Lindsay passes on a simple character building tip to make your characters really feel human. It’s something we all do…..
So, hi! I was recently at a production of my play, The Bright Blue Mailbox Suicide Note, and a question came up, and it’s a question that always comes up at least nine out of ten productions, and so much so, I thought, “Well, this is something that, you know, might be worth talking about – just you and me, one on one.”
There is a character in the play who is a girl, and the play is about suicide, and there is a group of them and they’re talking about it. And the girl basically says, “I would never slit my wrists. That’s too much blood.” And it’s quite clear she’s being very, “Ugh! I could never do it! Never do it!” And then, later on in the play, she has a monologue where it’s a bit vague but certainly my intention is that she is preparing to kill herself by slitting her wrists. And the question that always comes up is, “Well, why would she say that thing in the thing? Why would she say that she would never do it?” And nine times out of ten, everyone’s always surprised when I say, “Well, she was lying.”
Lying is a wonderful thing to put into your plays. Have characters lie about something. It could be a big lie, it could be a little white lie, but lying is something that’s a very human trait. It’s something we all do. We lie to get out of trouble. We lie to make ourselves look better than we are. We lie to make someone else feel better. It’s a very human trait and I find a lot, when I’m working with students, particularly student playwrights, is that all their characters tell the truth all the time and that’s not how we are in life and I think it is a wonderful thing if you can think of a way to have your characters lie, particularly if they’ve got a want and they’re pursuing a want. And, if it’s a really important want, they’re going to go out of their way to do something to get that want, right? They might be doing something extraordinary, they might do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do like lie.
It’s something to think about. It’s something to really consider, particularly if you’ve got a bunch of characters who are maybe all around the same age, maybe they’re all friends, who’s the liar and what kind of lies do they tell? Go write a scene. Go, right now! You should stop, stop watching this. Go and write a scene where one character lies to another. What happens? Do they get out of it? What’s the consequence?
Okay. Go lie.