The other week writer Jake Brunger came into NMDC to talk to us. He said that the most important things to remember when writing a musical were:
-Create bold, distinct characters – characters that actors will want to play.
-Make sure your story has an end game i.e. a deadline…. so if you were writing a story set in a high school maybe your deadline is graduation day.
-Get to your songs quicker – try to really cut back your book, cut in half where possible.
-Don’t be over expositional.
-Less ballads! Keep things moving.
-Don’t bore your audience.
-Think about the balance of songs (as well as book); have a good mix of male solos, female solos, big group numbers, up tempo pieces and ballads.
He did state that, of course, not everything he advises will work for everyone but it does work for him.
The above list is not how I write (not even close). Sure some things I do think about – having an end game, not being overly expositional, balance – but a lot of the other stuff never even crossed my mind (eg. “don’t bore your audience”- in my opinion challenging your audience is SO MUCH MORE important than not boring them. I’m fine with them being bored for a bit as long as we all end up in the right place at the right time eventually). Taking a page out of Jake’s book though, this month, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about character (and writing a few too).
There is a girl group in our musical – The Mary Janes. The Mary Janes are made up of 4 women. Jake said that we needed to make all these women really distinct from one another.
Obviously the Spice Girls were all different people (no two people are the same) but what do you and I really know about them? We know they were Scary, Baby, Ginger, Sporty, Posh – but that was just a marketing ploy, right? We all know that right? But still…. if I met Emma Bunton (Baby) I would probably expect her to be sweet and kind. And if I was about to met Mel B I think I may walk into that room with a bit of trepidation. So even though WE KNOW simplifying these women down to types is a marketing ploy still we sort of believe it to be truth. We believe the image/the marketing even though we’ve NEVER EVER met the individual.
Why? Because we like to feel as though we KNOW our celebrities and our celebrities like to give us what we want so… Styling/branding them into simplified versions of women like “Posh”, “Scary”, “the one who raps”, “the chubby one”, “the Irish one”, “the lesbian” “the one who has the black line under her eye”, “the one with short hair”, “the one with the footballer boyfriend”, “the one who goes out with the manager” etc etc… repeating and retweeting, reading and consuming these one-liners make our celebrities 2D, uncomplicated people; people that it’s easy for us to relate to, to know.
Perhaps Emma Bunton is nothing but apple pie and perhaps Mel B would bite your head off – I DON’T KNOW. I HAVE NO IDEA. That’s my point.
We, the public, seem to get a bit confused about what’s real and what’s constructed when it comes to celebrities/actors/singers. (And this has probably got WAY worse due to “reality” TV shows). Actors that I know, who have starred in soups, have told me that people will come up to them on the street and address them using their character’s name and ask how their husband (the CHARACTER’S husband) is doing after the (fictional) accident! I know actors who have been verbally abused on the street because they PLAYED a “baddie” on TV!!
So… because of all this I have some questions about The Mary Janes and constructing their characters:
-What will their marketing/public personas be?
-What will their private personas be?
-How different will one be from the other?
-ALSO in the musical you don’t actually meet the real women, you meet an actor’s interpretation of each women based on watching interviews, reading autobiographies, photos, press articles etc etc. So do we ever know the real women?
-In this world of trial by public opinion, how important is it that we keep our eyes open to marketing, PR and character construction?
That’s all she wrote xx