Originally written for Backstage
Sometimes as actors, a casting detail may ask you to prepare a monologue, they may provide one, other times, they may ask you to bring one of your own choosing.
It’s not always easy to find monologues. Thankfully, Backstage has a wealth of great options but you can also write your own.
In the last 12 years, I’ve written countless short films and been a writing advisor on several student and independent feature films. Last year, I released a collection of scifi & fantasy short stories called Too Bright*. Recently, I created a monologue based on one of the stories within that collection, The Runners.
Excerpt from The Runners Monologue
“… I dream sometimes, about him. Sometimes it’s exactly as it happened, only I know it’s coming, but I can’t do anything to stop it. Like my mind has lost the ability to communicate and I’m no better than I statue during a Taking. Other times, I can change the outcome, I die in his place, or we die together. I’ve never been able to make it so we both survive …”
The process reminded me of a few important ingredients for a good monologue. If this is something you’d like to try, here are a few tips:
- Start with the Basics
Every story and scene should have a beginning, middle, and end. If your monologue is missing this, people will notice, even if they can’t put their finger on what’s wrong. Many acting classes will tell you to look for the objective in every scene, and the super-objective within the entire script. A monologue should have an objective too. What does your character want? Who are they talking to? What do they hope to achieve?
With the monologue above, I realised I used too much exposition in the beginning and spent less time on the immediateness of what was happening right then. I’d forgotten to give the character an objective for the scene. As soon as I realised this I cut what I could so it would flow better and have a clearer objective.
- Try Improv
If you’re stuck on what to write, or maybe writing scares you, rely on your improv skills. Some of the best lines in films have come from an actor improvising. It can help you write a monologue too.
Think of a setting and a character. Using the questions above, record yourself improvising it and then write it out. As you workshop the monologue, you may find different lines to add, and begin to see which ones to get rid of too. I did this with the one above. Yes, I used a character I already had, but I placed the situation after the events of the short story and created a new setting and improvised the lines.
- Add Layers
Think subtext and conflict. Obstacles. The more emotional layers you add, the more fun you’ll have to workshop the monologue, and the richer it’ll be for those who watch it. This was the area I needed to work on most after I’d improvised and written my monologue.
Side note: It’s not always appropriate to write monologues. If you want to practice your craft, go for it, but if it’s for an audition make sure the audition detail doesn’t ask you to pick a specific style.
Even then, avoid writing a monologue using the character you’re auditioning for. As a Casting Director, I’ve been in a few auditions where this happened. At first, I was impressed with their initiative, but soon realised it was actually counterproductive because my focus shifted to how wrong they’d interpreted the character, versus paying attention to their acting.
Overall, have fun, acting is about playing so if you don’t feel like something is working, you have the freedom to change it until it rings true. Whatever you write and act, please be kind with your creative process and be your biggest fan.
*Too Bright, a collection of short stories, which includes The Runners is available for free as an ebook right now on Amazon