Love/Argument Scene, Husband and Wife, Is It too Cliche...

Discussion in 'Basics' started by Ben, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. Ben

    Ben Bronze Member


    Is this a cliche love/argument scene?

    Here's the basic premise --

    -husband and wife in the bedroom
    -heated argument about the American Dream
    -dark verbal fencing
    -slaps are exchanged
    -they swear at each other
    -more eye-popping arguments
    -she rips his designer shirts in the walk-in closet
    -he tries to calm her down
    -there's some pushing
    -in the middle of the tugging and pushing and thumping, they madly kiss and make love

    Is this cliche? or acceptable to your standard?

    YES or NO?

    How would you improve this scene?
  2. Sal

    Sal Gold Member

    It depends really...on what's said during the dark verbal fencing...what went before? this usual...? Is anybody looking/listening? Who slaps who first - and hardest? Who are these people?..what do they look like?...what does the bedroom look like?..what are the eye popping arguments about?...what swear words do they use?...what's the sex like?

    For example, if they were both in their eighties, it would be very unsual indeed.

    I couldn't possibly answer that question until I'd read the scene. Could be cliched. Could be fabulous.

    Sounds like a typical Saturday night in at our house...only my husband doesn't wear designer shirts.
  3. CrowsCroft

    CrowsCroft Bronze Member

    I find it a bit worrying that slapping comes so early - before swearing, eye-popping arguments, the ripping of designer shirts, attempted calming and even pushing ....
  4. KarenMBryson

    KarenMBryson Gold Member

    I think it would be easier to give an opinion of the scene if we could see the actual scene written and you gave us some background about the characters and the genre of the film.
  5. Scrivener

    Scrivener Gold Member

    Hi Ben,

    When a writer sets out the Emotion/Action beats in a scene as you did in your post it REALLY helps a reader to be an enabler. Excellent.

    Re-read or see the Richard Burton- Elizabeth Taylor version of Who's afraid of Virginia Wolf?

    Hold back the slap - it is a central nervous system release - it is a symbolic orgasm. If you use it at all then it has to be the moment before the snap from aggression to intense release through sex - the trigger for the change moment. It is all about arousal. This scene should leave the viewers moving about in their seats going, Phaaaw!

    If you want to get the screenplay into the hands of professional actors then frame great scenes like this in a way that real actors can see the 'juice'. Write it as if you were the actors (both of them). They need to see the guideposts to their own well of emotions in the text. That lets them go to their own well of emotions to draw what is needed for the scene. The action is 'surface' - declamation. It is the interior that the actor is looking for in the writing.

    The real key to this scene is number 5 below.

    It might be worth a read of Michael Shurtleff.

    Summary of Michael Shurtleff's contributions
    1. Relationships - how to create them on stage.
    2. Conflict - what are you fighting for?
    3. The moment before - how to start a scene.
    4. Humor - why jokes don’t work.
    5. Opposite - finding the hidden tension in your scene.
    6. Discoveries - making things happen for the first time.
    7. Communication and competition - reaching the other actor.
    8. Importance - locating the dramatic score.
    9. Find the events - what is really happening in the play?
    10. Place - create it on a bare stage.
    11. Game playing and role playing - play them for reality.
    12. Mystery and secret - adding wonderment to the scene.

    "Auditions: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to get the Part," written by Michael Shurtleff

    The book covers each area in detail, with examples and exercises for you to work with. (Page numbers are from the paperback edition) This is a short sampling of the wealth of information in this little gem of a book. You need this little book if you aspire to be a writer.

    Guidepost 1: Relationship p 33-34
    Start with the question: What is my relationship to the other character in the scene I am about to do? Facts are never enough…once you know the fact of the relationship, you are ready to explore how you feel about this other character…you must go further, into the realm of the emotion.You need to ask feeling questions about your emotional attitude toward the other character. Do you love him? Do you hate him? Do you resent him? How much? Do you want to help him? Do you want to get in his way? What do you want from him? What do you want him to give you? These are the most important questions to ask. The answers to them will allow you to function emotionally in the scene. That is your goal.

    Guidepost 2: What are you fighting for? Conflict. P42-44
    An actor is looking for conflict. Conflict is what creates drama. Maximum conflict is what you should be looking for. Who is interfering with what you are fighting for? Do battle with her, fight her, woo her, charm her, revile her. Find as many ways as you can to go about getting what you are fighting for.

    Guidepost 3: The Moment Before: pg 67-69
    Every scene you will ever act begins in the middle, and it is up to the actor to provide what comes before. In order to create this moment before, before he enters, the actor may have to go back ten or twenty years in the life of the character. It is like priming a motor to get it started. You have to do a number on yourself, you have to talk to yourself, flay yourself into feeling, so that you are aching to get on that stage or film set and start to fight.

