Yesterday at college, I finally got to experience the writing of my fellow MA Screenwriting students. As an exercise for our Script Development Workshop, we each had to write a monologue for a character whose personality and outlook are the opposite to those of the lead character in our story. I took the tutor at his word and bashed out 1500 words, typing anything and everything that came into my head, imagining what the second lead in my story would say about the lead. She's a new age woman into spiritual healing and enlightment, he's an arch gay man who likes smoking, drinking and having a laugh. The exercise was quite revelatory, uncovering things I hadn't given much thought to previously, so that was useful.
Then the tutor asked us to take turns reading our monologues aloud. I quickly discovered many of the others had spent their time honing and polishing their monologues, some of which were only a few sentences - so much for stream of consciousness! But more interesting was the chance to hear what the other students' writing is like. We've been doing the MA for the best part of six months and its the first time I've really been exposed to what the others can and do write. One guy proved he can write brilliant comedy, one woman provided a stirring historical speech for her second lead, while others kept it short and pithy. There are some great characters and writers on the course, something I hadn't really grasped up to me.
As for my piece, I choose to read from the final section of my monologue, which was set after the story has finished. Big mistake. The writing felt flat and lifeless, lacking in passion. In trying to avoid on the nose dialogue, I ended up writing something that said nothing. I shouldn't be afraid of going for it in a first draft - I can fix the worst excesses in rewrites, that's what they're for, improving on the basic, raw material.
Anyway, for next week's class we've got to transform our monologues into a 60-second speech, with a sense of its having a beginning, middle and end. Then these will be recorded on audio in class and played back as podcast, enabling us to review what worked when spoken aloud - and what didn't. Frankly, I think I'm going to have to start from scratch, as my monologue was just stream of consciousness rambling. All in all, an illuminating exercise. Best of all, we actually got to do some writing of our own. It's seems bizarre to have come this far on the course and only now getting to do that...