There is no such thing as a conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all. ―Rebecca West, British author
It was Aristotle who said that a plot formed the most crucial part of theater. Monologues can determine the direction that a plot will take. They can, thus, be a cornerstone of any storyline.
Monologues demand a character to take control of the stage. He/she can be talking to himself/herself, thinking his/her thoughts out loud, or his/her speech may actually be directed towards someone. A monologue can be used to reveal a twist in a tale, rant an inner turmoil, or simply allow the character to open his heart out.
Monologues can also be used to give depth to a character, and add layers of various shades to his/her personality. When crafted to perfection, these become the most memorable part of the storyline. A couple of good examples are, the stories of the Second World War by Quint from the movie Jaws, or 'you can't handle the truth!' from A Few Good Men.
Writing a Dramatic Monologue
When writing a monologue, have clarity towards the direction that you want to steer the story to. A monologue will be a story in itself. Structurally, it needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Do not have an abrupt ending to the monologue. A natural ending to the monologue will assist you to take the story forward smoothly.
While writing, know the way of thinking of the character who will be delivering the monologue. Is it the protagonist of the story, or the antagonist? Get deep under the skin of the character who has to mouth the monologue. Know why he/she would choose the words that he/she chooses.
A good monologue should not be limited only to lend support to the story, but a character study done for the audience. A monologue can be a good way to deviate from the current plot, or add another dimension to it.
Adding drama does not always equate to turning it into a screaming match. A monologue can be made more dramatic by the fluctuating tensions during the delivery, and the various aspects of the story that are left untold. The anticipation that a monologue creates for on-stage as well as live audiences adds to its dramatic effect.
What to Include
Include the voice of the character when writing a monologue. Always write it in first person. However, do not try to find the voice of the character through a monologue. Use subtext. Provide the audience with an opportunity to read between the lines. Subtle silence on occasion can help you achieve this in a monologue.
Include present tense when scripting a monologue. The format of writing should be a long block of speech. There should be no breaks in it. The delivery of a monologue by a character must be uninterrupted. Using this structure of writing can help in providing a new angle to the plot without losing the attention of the audience in the gallery.
You can show a significant change in the character. This can also be shown over the course of the monologue. This change in character shade can be brought in the character who is delivering the monologue, or someone who is an audience to the monologue.
The change may or may not be significant, but the impact that it creates can be immense. Include mood variations in the character who is delivering the monologue. Thus, you can avoid the monologue from becoming monotonous.
How to Start
Before writing a dramatic monologue, go through as many other monologues as possible. This will help you get various ideas on writing a good one. A monologue must be strategically placed with context to the plot. Also consider about the timing of the monologue in the story.
You must have the plot and the storyline figured out for yourself before you start writing. This will add weight to the story. A monologue must be witnessed by someone or must be provided with an on-stage audience. Add various shades to the character in the monologue. It will make the audience see the character in a new light.
It will show various layers of a personality, and make the character more familiar to the audience. For this, the complete profile of the character must be developed. This includes knowing things about the character that may not end up in the script. This will include things like the character's likes, dislikes, habits, etc.
Also have some revelation, twist, or background conveyed through it. Practice rewriting the monologue already written, by adding some elements of different moods, like tension, emotional, comedy, tragedy, etc., or showing the monologue in a different mood altogether than the one in which it was written.
It is indeed a rare occasion to get a monologue spot on right in the first attempt. Write down various drafts and edit them till the time you just get it just the way you want. After completing the monologue, read it aloud. These aspects are similar to writing other parts of the story. In other words, you need to take your time when writing a monologue.
Good Characters to Write a Monologue For
The characters to which a monologue can add a punch are:
- The protagonist
- The antagonist
- A mute spectator to the proceedings
- A character with fresh perspective.
A monologue needs to be delivered to another character from the story. When no other character from the story is present, it is called a soliloquy. Use these keys to writing a good monologue. Don't forget to add elements of drama, suspense, or thrill, and make the monologue all the more dramatic.