Thursday, June 11, 2009

Audition by Michael Shurtleff - Opposites

The following is the fifth 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.


Whatever a writer decides is the character’s motivation in a scene, the opposite of that motivation is also true and should be placed in the scene. The writer’s creation of opposites within a scene develops conflict, and therefore drama, and therefore interest within the reader. What is critical in developing opposites within a scene is the process of the character dealing with his pain, not the act of him resolving it.

The more extreme the opposites the writer selects for a scene, the more likely everything in between will be developed instinctively and naturally as the character comes to life between these extremes. There are opposites in every scene and some of them may be implied under the surface of the character, in the subtext. Writers should seek the extremes within their characters in every scene. The more each character can face the internal debate of I love you versus I could kill you with the other characters in a scene, the more riveting that scene will be. To successfully deal with the opposites within her characters, a writer must know each character’s strong feelings, prejudices and limitations. Confront your characters’ idiosyncrasies. If they remain unknown, the characters and the scenes can be victimized by them.


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