I’ll have what she’s having,” said the woman to the waiter in Katz’s Delicatessen from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”
Agreeably, it’s considered one the MOST FAMOUS restaurant scenes in the history of Hollywood. Sally, (Meg Ryan) shows Billy Chrystal’s character, Harry, how a woman can fake an orgasm at the crowded New York eatery.
I love when a scene from a movie reveals so much about character. In this case, Sally questions her relationship with Harry and says she’s grateful they didn’t end up romantically involved. She accuses Harry of cultivating shallow, meaningless, one-night stands.
In his defense, Harry tells Sally that the women he sleeps with get satisfaction and that’s what they want, nothing more. He defends his actions by explaining these are “no strings attached” relationships.
Of course, the pivotal moment is when they disagree about women’s satisfaction and Sally, in a most public display, shows Billy how wrong he is.
For readers and writers, a scene that reveals character is more satisfying than a scene filled with action and dialog info dumps. Of course, with comedic genius Rob Reiner at the helm of this movie, conflict and character are carefully crafted and expertly delivered by Meg and Billy.
One of my favorite author resources for developing character for my story’s stars is “The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines,” a collaboration from Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sure Viders. In the introduction they set the tone with this warning; “From the earliest days, storytellers have known a simple truth: strong charters may carry a weak plot, but weak characters cannot be hidden by a strong plot.” I highly recommend it for your author’s toolbox.
When your “Sally” meets your “Harry” as you write your pivotal scene, take your cues from some of the best examples of storytelling. Soon you’ll be on your way to your own rave reviews where you may hear, “I’ll have what she’s reading.”
Let me know if you have a favorite movie scene at inspires you.