5: Creating Characters and Relationships
Students will demonstrate their understanding of the process of character development for script writing by creating dialogue to establish character, objectives, and relationships.
Two copies of the attached cutting from the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter. Betrayal Cutting
Bring two actors up on stage (one male and one female). Have the actors read the lines from the play stopping at the points marked. Each time the actors stop, have the class discuss what we know about the characters and their relationship to one another. While the first stops will not yield a lot of information, as the scene progresses, more is revealed.
TRANSITION: Have the students discuss how Pinter established the characters and relationship. Why did he not reveal everything all at once? How did our understanding of the relationship change as the piece went on? Robert mentions Torcello twice in the cutting. Talk about how each line, though similar, is used in different ways by the character.
STEP 1: Talk about the importance of creating real character, relationships, and interactions for the audience. It is critical for the audience and for the actors. Have the students share stories of scripts that they have acted in or watched that had real characters and relationships and which scripts were not effective in this area. Explain that many young writers want to “get to the point” so quickly that they don’t take the time to reveal characters and relationships in the manner they could to build tension and interest for the audience.
STEP 2: Have the class identify “the point” of the cutting from Betrayal. When does he finally reveal this “point”?
STEP 3: Bring two students up on stage. Have one tell a story to another. The class will determine the story and the relationship. Some story suggestions are:
First day back at school
A mishap at Prom
Getting fired from a job
Being asked out by someone you detest
For relationships, the storyteller will always be a high school student. The other will change character/relationship and mark how that alters the story being told. Possible listener characters include:
Have the storyteller tell the story to at least two different people and have the class note how the relationship changes how information is exchanged. You can do this activity with more than one pair of students if you wish.
STEP 4: Have each student take out a piece of paper. On the paper have them write a scene. The scene will involve at least two but no more than three characters. The students can not plan anything out. They must just write. They are to create a dialogue exchange between two characters, A & B. If they want to introduce character C later in the scene they can. Do not determine where or when the action is taking place or who the people are. Just have A and B talk to each other. Let the students write for 6 to 10 minutes.
STEP 5: Have each student silently read their scene. Ask if characters and relationships reveal themselves during the course of the scene. When did they playwright know who the people were and what their relationship was to one another? Does the scene reveal a “point”? Several students will probably have scenes that establish themselves to some degree and give them clues about the people involved. Some students may have been frustrated or created a scene that does not evolve into anything. Have students who considered themselves successful and not successful share their scenes with the class.
STEP 6: Have the class respond to the scenes. What works? Are the characters interesting? Are we intrigued? Do our questions get answered? If they are not answered, are we more intrigued or frustrated? Is the dialogue realistic or stylized?
STEP 7: Stress that the point of today’s activities was not to create structured stories but examine how characters reveal themselves and their relationships through dialogue. In creating dialogue for characters, playwrights can try free-writing exercises or improvisation with others to discover how they would talk. Additionally, characters can converse to avoid the “point” of the scene to create tension. Encourage the students to try a number of different methods with their script to find the one that allows their characters the dialogue that works best for their style and approach.
STEP 8: Remind students that five pages of their script are due next class period. It can be any five pages and does not need to be the first five pages. The pages should be typed and be in proper manuscript format. The final scripts will be 10-15 minutes in length, so the five pages will represent about one-third of the final script.
Students can be assessed by turning in their A/B scenes and participation in activities and discussions.