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avoiding feedback: ASSIGNMENT 6: PRONOUNS

This is post #36. Part 6 in a short series giving you an ASSIGNMENT for your current musical. Assignment #6: PRONOUNS.





This is another episode in my mini-series on assignments, where I’m giving you things to actually go and do in your own musical and apply some of the techniques and ideas that I’ve been talking about for the last couple of years.

Just as a quick recap, I started out talking about character diction: asking you to go through your script- one pass per character and make sure that absolutely everything they say and sing is distinct to that character’s syntax, grammar, regionalisms etc.

I then went on to character identification: make sure that you haven’t lulled yourself into a false sense of thinking that your audience knows your character’s names and relationships. Making sure that the only place you’ve put that isn’t in a stage direction instead of actually into anyone’s mouth on the stage.

Next was transitions: taking a look at the end of one scene, the top of the next, and making sure that it’s literally physically possible for that transition to happen for the actors, but also for the set.

The next one was after the song: taking a look at the moment after every song that you’ve written, and making sure first of all that it doesn’t really belong IN the song, and secondly that the new beat is informed by whatever change has happened during the song.

Then I talked about tense: Present tense versus past tense, which is the way of making sure that you are observing the tenet of “show don’t tell”. How do you do that? By making sure that you put as much as possible of your show in the present tense and not the past tense. So, I asked you to explore your script for anything that reeked of past tense, and ask yourself whether or not you could activate that by putting it in the present tense and putting it in front of us, instead of telling us about it after the fact.

And today I’m going to talk about pronouns. I’m talking about lyrics now, in particular. The idea is - for instance: if you’ve left your character alone on stage to sing a song about “I love her so much and I miss her when she’s gone”, take a look at that and see if you can change that pronoun to “you”. What would happen if that character was singing that song TO someone? Singing “I miss you so much when you’re gone”, and just imagine what would happen. Switch your pronouns wherever you have a “he” or a “she”. Make it a “you” and see what that would change.

It’s not going to work with every song you’ve written, but I want you to explore it with every song that you’ve written. I want you to just imagine how the song might change. It usually would mean that you wouldn’t leave the character alone on stage – but even if you do decide to leave the character alone on stage, you could still do a pronoun switch.

Just think about the impact that it might have. Maybe that means sometimes changing “you” to “he”, - it’s just an exercise go through every song in your score, and see what would happen if you changed out your pronouns. Just see what a change it would make.

Sometimes you’ll say “Well that’s not a very good change, I’m not interested.” But occasionally you might say “Huh, well, that changes the impact.” And I think you might find that in some instances it’s going to make it much more powerful to have a character singing directly to another character. Sometimes you might think “This is something they could only sing to themselves”, and maybe you’re right, but maybe you’re not.

So you should take a moment to think what would happen if they really did sing this to someone, or is there a good portion of the song that they could sing directly to someone? Because you always have the option that they start out singing to someone, and then before the last A section, there’s a little altercation and the person they’re singing to leaves - and they’re left alone to finish out the song. Or they finish the whole song together, and then there’s a little mini scene, and then the person leaves and then they get a little coda where they sing something they might not have sung to the other person - and you can still get a bit of both.

But do challenge yourself to take a look at every song you’ve written, and try, and just think through what might happen if you did a pronoun swap, and see whether or not that would be a useful thing. It’s an exercise, an assignment to try.

Thanks for sticking with me through all those assignments. I hope that they will have made your musical a better musical, and one that is more likely - if it comes in to me for feedback - to get NO feedback.