Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Silence is golden."

You’ve probably heard the phrase above before. The saying has ancient roots and can mean different things depending on the context in which it is spoken. Often I hear it used with the meaning that being silent is better than speaking. That may or may not be true under certain circumstances and is an interesting idea to consider when writing your play.

Each character in your play should speak with a unique voice. That means individual speech patterns, favorite phrases, and things like that. They way in which a character talks can say a lot about that character’s emotions, thoughts, ideas, and relationships with others. What might it mean when a character speaks in longer sentences? What about shorter – perhaps one word – phrases? What about one who takes a lot of pauses as opposed to a character who speaks quickly and without much stopping… or thinking? These qualities of speech help to form individual personalities for each of your characters, but also provide actors and directors with a number of cues about how to portray the people of your play, as well as the tone of the scene, etc.

I am drawn to characters who don’t say much. By this I mean those who don’t speak a lot in the play (don’t have many lines), or who answer in short sentences. To me, when a character doesn’t speak it means that he or she is thinking and that those thoughts may or may not always come out for the audience to hear. Much like the unopened door, the unspoken line can be quite powerful and bring the audience into the play.

As you go through a draft of your play and you find sections where there may be a lot of talking, or that are in need of some intrigue and excitement, see how silence might influence it.

Happy writing!

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