Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Looking for Trouble

“That which hinders you is your task.” ~ Sanford Meisner

Onstage, it is essential to find that which impedes your character. Only when you have obstacles to overcome does your character have a genuine purpose. When you achieve victory easily, the audience doesn’t connect or identify with that character as well as ones who struggle and suffer for their gains.

Recently, I’ve become more aware of the theme of the “tortured” hero in storytelling. For example, in the story of Cinderella, the heroine is tortured by the absence of her loving parents, the cruelty of her step-siblings and step-mother, and is thwarted by ill-timed magical spells that prevent her from staying at the ball. These elements of torture and injustice draw sympathy and the audience sides with the heroine. Adding the element of torture makes for a better story. Without all of the obstacles, it's just the story of a pretty girl going to a party and meeting a handsome guy and they hook up. No big deal. With all of the added drama, we (the audience) actually care about her and want her to succeed.

Our natural tendency (at least mine) is to promote equilibrium. In storytelling, equilibrium is boring. To move the story forward, seek to foster situations where the hero/ine is tortured.

In short, if you want interesting scenes, seek out that which causes you the most trouble and jump headfirst into the fray.

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