For some reason, and in my experience, those 4 words, ‘what are you saying?’ seems to give a disproportionate number of writers a lot of trouble – once they go beyond the knee-jerk and instinctive: ’I don’t know’. How come? What’s happening to us? How can so many people have such a strong passion and desire to write, and yet have nothing to say?
The name is a fantastic resource to be drawn upon, like a deep, deep well of emotion, history, quirks of fate, travesties of justice, happy unions, psychology, status, class, education, aspiration, ethnicity……identity. It’s all in there – in your name – whether you know it, like it, recognise it, or not. It is inescapably so.
She’s flipping through pictures on her phone. I can’t help but look. It’s not only because I love a diversion. Let’s face it: it’s pure voyeurism. I’m nosy and I just can’t help it. I become even more intrigued when I realise that all the pictures of are one person… Oooh, a love interest! And look, there’s a blur in each of the pictures!
As my excitement bubbles and my pace quickens – a spring in my step – I think about my set; how every detail matters. A lone paper bag. A half empty glass of wine. A scarf strewn across a sofa…Everything is there for a reason. What effect do I want my set – and every object on it – to have on my audience? What do I want them to think? Are these objects clues? What do they say about my character’s past/present/future?
Where do you want to be 20 years from now? If you’re lucky. Where will you be? What will you be doing and who with, what for and to what end? … Really can’t get your head around it and really uncomfortable about being asked to? Ok, how about 20 years ago then, if it’s any easier – 1992? Can you remember that? Of any significance? Were you born? Were you alive to possibilities, had you already got a plan, an idea, a sense of the way you wanted things to be…now?
…prompted by the scrutiny of a cereal box – to satisfy our curiosity as to just how nutritious is our maple crunch? – my step- daughter told me about the boy at her school whose New Year’s resolution is to give up eating healthily. Now, given we’re nearly two weeks into this new year, it means that on average 80% of us have already given up on and failed in our resolutions -making this boy’s resolution brilliant! I loved the reverse psychology of it – the backwards cognitive behavioural therapy – if he failed in his plan (the chances of which are high, very high indeed) then he’d end up doing something good for himself.
…don’t break the rules until you know the rules, and in the case of playwriting, the rules are relatively benign and there to help you, guide you and lead you down the path to serving up a treat. Besides, they’re better thought of as tools rather than rules – there to assist you in the art you want to create, in the way you want to create it, rather than hinder, block and obstruct you.
The answers to this question are by no means finite, nor necessarily unequivocal, but always well worth pondering over – and it’s a question I’ve been asking the various members of my writers’ groups this week as I encourage them to get to know themselves as a way of getting to know their craft.
‘So what is this ‘bad dialogue’ malaise and how come it’s so effectively wiping out nearly half of the prospective new playwrights gathering on the block? And of course, the most pertinent question is how do we stop it?’
To read Ola’s blog on what makes bad dialogue, click here.
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