Tips for helping scenes develop

Thanks to all of you who came to this week’s jam: Unsticking Yourself.  At some point, we all get bogged down in scenes that don’t seem to be going anywhere.  That’s why it’s important for us to know a few techniques that we can pull out of the bag if we need help.

Firstly, and I don’t apologise for this, I will be playing the ‘Who/What/Where’ exercise at every jam I run until I drop.  Establishing names and a relationship, what it is you are doing and where you are – albeit artificially in two sentences – is *superb* practice.  Most scenes that fail do so because the players haven’t established one or more of these key factors.  So, getting into the habit of adding detail to early dialogue is like building solid, brick foundations for a house.

Then, we had a go five techniques that you can use to help a scene along if you are struggling.  These are:

  1. Repeating what the other player said, but doing it in an unusual emotion or tone of voice.  Repetition can be funny in itself, but if you react in an unusually angry, joyful or surprised way you’ll find the scene tilts nicely and allows you to move on.
  2. Adding more information about ‘who, what and where’.  You may be in a castle, but where’s the castle?  Mordor? Wales? The United Federation of Pang 2?  Add more information about your relationship or explain more about what you’re doing.  Details are great.
  3. Tell a historical tale.  “Remember the time when…?”  Add  an anecdote about the relationship.  Or, simply, “Let me tell you a story…” can help add detail and context.
  4. Object work. Producing something from your pocket, your jacket, under your hat, the side of the room or the boot of the car can help drive forward a scene.  It’s simply adding more detail, but it’ll help something happen that you’re both forced to deal with.
  5. Do something physical.  Change the physical relationship between the two of you.  Stand up, sit down, walk away, put your arm around a shoulder, start shivering, collapse on the floor or lean on the wall.  Do something dramatic and bold that changes the texture of what you are talking about.

Of course, we unconsciously do one or more of these things in many of the scenes that we do.  However, keeping them in your back pocket for times when things don’t seem to work will help you turn a stumbling scene into something marvellous.

And remember Eddie’s wise words: it’ “It’s a matter of lubrication, Nigel.”

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