There’s a movie on cable right now called “Nocturnal Animals” that isn’t very good and I’m not recommending it as a movie,
but it has Amy Adams in it and I would watch her onscreen for 90 minutes just breathing.
That aside, it has a really great scene in it. So remember I’m recommending the scene, not the movie. The movie sucks. The scene is very good. And Amy Adams is always awesome.
The family is a husband and wife and teenage daughter driving on a desert highway at night and they get forced off the road by another car. The other car has sped up and slowed down and yelled at them and said bad things and generally been obnoxious, ultimately resulting in the other car banging into the family sedan and forcing them off the road. What we find out at that point is, it’s all intentional on the part of the bad drivers, in the family is about to be terrorized.
What happens next is awesome because it’s horrible. Let me just tell you: the two women are separated from their husband/father and raped and murdered. We all fear that’s what’s coming when they get forced off the road and the men in the other car get out and start harassing them.
What makes it great is, every step of the way we know the guy/the family shouldn’t do the things they do.
They know it, too.
But they’re stuck between two bad choices and after a few bad choices you realize there are no good choices and no matter what they do – they’re going to get killed, so they’re really just hoping to play along and stay alive for a little while longer, hoping for a break. Maybe a cop car will come by. Maybe the bad guys just want to harass the family a little and take their money and beat them up and humiliate them – maybe they will remain alive.
The other thing is the reactions.
Again, every step of the way the audience is yelling, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it,” and so are the people in the car. The daughter or the mother or the father, every step of the way they are saying NO.
But then they’re trying to figure out the lesser of two evils, to simply stay alive for a few more minutes and hope to emerge on the other side of this debacle.
But that’s not what happens. And while you were yelling don’t do it, so were they. Why that’s important is because the people in the car are reacting.
They are behaving the way someone in your story should behave.
Someone in your story should always be reacting the way you want the reader to be reacting.
In this case, we are all sitting there saying don’t do it don’t do it, so we need people in the car saying the same thing. Don’t do it!
And then they have to make a split second decision, and if it was you, you can’t say they made the wrong decision because they were both bad decisions. And there were no good choices.
It’s a difficult scene to watch because they’re good actors. But if you can watch it a few times and look at it as a sketch of how to do something, you will see what you’re not doing your own stories.