I’ve said before how BACK TO THE FUTURE is one of, if not my absolute favorite script. One of the many amazing aspects of it is practically the entire first act is setup, with the payoff throughout the second AND third acts. I think it’s safe to say the story may be practically impenetrable, if you’re talking in terms of looking for a flaw in the armor that is it’s story.
While I’ve been working on both DREAMSHIP pages and the LUCY rewrite, I’ve been paying special attention to certain aspects in each to find out if there’s something that can be set up early, leading to the resulting (and satisfying) payoff later. Hammering out story details during the outlining process has been extremely helpful. It’s a lot easier to figure things out when you’re working with a scene of 1-2 sentences, rather than 3 whole pages.
As a result, planting story details throughout the first act hasn’t been too difficult, mostly because I know how I want them to play out as the story progresses.
Reading scripts over the past few weeks has been an eye-opener in terms of seeing who knows how to do this effectively. Consider this yet another argument of why writers should read them. You should be able to see setup and payoff in action. It’s especially good when you don’t even realize it’s happening. And take the time to think about whether the setups and payoffs in your script are just as effective.