better.

In general, scenes work best if they move the story forward. There may be exceptions, but they have to be handled well not to feel extraneous or come across as filler.

Written by

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store