For the last week I have been at a professional conference. People attending this conference improve their ability to create better lives. Not surprisingly, one of the premier tools used to affect positive change is to write out the story of your current life as if it were a movie, and then to look objectively and decide how you’d like to change it — or not.
I always enjoy exploring the relationship between real life and drama. What I have found so interesting on this trip, is that people say they want to change, but really what they want to do is tell a story that justifies what they’ve done so far.
Further, when they tell you their story, they not only want you to see their point of view, they also want you to have the same opinion.
When I first began writing, I studied with a great teacher who told us that this was a secret to writing great scenes.
The secret is that once you determine what the underlying belief of your character is, you can then bring that into what you’re working on. I translated this advice for actors into a writing technique and began to use it as a foundational way of building a scene. After writing a scene, I would go back and try to figure out what each character was trying to convince the other to believe.
A good example of this tension is to study the relationship between Frasier and his father in the series of the same name. He invites his father to live with him. The father comes to live with him but is constantly trying to get his son to see how pretentious and superficial he is. And as if that were not enough, he works hard to get his son to agree with him. This element is what makes the show so funny.
If you’d like to explore this technique, begin by identifying the fundamentally opposing points of view in your characters.
To explore this with each character that you are developing, set a timer for 15 minutes and in the first person tense write as the character describing a major event of their life. Put the work away for a few minutes and then read it. You will see that they have an opinion about what happened.
Now repeat the exercise for your villain or obstacle. Once you see how they have differing points or view, you can bring this into the dialogue and it will add depth to any scene.
Here’s to your successful writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz