Slipping into another creative medium can be so energizing and instructive: The rules of the game may be different, but the challenge of capturing and holding an audience’s interest is universal. That’s why I was so excited about attending a showcase featuring selections from a new book, Play. Speak. 40 Monologues for Young Actors ,by Tia Dionne Hodge-Jones, an award-winning writer, actor, and director-producer.
The young actors were talented and brimming with energy. And the monologues? They were riveting: witty, funny, moving, and chilling by turn. But above all, they were dynamic and propulsive: they carried you forward, beat by beat, on a tide of language, rhythm, and emotion — not easy to do! This is the same kind of forward motion that makes for fast-paced, exciting dialogue in novels, stories, and plays.
In “Breaking It Down,” the opening chapter of Play.Speak., Tia poses a series of questions that help shape a strong monologue performance. One of the pivotal questions is, WHAT DO I WANT? As Tia says, “In this moment and under these circumstances, WHAT DO I WANT? This is very important because this is the reason you’re speaking in the first place. This is the fuel for the fire that IS the monologue. If you didn’t want anything then it wouldn’t be a monologue, it would be just silence, but it IS a monologue and you have something to say BECAUSE you WANT something.”
Along with WHAT DO I WANT?, two other key questions drive drama in the moment: WHY DO I WANT WHAT I WANT? and HOW WILL I GET WHAT I WANT? As Tia puts it, “Are you going to chastise, flatter, hurt, threaten, manipulate, bully, impress, provoke, abuse, plead, surprise, help, warn, worry, hassle, prod, enlighten, dare, or play any other wonderful verb” — to achieve what you want?
Asking these questions from your characters’ perspective can be incredibly valuable in writing dialogue that crackles and sparks — and pushes your story forward. For more on building drama into your writing, check out Play.Speak. and visit Tia’s web site: http://www.playspeakmonologues.com. Bravo, Tia — write on!