Patterns Of Screen Writing/Planning/Law Of Variation

Law Of VariationEdit

fly like a butterfly sting like a bee

—Muhammad Ali


To maintain the viewer's interest and maximize the emotional effects.

Also Known AsEdit

Avoid cliché, Avoid Stereotypes, Develop Symbol systems, Rhythm, Intensification, Irony,


If for some reason the viewer's interest is lost, the easiest fix is to introduce change. This applies to almost any aspect of screenwriting.


  • Emotions
  • Emotional Highs and Lows (as discussed below)
  • Exposition
  • Transpose Exposition and action
  • Scenes
  • Long and Short scenes
  • Conflict
  • Present opposing points of view


  • Variation – do not repeat, recycle material, adopt clichés, use stereotypes, change scene length.
  • Intensification – conflict, action, risks, stakes, pace, and intensity all need to become more intensive.
  • Reverse Expectation – "fly like a butterfly sting like a bee"; before success, the deepest abyss.
  • Surprise – the unexpected is the acme of variation.
  • Maximize - the scope of variation and you will be maximizing its effect.

Technique 1. Inside OutsideEdit

Follow an indoors scene with an outdoors scene.

Technique 2. Short LongEdit

Follow an short scene with a long scene.

Technique 3. Action ExpositionEdit

Follow action with a exposition.

Technique 4. Emotional Highs And LowsEdit

  • Maximise the emotional effects of scenes by planning a sequence of increasing climaxes.
  • As you build up a climax use a wide mix of emotional effects.

Technique 5. Covert OvertEdit

Show and later explain. This technique is used in some of the greatest movies. The moral message is dramatised subtly symbolically in several ways. Once the viewer has become emotional invested in the premise, it will be restated enunciated explicitly, unequivocaly in dialogue or voiceover. The latter version of the message might be controversial, but the use of variation helps to carry it past the viewers resistance.

Technique 6. Character's strength and WeaknessEdit

To make a character more accessible to the audience you need to show incidents in which expose his strength his weakness and how he develops to over come his weakness. This variation of success and failure due to a character flaw is another element whose variation should be planed to increase the viewer's stakes. Such incidents should have a unifying theme and should refer to the moral premise.




Uses & AbusesEdit

Related PatternsEdit