I came into my office earlier to write a blog entry and had to fight with my cat, John, for my desk. He has decided this is his favorite spot and does not like me disturbing him so I can use my keyboard. He is so big that he is draped with his feet hanging over the edge of the desk, blocking access to the keyboard.
When I try to move him, he decides that must be an invitation to play, so he starts batting at my hands. That can be quite dangerous as he has huge paws, all his claws, and has not learned that to play with a human’s hand he must retract his claws.
My plan for the blog, however, was not to write about John.
Tonight I am going to audition for the play, Arsenic and Old Lace. I’m hoping to get to play one of the central characters and work with a director that I really respect. He gave me my first major role a few years ago, and I learned a lot working with him.
One of the things I learned was the importance of blocking a show, which basically means planning out the movement of players on stage. I knew about blocking from a director’s standpoint, but not so much from a player’s standpoint. You have to know when and where to move, and that is especially important when you have more than one or two people on stage. If there isn’t some planning, it can be a bit of a mess with players trying to avoid upstaging each other.
On the other hand, the blocking can’t be so rigid that it doesn’t leave room for the actor to make it all appear natural, and it is crucial that what happens on stage looks natural.
In thinking about all that, I realized that the same principles apply to writing. We have to have some basic plan for how our story is going to move, even though sometimes one of the characters will take it in a new direction. We can let that happen to see if that is going to work for the story, and if it doesn’t, we can rein that character in.
It is also very important to block, or choreograph, scenes with a lot of people in them. The big climax scene in Open Season was very complicated with action taking place inside a house, just outside the house, and on the street in front of the house. I actually drew a diagram of the scene, like I do of a stage when I am blocking a show, and I put all my people in their various places. Then I planned out the POV switches and how they would flow one to the other and then to another.
Writers, how do you handle complicated scenes?