    Guidepost 4 Humor p 74-76
    Humor is not jokes. Humor is not being funny. It is the coin of exchange between human beings that makes it possible for us to get through the day. Humor exists even in the humorless. There is humor in every scene, just as there is in every situation in life. ..I have trouble believing in the seriousness of a scene in which there is no humor; it is unlike life. And yet actors will say to me, “How can I find humor in this scene? It’s very serious!” For the exact same reason one would be driven to find humor in the same situation in life: because it is deadly serious and human beings cannot bear all that heavy weight, they alleviate the burden by humor.

    Guidepost 5 Opposites p 77-78
    Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in it. Think about a human being, in all of us there exists love and there exists hate, there exists creativity and an equal tendency toward self-destructiveness, there exists sleeping and waking, there exists night and there exists day, sunny moods and foul moods, a desire to love and a desire to kill. Since these extremities do exist in all of us, then they must also exist in each character in each scene.

    Guidepost 6 Discoveries p 81
    Every scene is filled with discoveries, things that happen for the first time. No matter how many times it has happened in the past, there is something new about this experience, this moment. Acting is a whole series of discoveries…The more discoveries you make in a scene—the less you rely on “we do this every day”—the more interesting your scene will be.

    Guidepost 7 Communication and Competition page 87-88
    Acting is supremely a task of communication. It is not enough for the actor to feel, if that feeling is not being communicated…Communication is a circle, not a one-way street…It takes two to communicate: the sender and the receiver. The receiver has to acknowledge the message by sending a reply back to the sender, thus completing the circle before a communication has taken place.

    Guidepost 8 Importance Page 92-93
    Most people would walk a mile or sleep a week to avoid confrontation. We are trained as children that the most admirable conduct is that which causes the least trouble, so most of us spend our lives avoiding the conflicts of which drama is. It’s important for an actor to realise that what he must use in his acting is the opposite of what he has been trained in life to seek. Peacefulness and the avoidance of trouble won’t help him in his acting. It is just the opposite he must seek.

    Guidepost 9 Find the Events page 105-106
    I call what happens in the play the events. One of the actor’s chief tasks is to create the events of the play. What are events? An event can be a change. That is the strongest kind of event. An event can be a confrontation—and for every confrontation there is always a result, a consequence for the actor to present. An event can be a climax, which is a major turning point in the lives of the characters.

    Guidepost 10 Place page 114-115
    Most readings take place on a bare stage, which is not the most useful environment for an actor. It’s up to the actor to create a place, and it’s well worth doing, for it will help him immeasurably in creating a reality for his reading. The immediate reality of a bare thatre or sound stage is a real down; an actor would do well to lift himself up, with a place of his own. The physical nature of a place is only the beginning. The most important element is how you feel about the place. The feeling is most important.

    Guidepost 11 Game Playing and Role Playing page 117-118
    When we play games, it is for real; when we take on different roles, it is sincere conduct for it is a way of dealing with reality, not of avoiding it. It helps an actor to ask himself in each scene: What is the game I am playing in this situation? What role do I assume in order to best play this game? The answer depends on the circumstance; what people want from you, what you want from them, what you are offering and what you expect. Ask what the stakes are, what you are playing for. But don’t get the idea that you will therefore be unreal or insincere. Games are real, roles are necessary to deal with reality.

    Guidepost 12 Mystery and Secret page 131-132
    In every lecture I give to explain the twelve guideposts I find the concept of mystery and secret the most difficult to explain satisfactorily. The concept is mysterious too! Let me put it this way: After you’ve done all the eleven guideposts in your preparation for your character, then add what you don’t know. But the most fascinating acting always has a quality of mystery to us. Garbo, Brando, Olivier, Davis, Guinness—these actors provided us with a dazzling array of answers (they all do the eleven guideposts thoroughly every time they performed), but then they add that quality we cannot explain, that exploration in relationships of what is wondered at but not answered, perhaps cannot be answered. No matter how much we know about the other person, there is always something going on in that other heart and that other head that we don’t know but can only ponder. And no matter how we explain ourselves to someone else, no matter how open we are, there is always still something inexplicable, something hidden and unknown in us too. I am suggesting you add this wonderment about this other person. I am also suggesting you add, too, this wonderment about what is going on inside of you.

  6. manfred von

    manfred von Gold Member

    crackerjack advice;
    you're a resource, scriv...


    btw, the burton-taylor 'WAVW' is one of the best films ever made, in my book.
  7. Bacchus

    Bacchus Silver Member

    Alas, they don't live here anymore - but still complete words of wisdom.

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