No scene in a tightly written script can afford to be merely exposition or a character study. Something should always be at stake. Sometimes novelists and short story writers need that reminder. We know that the whole work is an arc in which a protagonist grows or changes, but each individual chapter, scene, and interaction should have something at stake too.
After you've written your first draft, examine each interaction between characters. Ask these questions:
- Who wants something? More than one character in an interaction can want something. They may want opposing things or at least different things.
- What does each character want? If you're having trouble answering, perhaps the scene is too expository or driven by the demands of the plot. Rethink the interaction. Who wants what?
- Why do the characters want that?
- Does what the character wants make sense for that character? The answer determines if the character's desires and actions are integral or forced on the character by the plot.
- What does the character do to get what he or she wants? Remember, actions drive a story.
- What happens if the character doesn't get it? Are there consequences? If not, then why should the reader care about the outcome of this particular interaction?
- Do the characters get what they want? If so, the scene is over unless new desires crop up. (Or the scene can pivot. Sometimes getting what you want is the worst thing that can happen.) If a character doesn't get what he or she wants, then the character should try a new tactic to get it.