Characters in stories have realizations and make discoveries all the time. It’s one of the audience’s favorite things to watch. When you see a character change before your very eyes because some sort of new information has changed their mind and ultimately, the trajectory of their journey, you are delighted. And it keeps you on board with the story.
This week, I coached three different scenes with very clear discoveries. In the first scene, a mother realized her son needed a tutor for his studies, if she wanted him to be successful at school. In the second scene, a woman realized that although she loved her boyfriend very much, his recent divorce was not something she would be able to handle at this time. And in the third scene, a teenage boy discovered that the girl he has a crush on is actually a super cute, 300-year-old demon. Tough break, Kid.
Characters making discoveries and having realizations is nothing new, but I love asking the question… “How long did it take for you to realize that?” Was it instantaneously? Was it in a single moment? Was it something you’ve been coming to realize for quite some time? If so, how long have you been wrestling with it and what made the discovery happen right now?
In a horror movie, you might run out of the house, only to discover your friend is still inside when you hear her screams. That’s pretty instant.
In a comedy, it’s possible that you’ve despised your boyfriend for quite some time because he’s rude and insensitive, but it’s today, when he says your mother has thick ankles, that you finally realize, “Okay, that’s it, we’re done.” That realization has come over time and culminates in one final decision.
In a television series about war, you might be taking heavy fire when your gun runs out of bullets (sudden discovery) and as you hunker down behind a rock to take cover, you slowly realize you’ll have to make a run for a new position if you want to survive.
An actor gets a script and the actions are mostly spelled out, you say this and you do this. But as humans, we are constantly discovering our next move and realizing what we want to do based on the current information that we have. Humans don’t have scripts.
A lot of actors have a very bad habit of treating a script like a list of instructions. But I encourage you…take yourself off autopilot, just doing what the script says because the script says to do it. Put your character into the situation and get clear on where there are discoveries and realizations. And figure out how long it’s taking this person to make those discoveries and realizations!
Take this tool into consideration and create a real, human experience that audiences will thank you for.