Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I mean it, I'm okay

There is a couple in my homeroom - I'll call them Victor and Mayra.

Victor and Mayra are always together. In the hall they hold hands. In class Mayra sometimes sits and pops the zits on Victor's face in between makeout sessions.

I'm not kidding. Teenagers are gross.

Today Victor sat in one corner of the room, smiling and laughing and joking with other kids while Mayra sat in another corner smiling and laughing and gossipping with her girlfriends. They didn't look or speak to each other the entire period and both looked filled with a little too much glee.

At one point I watched as Mayra's eyes beamed a peripheral glare in Victor's general direction for a brief second before returning to the mirror where she was applying makeup.

I don't need to know the details. I already know what happened just by watching them. And it reminded me of another thing to keep in mind when I work on my latest project.

People like to act happy when they're not. Victor and Mayra were trying as hard as they could to act gleeful for the benefit of the other one when they're clearly both in a bad way.

I found myself doing that the other day. Something went wrong and in a conversation with a friend I kept repeating the words "I'm fine" over and over again, clearly indicating how not fine I was in my constant effort to assure myself that I was, indeed, fine. Unfortunately my friend took me at my word and was very happy to hear how perfectly fine I'd ended up.

There's a song by My Chemical Romance called "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" where the singer mostly talks about how not okay he is. In the middle he stops and reassures us all that he's perfectly fine until he starts screaming about how okay he is. "I'm okay now" he says. "But you really need to listen to me because I'm telling you the truth. I mean this, I'm okay! (Trust me. I'm not okay.)" It's one of my favorite songs.

One thing I see all the time in my students' papers and in scripts by new writers is a tendency for characters to be too on the nose with the dialogue. Aside from being more realistic, it's also more interesting to watch a character put on an act than to sit around moping about how sad he is.

Body language tells a story words can't always convey. Especially when people are hurting. Because for some reason nobody wants the world to know they're in pain.

1 comment:

  1. something that's always stuck with me from one of my acting classes years ago was when the teacher critiqued a performance of a student who was supposed to be upset. she said:

    "if you're supposed to cry in a scene, you have to try NOT to. no one wants to cry in front of anyone. they always do whatever they can to not cry - and fail.

    if you're trying to cry on cue it will be completely false - even if you're successful - because that's not how anyone cries."


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