Amazing Kids! Magazine

To Monologue, or Not to Monologue

By Sophie Nadel, Writer’s Tips Editor

 

HAMLET: To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more–
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

While not everyone can write in the fancy, old-timey English of Shakespeare’s era, that doesn’t stop us from composing our own monologues! In a play, a monologue is a long speech from one character. Monologues come in all shapes and sizes, from Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy, to a comedian’s routine. They are essential for expressing the motives and feelings of a character, especially in shows, where the character’s thoughts cannot be read as they often are in books.

What is the Essential Action?

The first thing to consider when writing your monologue is the character. What is your character’s essential action, or, what is the purpose of the monologue? What is the character working towards while reciting the monologue? By keeping a clear and specific goal or action in mind, the monologue will become more meaningful for the intended audience. There is a wide variety of possible actions for the character. Maybe he or she desires a physical object, and is monologuing to gain it, or perhaps the character hopes to control an internal struggle. Whatever the goal, make each word in the monologue impactful as the character attempts to achieve it.

How Does the Character Achieve the Goal?

The beats of a monologue are also vital aspects to develop. Beats are the different tactics your character attempts to achieve his or her goal. They are noticeable changes in the nature of the speech. After using one strategy for a while, the character should undergo a “beat change” and try something else. For example, in this monologue, a character named Dylan attempts to justify the reason his family’s dining room table is broken.

Dylan:

The other day, a fly landed on the window. I tried swatting it with my newspaper, but it was just too fast. [Beat] And Della, she was freaking out. Screaming and screaming…[Beat] So I took the table and used it to kill the fly. I thought, more surface area, more chance of killing it, right? Well, long story short, the table crashed through the window and fell down to the garden, crushing the geraniums and breaking the table. I think some beavers gnawed off the legs. And the darndest thing happened! The fly survived! [Beat] But enough about me. How are you guys?

See how the beats mark each change in tactic? Dylan goes from beginning a story, to blaming his wife (Della), to redirecting the conversation to his dinner guests in order to avoid the awkwardness surrounding his mistake. Incorporating beats fluidly adds depth to your character and keeps the audience engaged.

Writing it

The first line in your monologue should be strong and engaging. The opening should depend on the nature of the soliloquy. For instance, comedians may begin with a joke that catches their viewers’ attention. Hamlet begins with a question. Additionally, include vivid detail within the text. Create empathy in the audience with the words of the character. Use all of the regular descriptive tactics you might use when writing a story: specific language, sensory details, etc. Finally, make the ending of the monologue clear and conclusive, leaving the audience to eagerly anticipate the next line. Don’t let your character trail off anticlimactically, but end with a decisive bang. Use these tactics in a method effective for your play and that will expand the plot sufficiently. Good luck, and enjoy writing it!