Character Arcs Story

Hey blog! I’ve missed you. It’s been a while since I’ve blathered about the incessancy that goes on in my head to you and well, it’s just not fair to not share it with you. Now, at the suggestion of Scott Myers at Go Into The Story, who has just added me to his friend’s list (aw, shucks), I will be updating this with higher frequency. Like every single day. Until the day that I die.

Now, in my playwriting class this year, we uncovered the basic tenements of playwriting. And I learned that there is a distinctive difference between the dramatic mediums. There’s a reason the word “playwriting” isn’t interchangeable with the word “screenwriting’.  The screen exists to show a story through visual cues enhanced by modified sound. Whatever is produced on screen is controlled by the editing of post-production, which is instrumental in detailing character work. The distance of theatre doesn’t allow for such antics. Portrayal of character is relegated to the actor and the words coming out of hir mouth. Which means the character is going to the be driving force of a play.

Forget your outlines. Forget your story beats. Your play’s story will unfold by the cues of the dialogue, which means the characters have the double duty of saying things that both reveal who they are and advance the story. Take for example one of the most magnetic characters in the theatre, Willie Loman. After he comes home late in the night from working a commision-less shift, he talks to his wife about his son who never got his break.

WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff— he’s not lazy.

LINDA: Never.

WILLY: [with pity and resolve]: I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. (Act 1)

This directly sets up the thematic struggle of the play, but it doesn’t look that way. It’s just a guy talking to his wife about what’s bothering him. What’s doubly fantastic about this snippet is that reads as well on script as it would onstage. The story is in the dialogue, which is really just a character is thinking at the moment. Character is the fuel that charges every story, and if you want to be a writer, it would serve you well to remember that.

That’s all for today. Expect to see more of me internet, because this blog is coming at you, mercilessly and seductively.


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