Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I've been reading a lot of plays lately, or at least a lot of character descriptions and stage directions. They're the best part of a play, I think, the part that the audience never gets to know and the part that is entirely the author, what everything looks like inside their head. In a novel you get those things, too, but there they're part of the narrative, and they're happening inside your head, not for a room full of people. In performance a play's characters are divorced from their descriptions and they way they are intended to move through space.

Because on the stage the curtain goes up and there's a character, sitting at a table. But what you don't know is that this is NICK, or whoever, and he has a quiet dignity borne from watching his father get gored by a bull when he was a child. Or whatever. And it's even odds that NICK himself doesn't know that, although the actor playing him is sure going to try and make you get that by the way he's slumped in his chair.

I'm not explaining myself very well, as usual, but I've just been thinking that character descriptions would probably help all of us in regular social interactions. If a little explaining box floated before you into a room. If every time you were about to move italics told you what you were going to be doing, and how. And why. I confuse even myself sometimes with the things that I do, and it would certainly help if the author would just step up and do a little authoring now and again.

In the meantime, I'll just crawl in between the lines of characters who know what they're doing, because someone made sure to tell them.

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