As I look back at the last post on Other People’s Money (Part 5), I’m not sure that I made clear an important point about making decisions about your character. (I typically write a series in a sitting, and can thus be sure that everything ties together. Those five posts I wrote separately, as scattered time permitted, and so they may need some editing to be truly cohesive.)
You don’t have to know everything about your character. You just have to know the Right Things. The Important Things.
It’s kind of like going for the root cause. Push away the symptoms – they’ll take care of themselves – and instead uncover the fundamental issues driving your character. Along the way, you’ll find little things that matter and help flesh out your character. But don’t get distracted by them and forget to find the diamonds.
What are the diamonds? They are the lines – often single sentences – that your character utters or someone else says that tell you something major about your character and how to play him.
Here’s some examples from Other People’s Money:
- I knew as soon as the old man told us about our expected visitor.
- Twelve years ago he told me if I did the job it’d be my company to run when he steps down. . . .I don’t want the rug pulled out from under me so close to the finish line.
- I kept this company alive.
- You see – manners . . . You could learn from that, Jorgy.
- In a life filled with rumors and gossip and sideways glances, I apologized to no one. Don’t expect it of me now. You won’t get it.
- Garfinkle: Who are doing this for? Bea: Myself. I don’t need the money.
- He’s a “yard” chauffeur. Bring him inside and you’ll spoil him.
- God damned right. The best game in the world.
- I’m a modern-day Robin Hood. I take from the rich and give to the middle-class.
- I looove money. . . . Money is unconditional acceptance.
- Katie, why are you so hard on me?
- Jorgy: What’d you say your first name was? Garfinkle: Lawrence. Jorgy: Larry, you made her day.
- I call it running away.
- Lawyers are like cab drivers stuck in traffic. They don’t do anything, but their meter is always ticking.
- I’m scared time has passed us by.
- A business is more than the price of its stock. . . . It is, in every sense, the very fabric that binds our society together.
- Bea: Jorgy, you only made one mistake in your life. You lived two years too long.
- Mother, I’m sorry if it was in poor taste. That’s who I am.
- He walks away with millions. You walk away with memories.
- Anger. About thirty-five years’ worth.
- I love blatant sexists. They’re my meat. But I wouldn’t work for you if you begged me. I like being associated with winners.
- God save me . . . I love this!
I’m not going to tell you why these lines are “diamond” lines – first, you’ll have to read the play to see them in context, and it’s a worthwhile exercise. I do hope that you can see why someone of them carry such weight, even out of context.
Second, you need to try to understand yourself why these lines matter. If you do the work and can’t figure it out, email me and I’ll be glad to help you understand what is confusing you.
Next time, I’ll talk a little more about why they matter and what to do with them.