A Little Trick to Consider

7 Apr

by Biljana Likic

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REMINDER: The Comedy Contest is still going on! Get your admissions in before May 1st!

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Here’s a little trick I use when I feel stuck or uninspired.

But first, some context!

Plays and scripts aren’t meant to be read; they are meant to be acted out. When a playwright or screenwriter begins composing their piece, their first thoughts probably aren’t, “Man this is gonna be a damn good script to read.” Instead, they most likely think something along the lines of, “I really hope this connects with the audience watching!”

But who says they can’t be read?

Why I love reading scripts, plays in particular, is because it’s such an exercise of the imagination. There are a lot of ways you can interpret a piece of text. Words can be very ambiguous, and dialogue can say so much about what’s happening, and yet so little. When you see a play, the director is generally the one that makes all the decisions about what kind of messages need to be sent out. That is one person interpreting a piece of dialogue in a way that is hopefully unique. And while I love watching plays, this is why I like reading them: I get my own interpretation, my own little production, right inside my head. I get to be the one to make those decisions, and apply what emotions I feel are appropriate.

So sometimes, when I feel completely uninspired, I’ll take out a script, pick a piece of dialogue, and write a narrative for it.

Here’s an example. Take this blurb of dialogue:

~

The Dialogue:

Man: “Where’d you go?”

Woman: “I went to the supermarket.”

Man: “What did you get?”

Woman: “Carrots.”

Man: “I hate carrots.”

Woman: “They help your eyesight.”

Man: “They taste like cardboard.”

Woman: “I’m just looking out for you.”

~

Now here it is interpreted into two narratives:

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Interpretation 1:

The woman walked through the door, throwing her keys onto the coffee table and continuing on to the kitchen.

“Where’d you go?” the man asked, snaking his arms around her waist and leaning his chin against her shoulder.

She smiled and turned her head to kiss his cheek. “I went to the supermarket.”

“What did you get?”

She dumped out a mass of gnarled, vibrant orange sticks onto the granite countertop. “Carrots,” she declared, grinning triumphantly.

The man groaned and tried to pull her away from the counter. “I hate carrots.”

“They help your eyesight,” the woman said, giggling and grabbing onto the handles of the drawers to stop him from dragging her away.

“They taste like cardboard,” he muttered.

She turned in his arms and put a hand on his cheek. “I’m just trying to look out for you,” she said, giving him another quick kiss, and moving away to start peeling.

~

Interpretation 2:

The woman walked through the door, throwing her keys onto the coffee table and continuing on to the kitchen.

“Where’d you go?”

She froze. Grip tightening against her alibi, she flicked her gaze behind her. The man was watching her coldly.

She forced out a smile. “I went to the supermarket.”

“What did you get?”

A slightly trembling hand reached into the bag and dumped a mass of carrots onto the laminate countertop. There were too many. She’d panicked and grabbed more than she could ever need. “Carrots,” she said, staring at the now incriminating orange mound.

There was a tense pause.

“I hate carrots.”

The woman clenched her fists. “They help your eyesight.”

“They taste like cardboard.”

She bit her cheek. She could feel his eyes boring into her back, the short, empty distance between kitchen chair and kitchen counter threatening to drive her into a frenzy.

“I’m just trying to look out for you,” she said, barely keeping her voice level.

The man said nothing. She heard his shoes scuff against the tile of the floor and flinched, but nothing happened. He left the kitchen. The woman squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then took out a knife and started peeling.

~

So there you have it, folks: two completely different interpretations from one little blurb of dialogue. Obviously, when it’s a whole script, the words and stage directions will push you towards a certain mood the writer wants, but there are still so many possibilities. It’s the reason why you can watch a play done by two different groups of people and feel as if they weren’t even the same piece of work.

In my opinion, it’s fascinating.

So next time you feel you need a good stretch for your imagination, try picking up a play and writing out a narrative just like that. It just might get your creative juices flowing.

Feel free to put your own interpretation of the blurb in the comments!

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s in her final year of high school, waiting and waiting to graduate, finish university, and finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here, and check out her work on her FictionPress account.

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15 Responses to “A Little Trick to Consider”

  1. Samantha W April 7, 2010 at 2:27 AM #

    The woman walked in the door, holding her bag and its contents close to her chest.

    “Where’d you go?” the man asked casually, though the tense look in his eyes betrayed his true thoughts.

    “I went to the super market.” she replied, her voice wavering a little as she set it on the counter.

    “What did you get?” he asked, pulling the edge of the bag down a bit. His eyes widened for a split second before he turned around, piercing her with his gaze.

    “Carrots.” Their code word for pipe bombs. She knew he hated them, hated how messy they were. She only hoped he wouldn’t send her back out for something else.

    “I hate Carrots.” His blunt reply.

    “They help your eyesight.” she said, running her hand through his bangs and over the scar etched above his left eye. Pipe bombs didn’t require a precise eye, they were simple, effective.

    “They taste like cardboard” he teased with mock distaste.

    She smiled.

    “I’m just trying to look out for you.” she said affectionately as she tossed him a couple of the ‘carrots’.

    • svonnah April 7, 2010 at 8:11 AM #

      Oooh, good one!

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 10:02 AM #

      Nicely done!!!

  2. Rachel Simon April 7, 2010 at 10:23 AM #

    The man crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
    “Where’d you go?”

    The woman sighed, throwing her keys on the counter. “I told you — I went to the supermarket.”

    “What’d you get?”

    The woman began to unload the grocery bag and looked up at him. “Carrots.”

    “I hate carrots.”

    “They help your eyesight.” She opened a drawer and placed the plastic bag of apples inside.

    “They taste like cardboard.” He shifted in his chair.

    “I’m just looking out for you.” She closed the drawer and folded up the grocery bag.

