Sunday, May 21, 2006

Adventures in Commission

There are people in my head. I hear them rambling, and when I'm lucky I synthesize that eavesdropping into dramatic representation. But there's one problem, and I'm facing it head on right now: I've got a handicap when it comes to storytelling. Maybe I should call it a chronic inability to plot. I work in images, capturing emotional pieces of experience in digestible packets. I can do that. How do I put these stories to the business of action? Where's the drama?

Drama is inherent between characters. Any decent actor knows that the first place you look for your action--your tactics and objectives--is in character. In fact, those two things are nearly inseperable. And they are what create the structure of a play. With this in mind I have put my energies as a student of the craft toward perfecting characterization. But now I draw these potent, dynamic people from the graphite of my pencil and imagination and they sit in some mental waiting room, checking their watches and getting bored with inactivity.

What struck me as I sat in the conference room listening to actors read my script was how blatantly I was deceived by my own conception of structure. My characters are eloquent and engaging, and there was every indication as they spoke forth through live mouths that something powerful was about to happen. But, void of a climax or even a trajectory towards one, they simply revealed themselves and their depth, and then stopped short of doing anything. How did I miss this? How did I fool myself that there was anything happening in this script? I can't tell you. This is where the hard, uncomfortable work must begin. I've got to train myself to see the elements of architecture.


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