Monday, June 15, 2015

Characters and Targets

As an acting and theatre teacher, I spend a lot of time working with young actors on discovering their characters' targets.

Depending on which acting methodology a person uses, they might refer to these as various things. A target encompasses a character's objective, their goal, and relates to their superobjective. I like the term target, first introduced to me in Declan Donellan's "The Actor and the Target" because it provides a concrete image of what you're aiming for when onstage. I strongly encourage all my actors to always have a specific target in mind. Acting is about doing, so every time an actor is onstage, there is something that they want, a target the character is working towards. For example, Romeo's target at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet might be relief, he vents to his friends about his girl problems. Later, his target becomes Juliet herself.

Thinking about targets is especially useful as a writer. Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. Personally, one of my greatest strengths tends to be creating memorable environments and locations. I can envision drastic, imaginative settings, and describe them well. However, setting is only one part of a story. One thing I've been doing lately, is when I'm crafting a scene I go through and take some time to check every single character's target.

Even in a battle scene with hundreds of characters, every single figure has their own unique target. Every one wants something, and will go towards that goal until they get it, or their target shifts. Characters can share targets, but I find it helpful to think of each character as an individual who wants specific, different things. One figure in a battle scene might fight for revenge, another to prove himself to a parent, and another for money. But they're all fighting on the same side.

Go through whatever you're working on. Do you know your main character's target on every page? Do you know the targets of every minor and background character? Try adding targets to make your writing more detailed.

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