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 11:38 PM #

      Nice. Good weariness.

  3. katzhang April 7, 2010 at 11:27 AM #

    “Where’d you go?” he asked the moment she opened the door.
    She tried to ignore him, but he grabbed her and made her look him in the eye. She twisted away.
    “I went to the supermarket.”
    He laughed, and she flinched. “What did you get?”
    “Carrots.”
    “I hate carrots,” he said. She knew he was smiling. She heard it in his voice.
    “They help your eyesight,” she said, and immediately regretted it.
    “They taste like cardboard,” he spat.
    By tomorrow morning, she’d be examining the bruises he’d left on her wrist, watering dark purple flowers with her tears.
    Now, she could do nothing but say, softly, “I’m just looking out for you.”

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 11:40 PM #

      Good job. I like the time between the second last and the last line. Great choice.

  4. Anthony April 7, 2010 at 3:12 PM #

    Biljana, great point. Thinking about the stage direction is a useful exercise because while dialogue is highly valued, how a character’s actions align with their dialogue is equally important to their characterization.

    Since it seems like a dominating male has become the pattern, I thought I’d offer the other side 🙂

    “Where’d you go?” I asked. I glanced towards the clock. Two hours had passed since she left.

    “I went to the supermarket,” she said with a smile. She took off her heels and lined them up with the rest of her shoes.

    I turned off the TV and followed her into the kitchen. “What did you get?” My finger at the center of the frame, I pushed my glasses up and off the edge of my nose.

    “Carrots,” she said. She opened the bag and dumped it out. The carrots made a thud as they hit the wooden cutting board. My lips became a thin, pale line. I opened the refrigerator and appraised its contents. Fat free yogurt, soy milk, and vegetarian patties crowded its shelves.

    “I hate carrots,” I said. She stopped her knife for a moment’s time, but continued.

    “They help your eyesight,” she said. I was still searching for a meal to be salvaged.

    “They taste like cardboard.” Her knife clanged as she slammed it against the cutting board.

    A heavy silence filled the space between us and prevented us from moving in either direction. “I’m just looking out for you,” she said. Without looking up from her work, she offered me a small orange slice.

    I took it and went to watch TV.

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 11:42 PM #

      Hahaha well I for one love that your idea of a weak male is one that wears presumably nerdy glasses ;).

      I like the health fanatic twist. Nice job!

  5. Gabriela da Silva April 7, 2010 at 6:27 PM #

    The door opened witha mecanic click and she stepped inside the apartment only to be greeted by her husband standing in front of the door. He was pale and looked nervous, and the moment she entered he ran up to her and grabbed her arms.

    “Where’d you go?”

    “I – I went to the supermarket,” she answered, confused. This wasn’t like him.

    He let go of her, and as if realizing he had scared her, he smiled weakly. “What did you get?”

    “Carrots,” she answered. He couldn’t fool her – there was something definitely wrong, and a pang of anguish started to form in her stomach.

    But he only walked back to the end table they kept by the door, and his eyes darted to the phone. “I hate carrots.”

    Two could play the game, she thought, even if she didn’t like it, and she walked pass him and into the kitchen.

    “They help your eyesight,” she said, but he hadn’t followed her.

    “They taste like cardboard,” she heard him say.

    As she was about to answer that she was only looking out for him, the phone rang, and in her husband’s voice as he picked up she knew something terrible had happened. She dropped the groceries, carrots and all, and ran back to join him.

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 11:43 PM #

      Oooooh a tragedy! Cool twist.

  6. Myra April 7, 2010 at 9:04 PM #

    What she didn’t expect, upon opening the door with her arms full of groceries, was him standing by the couch doing absolutely nothing. She’d expected him to have dozed off by now; they’d been running and dodging almost all day.

    But then, she’d forgotten how much he’d toughened up.

    “Where’d you go?” He sounded nervous. He looked like a lost little kid. Really, he was. He was taller than her, now, but he’d only turned eighteen a few months ago.

    She frowned, setting the groceries down and turning her back on him to bolt the door. “I went to the supermarket.”

    On her way to the kitchen she brushed by him, and he followed her into the kitchen. “What did you get?”

    She let out a sigh, gritting her teeth and glancing down at the groceries. She said the first thing that she saw. “Carrots.”

    He followed her into the kitchen, tossing “I hate carrots” into the rather one-sided conversation. As if it really mattered, in the grand scheme of things, as if his hating carrots was the most important thing on their minds right now.

    Noncommittally, she said, “They help your eyesight.”

    “They taste like cardboard.” He made this remark upon picking up a carrot and squinting at it, scrutinising it. She noticed he held it like he would a sword.

    Slowly, he was learning.

    Still, questioning her in a time like this was wasting time. She’d promised to buy her sister food, get a little rest, and then they both would get out of there. Her sister could handle herself, but they were on the run, and they had to leave soon. They would be at the train station in fifteen minutes if all went according to plan.

    She looked at him, then, staring at the carrots, and she felt her heart squeeze. She shouldn’t have dragged him into this.

    “I’m just looking out for you.” Her voice grew soft around the edges, and her eyes met his.

    He looked down. Yeah, he seemed to say. Yeah.

    *

    And on another note, good exercise! I’ll definitely try this again.

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 11:46 PM #

      I love this! Great twist!

      And I’m glad you liked the exercise. I’m so happy that people are participating :). These are fascinating and so much fun to read.

  7. Landon April 7, 2010 at 9:41 PM #

    Very cool concept, Biljana! I’ll have to try it sometime. Have you ever heard of THE FANTASTICKS? I LOVE the script.

    • Biljana April 7, 2010 at 11:47 PM #

      Hey thanks :D. Definitely try it; things just come alive.

      And no, I haven’t heard of it, but I’ll check it out. Thanks for the suggestion!

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