Monday, May 25, 2009

Audition by Michael Shurtleff — The Moment Before

The following is the third in a series of twelve articles based upon the twelve guideposts listed in Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff. The author was the casting director for many of David Merrick's Broadway productions. He also worked with Bob Fosse and Andrew Lloyd Webber. His book is known as the actor’s bible. If you take a college acting class, it will likely be required reading. While Shurtleff’s book is aimed at actors, his principles are beneficial to both writers and directors as well. This series is geared toward writers.

Every scene an author writes begins in the middle, and it is the author’s responsibility to provide what comes before. This is true whether you’re writing the opening, middle or final scene of the story. Something has always preceded what the character is doing. This is the moment before.

However you want to create this moment before—utilizing dialogue, action, reaction, narrative expression—can be best selected depending upon specific factors concerning your character’s relationship in the scene you’re drafting. What is your character fighting for in the relationship brought to life in the scene? Exactly where are the character’s feelings at the specific moment before? The more specific, the more focused the moment before, the more flow and connection will be presented in the scene, and the easier it will be to write.

The moment before requires an important emotional commitment from the character. A great deal of action may have taken place in the moment before, but emotion drives action. Authors need to know their characters’ minds, but this is never enough. When developing character, the mind is only useful if it leads to feelings. These feelings and what springs forth from them keep readers turning the pages of your story. Have your character become overcome with feeling in the moment before. Authors must know how their characters will complete the following statement in the before moment:

“I must fight to (character goal) because (character motivation).”


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