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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Not having studied acting formally, this line in this post gave me pause:

"In acting class, you learn to break down a script by finding the verb for each line. In a well written script, there always is one. If you can't find it, as an actor, you have to make one up."

Could you elaborate a bit, Alex?
John Badham talks about this in his book I'LL BE IN MY TRAILER, which is the best book on directing actors I've ever read. I trained in Meisner Technique (an offshoot of the Stanislavski method) with Joanne Baron for a couple of years in order to learn to write and direct better. One of the things you learn as an actor is that with each line, you should be doing something. Overall you have an objective in a scene: something you are trying to do. Usually it is something you're trying to get from another character in the scene. It can be abstract like praise ("I want Rachel to give me praise for my accomplishments") or concrete ("Get her to give my that bottle").

But as you break down a script, you identify an action that goes with each line. "I am insulting her." "I am begging for forgiveness." "I am seducing her." "I am scaring her."

Since the lines of dialog which the actors are breaking down are coming from you, the writer, you should also have an action in mind for each piece of dialog.

A single word could be a single action; or an action could be several sentences. It's probably rare for an action to be more than three sentences long, say, unless it's a long explanation or a soliloquy.

The words in your dialog are the muscle; without the bones of the actions underlying them, they have nothing to grab hold of.

You almost certainly have actions in most of your dialog already. But identifying them explicitly is a great exercise for making your dialog stronger, and seeing how you can clarify it or spice it up.



I'd heartily recommend Judith Weston's Directing Actors. Way superior to Badham's mishmash effort, in my humble opinion.

By Blogger Olli Sulopuisto, at 9:57 AM  

Thanks, Alex!

By Blogger Fun Joel, at 10:37 AM  

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