Today I am going to give you one of the exercises that I use when I need to get the juices flowing on a page. It can actually lead to a script before you know it. After reading a lot of TV Pilots during a screen writing class, I learned that most scenes for TV only involve between 4 and 12 lines of dialogue.
The next time you watch a TV show, count how many lines the characters speak before they cut to the next scene. They almost never use more than 8 lines. As playwrights, we write 50 to 90 pages of straight dialogue so to think that TV writers can show something about the character in only 4 to 12 lines may seem impossible. I have found that using some of the techniques from screen writing and TV writing helps tremendously when writing for the stage. My opening scene is still going to be 10 pages long, however every emotion, revelation, or sexy-lust-filled moment is always conveyed within 4 to 12 lines. It makes the script faster. It cuts out the boring and gets straight to the juicy.
This technique keeps the audience focused. Just when they think they know what is about to happen next, BOOMB! They are hit with some shocking revelation or a new secret that makes them have to ask, “What’s going to happen to her?”. Or, “Oh God, I knew they were screwing! That trifling heffa!” Whatever it is, an aspect of the character’s personality or motivation is revealed.
So here is your challenge.
- Write a scene that has at most 8 lines.
- Your characters should fall in love, break up, reveal something important such as someone is pregnant, been cheated on, just died, is going to jail, just killed someone, just committed a serious crime, or something else really juicy. That’s it! That’s the challenge.
- You’ve got 20 minutes!
I’m going to be honest with you. Once you finish those first 8 lines, you will probably know more about the characters than you did when you first started writing today. If that inspires you to write another 8 to 16 lines, great! That’s the whole purpose of the exercise. But within every 8 lines, you should have a preview, climax, and possibly a resolution. If you don’t get to the resolution right away, don’t worry about it. But if nothing else, within each of those 8 lines, there should be a preview, climax, and “revelation.” You can hold off for the resolution until later.
If you want to share it with someone, find a friend. Don’t have any friends? Send it to me and I’ll let you know what I think. Feel free to post it into the comment section. After I comment, you may want to delete it though. After all, this is the internet. Have fun!