Before you choose your activity for a scene, it’s a good idea to examine all the possibilities. Let’s say your character enters the house at 6:00, arriving home from his job at the bank. He might change out of his suit, because he wants to be more comfortable. He might unpack the groceries he picked up on his way home, because then they’re out of his way. He might look through the mail, because he wants to see if there is anything important he needs to deal with. He might pour a drink and sit down to finish the crossword puzzle he started on his morning commute, because he only has three more words to fill in and he likes to finish every puzzle he starts. He might begin to prepare dinner, because he’s hungry or because it’s his night to cook.
There are other alternatives, too, but you get the point. Don’t worry so much at this early stage about what this particular character would do. You just met this character, and quite frankly, you have no reason to be certain yet about his activity when he enters the scene unless the playwright has provided him with one.
So explore every possibility of what someone might do when he comes home from work, even the options that you are “sure” at this early stage don’t suit your character. Thinking through and discarding the “wrong” options can sometimes lead you to the right one.
Whatever your banker does, he probably has a good idea of what he’s going to do when he gets home before he opens the door. And unless something happens to stop him from doing it, that’s what he’s going to do. He’s not going to make a big production out of it. He’s just going to do it, as simply and naturally as possible.
When he walks in the door, he doesn’t yet realize that something dramatic happened while he was at work that is going to change his life. He doesn’t know that his wife got the news that she is being transferred to a job 1,000 miles away. That the rabbit died. That his wife’s sister left her husband and has moved in with them. Or that his son got in trouble at school for lifting a girl’s dress.
He’ll find all that out in the middle of chopping vegetables for the salad. Maybe he finishes making the salad, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he tries to continue cooking, but finally gives up and makes a peanut butter sandwich (which he better not actually eat unless he has no lines for a page or two!) But he’s got a viable activity to keep him busy while his world caves in!
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