Society & Culture & Entertainment Performing Arts

Implementing the Character"s Objective

In the article, Selecting the Objective, we discussed the process and guidelines in selecting the character's objective(s) within a scene.
The next step is implementing the objective.
What methods are used to convey the character's intentions and wants, and to what degree.
This too is a selection process and there are many factors to consider.
I'll cover the most basic ones, ones that you are most likely to encounter.
First, the objective is the conscience intent of the character and remains so until success or failure is attained -- or until something comes to change it.
This means that in spite of what the character says or does, the conscious intent is the dominant force motivating the character.
The objective may fade momentarily, be under played or even suppressed; yet it remains what the character thinks he or she wants.
And it remains a part of the character's behavior until something comes to change it.
Next, is the degree of commitment.
You must decide the strength of the need and what the character will risk to fulfill it.
The level of commitment is said to be the measure of a human being.
Someone who goes all out to win, despite the odds, becomes a strong dramatic force.
They become someone we either love or despise.
And yet, they hold our attention.
On the other hand, a character that is not fully committed to their intentions is smaller in stature.
They may be weak, timid, or uncertain, and we realize this through their level of commitment to what they want.
A strong objective, one that is difficult to attain, denotes a dynamic role.
Drama is difficulty.
It is the conflict, the struggle, and the need to attain goals.
In every scene, seek out the goals, the opposing obstacles and conflicts, and explore behaviors that communicate the character's struggle and level of commitment appropriate to the story.
Play the objective in a moment to moment manner where there are exchanges, reactions, realization, expectations, revelations, along with moments of self-doubt, indecision, even avoidance.
From such things evolve vivid, dynamic characters, characters that come alive with purpose and direction.
This is probably the most important factor in portraying the objective; that of believable interchanges and communication between characters.
It helps to think of a scene as a boxing match where each fighter is throwing punches, landing blows and/or getting hit.
In a dialogue scene, we throw out thoughts and ideas, and we react to the responses.
We express needs, wants, and feelings.
And we also make assessments, judgements on the action and dialogue of others.
These dramatic elements, verbally or non-verbally communicated, have an affect.
Some may miss the target, but most should hit home.
In a boxing match, the only way we know if a punch does real damage is by the other fighter's reaction.
Does he stagger and back away or does he move in and continue to fight.
In any scene, we should see the same exchanges, where each character is sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.
We should see, in the character's behavior, the effect of the conflict and obstacles.
There may be minor setbacks or major barriers that necessitate a new direction, even a new objective.
And when a point hits home, it should be evident in the character's reaction.
And likewise, when landing a punch, the decision to retreat, continue the assault, or escalate the confrontation should be revealed in the character's behavior.
Often, a scene dies because the actors do not acknowledge the other characters' behavior.
There is neither response nor acknowledgement of function.
Does the opposing character hinder or support, help or oppose.
Is he the skeptic, the guardian of wisdom, a sidekick, or the temptation? Making these choices greatly improves the dynamics of the scene and clarifies the character's role in the story.
It also clarifies how the objective is portrayed.
When we look beyond the protagonist and antagonist confines of a scene we see opportunities for creating characters with greater purpose; characters that support and embellish the story through their own set of wants and needs.
This element of acting, that of connecting with the other characters, the environment, and the obstacles present in the scene, demands being the character; listening, seeing, and feeling as the character.
Dialogue, gestures, and movement are only part of the performance.
Drama is interaction, exchanges of information, confrontations, conflict, and resolutions.
Drama is communications, sometimes miscommunications.
But it is always a search for truth, purpose, and answers.
To play the intention properly, it must be the dominating thought of the character.
It must be a major part of the internal dialogue as the character communicates -- or miscommunicates with himself.
Some drama instructors suggest during the rehearsal phase to repeat the objective to one's self over and over while performing the scene.
In this way, various methods of portraying the intention will surface and those best suited can then be implemented.
This inner thought process will prove helpful, but it is also worth while to know the various ways an objective can be portrayed.
By knowing the most common options, one is more able to choose the intention best suited for the situation.
In most cases, what you want will be the primary focus of your attention.
Your eyes, body movements, and gestures will be drawn to what you are after should it be a visual entity.
A scene lacking in focus is one in which intentions of the character(s) are not evident.
Such scenes lack purpose, i.
, to show...
to reveal...
something about the characters, their relationship, and story's direction.
A mask can also portray the intention.
This is a technique where by the audience is privy to information unknown to other characters in the scene.
This may be a facial expression, a gesture, or even the handling of a prop that is seen by the camera or the audience but because of the blocking, goes unnoticed by others in the scene.
Emphasis, in either dialogue or action, is another way of revealing the intentions.
This is accomplished through contrast that accentuates the character's objective.
A word, phase, or the action, can give importance and thus help disclose the character's intent.
For example, during a class question answer session, the professor treats all his students admirably; all except one.
When this particular student is called on, the professor avoids eye contact and recites the name in a strained monotone.
Contrast and emphasis narrow our focus on this relationship and its conflict.
And as the scene progresses, the professor's objective would become clearer as result of this contrast and emphasis.
Another example uses behavior, mainly the eyes, to target a particular desired item.
Let's say a precious heirloom in a glass cabinet.
Interruptions, disruptive sight lines, and a crowded gallery may hinder the reaching the goal, yet, struggling against these impediments is what clarifies the obstacle The character's objective is not always revealed and in some genres, particularly suspense, the audience may not discover it until several scenes later.
Making this revelation believable demands creating a character with such capabilities, yet not revealing the true intention.
Subtle foreshadowing of the revelation is one way.
Another is to create red herrings or false leads that send the audience momentarily in a different direction.
Such leads must have a logical explanation later in the story.
This necessitates playing the intention in such a way that the audience is either uncertain of the true objective or, because of the ambiguity of the character's behavior, they impose another intention.
And yet, when the audience looks back on the story, the character's actions remain believable when the true intention is revealed.
In some situations, your character may be uncertain as to what he or she wants.
The behavior may be one of discomfort, and yet the indecision, in itself, is part of the intention.
It's the struggle to make the right choice, or to make a choice.
When selecting the objective, its important to remember that the character enters the story with a good amount of baggage; fears, assumptions, expectations of self and of others.
What direction the character takes depends on where he's been, where he wants to go, and the obstacles standing in the way.
Logic does not always prevail in taking the right road, for the character may not know what lies ahead.
The decision comes out of what the character knows at that given time.
Intentions, objectives, people making choices, implementing them, struggling to attain what they want, what they need.
These are the moments upon which drama is built.
The question every actor should be asking is what behaviors best portray the character's objective.
This article has explored the selection process in choosing an objective and the ways in which the intention might be portrayed.
These are the basic principles upon which conflict and story structures are developed.
Later, when we explore the other elements of acting, such as emotions, blocking, and acting styles, we'll find the process, that of selecting the objective, a most valuable tool in developing one's character.

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