Dramatic Action Is More Than Doing Stuff
Often the reason a scene doesn’t work, or doesn’t seem to have any life to it, is because what’s happening in the scene isn’t very interesting.
People may be doing things, moving around, attempting to reach their goals, but how they’re going about is too straightforward or too easy.
There are various ways to achieve things in life that are reasonable and sensible. You want to be a doctor, you go to medical school and study hard. If you portray that within a story it may feel realistic and true, but it won’t be very gripping.
There is more to a good story than holding a mirror up to life.
Drama Is Not Optional
Drama is the key ingredient to all stories.
Drama is wanting something you don’t have (or have and don’t want).
The harder the journey, the obstructions, the opposition, the greater the drama.
If people tell you your story isn’t dramatic enough, it probably means things are either too easy for the character, or what they are in pursuit of doesn’t seem worth the effort.
An easy way to make things more dramatic is to raise the stakes. More to lose, more drama. Harder to get, more drama. Better opposition, better drama.
At the heart of any dramatic story is someone who want something.
Makes no difference if it’s a big action thriller, or a slice of life literary piece, somebody somewhere needs to be jonesing for what they haven’t got.
The actual thing they want doesn’t have to be of a particular size or type, but generally speaking, the more they want it, the better.
But wanting isn’t enough. You have to take into account why they want it, and what they’re prepared to do about it.