Working and reworking the Gone to Soldiers
beat sheet. It's particularly complicated because we're cutting back and forth between five timelines.
One thing that keeps coming up in ordering the scenes is whether to go for surprise or suspense. Do you let the audience know what's coming up? Or surprise them?
E.g. in a war film, do you let them know someone's gonna die, or surprise them?
Both work, but to different effect. In a drama, I prefer to go for emotional suspense. We know the character's going to die. That makes watching him live so much more poignant. If he's unexpectedly killed, the audience gets a shock that lasts maybe a half a minute. If we know he's going to be killed, then we might spend ten, twenty minutes hoping against hope that he won't be.
If you're not playing with time, you can use the conventions of story telling to build suspense. Any time Sandy keeps a secret from Kirsten, you know it will come out. You're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. When people fake their way through situations they're uncomfortable with, we're in suspense: when will they finally act? And how?
To me, drama's all about emotional tension. And if we don't have an inkling what's going to happen, then where's the tension coming from?
I think the only way to make surprise really work is if everything that led up to the surprise is cast in a new light by the surprise. The Big Reveal in The Sixth Sense
isn't just a surprise -- it recasts everything we know about the events we've seen. If it's just one of those Surprise, The Monster's Not Really Dead moments, well, who cares? (Though that cliche was cleverly handled in the otherwise unmemorable Buffy
Dracula ep, where Dracula, staked, reforms out of the mists and -- there's Buffy, ready to stake him again. "Didn't think I was gonna fall for that, didja?")
So we're gonna go with suspense. Rather than tell you why she's mourning, we'll show you that
she's mourning, and let you wonder a bit before finding out why.
Hopefully, it'll work.