Monday, July 13, 2009

Careful what you say around me... may end up in one of my stories.

Recently a friend was lamenting his life's situation - a number of unfortunate circumstances brought on by the economic downturn. I, of course, suggested he write what he knows--after all, he's living a wealth of material right now. Instead he permitted me to use whatever I want from his life. And so I did. Today. In my newest ten-minute play for the stage. I've gotta say - I love it! It's a jolly fun-filled romp through an agonizingly painful reality. (I always fall in love with my words at first glance; we'll see what a few days cooling period does for me--and how I feel when I revise them at the end of the week.)

Yesterday after the excellent performances of several short plays and scenes from longer pieces at the New Hampshire Theatre Project, we authors joined the actors and directors on stage for a Q&A. Much of our discussion revolved around our characters and how we write them. Do we picture the stage as we write, one fellow writer in the audience wanted to know, or do we--as she's been doing lately--picture the characters in their real life circumstances and write with that in mind?

Each of us agreed that it's far better to picture our characters as real, multi-dimensional beings, tackling what life throws at them as best they can. And in the case of the ten-minute play, we may only glimpse their problem, but it's best to show us that turning point--or one of the main turning points in a character's life--that ten minute window into an "a-ha" moment for a character and how a character reacts when pressed into a corner.

By glimpsing that moment on stage, we create a life before and after the scene. Audiences can infer enough to build up what occurred before the curtain opened, and hopefully will care enough to ponder what comes next in our characters' lives.

While I don't always know if the audience is wondering over the future lives of my characters beyond the story's end, I often hear that my stories of family have touched someone and that they can relate because either they too have lived something similar, or they know someone who has.

What a gift to give a writer. That an audience member empathizes with any character you've created means you've shared yourself with others, and probably even created truly three-dimensional characters.

So watch what you say around me. It might end up as a piece of one of my characters' lives. Though if it touches and even inspires just one person in the audience, maybe that's good enough reason to share your stories with me after all....

(Pencil drawing above by Leo.)


Terry in Silver Spring said...

Congratulations, Dana!

Emily said...

I truly enjoyed being Emily in Safety Deposit Boxes and was told that the scene brought some people to tears - so thank you for the opportunity to do this! It was very well written and gave me a lot to work with. I'm still thinking about her life and what it's going to be like living with Zelda!

Emily King

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