In this thirteen part series, we’ll discuss the various facets of story construction that will help shape your “champion,” and hopefully, make it a steadfast contender worthy of the critical Coliseum.
Part Two: The Threshold
If the distance between what a character is thinking and what they are actually saying/doing is as small and as narrow as a doorway, then you’ve discovered a new tool to use at your crafting table, one that, when used properly and purposefully, can make for a very intense story.
There are two ways to establish this immediacy and tension:
- Dialogue vs. inner monologue/steam of consciousness
- Action vs. emotions
For the first, dialogue vs. inner monologue; imagine a situation in which a character’s thoughts are all jumbled and confused.
They want to say what’s on their mind; problem is there are a million-and-one things floating around in their head, and none of them can be vocalized with tact or coherency. So, they end up blurting out something unrehearsed, rash, brazen, or unrelated.
Alright, where is it? You were the last person I let use it.
I sold it, alright!
You sold it?
Yeah, you weren’t using it.
It’s my credit card! Why would you sell it?
I thought this was about your Xbo--
Wait, what happened to my Xbox?
I...um...sort of sold it. You haven’t used it since you moved out and got your own place.
You sold my Xbox?
I needed the money bad, and I knew you had a 360 at your new place, so I figured you wouldn’t miss it.
So you don’t know where my credit card is?
Sorry for accusing you. Guess it’s just lost somewhere. But I will be needing a hundred bucks.
For the Xbox.
The second example, emotion vs. action, speaks to the correlation of a characters’, well, you guessed it – actions and emotions. These can either be contradictory or reflective. If a person is trying to sell a lie, their thoughts are either cool and calculating, or nervous and apprehensive (sometimes, a mixture of both). Dexter Morgan, from the show Dexter is a perfect example of this kind of character. Dexter is a serial killer who preys upon murderers instead of the innocent. However, Dexter is employed by the Miami PD as a blood spatter analyst, which is great for resources in researching his next victims, but bad because he works juxtaposed with people whose very job is to catch people like him. Many times Dexter is nearly caught by family or friends, and he has to play the coincidence card, or come up with a clever alibi on the spot. It’s even better that we get to hear his thoughts before he speaks. He’s completely honest with himself, but man, can he lie up a storm.
Use the Force, Luke.
A furtive glance, a smile of the eyes, a nearly imperceptible half-smirk at one corner of the mouth, a faint blushing of the cheeks, a furrowing of the eyebrows, a despondent mien, a glimmer of hope—these subtle facial expressions speak to the inward thoughts of a character (or deny them), and when preceding action, build a palpable, translatable tension. It’s what keeps the audience on the edge of their seat and invested in a story; just as hearing a character’s actual thoughts creates an obvious tension . . . No, no! I don’t want to do it. I can’t. I shouldn’t. “But I will.”
Exploit this. Feed your audience the big bowl of whole grain Drama-O’s it craves. *brings spoon toward mouth*
“Open the hangar deck, here comes the airplane.”
We’ll activate each link below as the blogs are posted. Enjoy!