So to recap, Part 1 of "So You Want to Write a One Person Show", I spoke about discovering the Central Moment on which your show pivots.
Part 2 of "So You Want to Write a One Person Show" we looked at the moments that lead up to the Central Moment of your revelation in your solo show. We explored possible turning points and after effects of the Central Moment, and we looked at possible through lines, the threads that sew your stories together into one cohesive piece.
Part 3, Write write write. We threw out all we "knew" and explored all possible avenues. This is where the rubber meets the road–we took creative risks and pushed past our normal habits and ideas about who we are and what we can create.
Part 4, Take a break, play, and contact your muses. We contacted our "muses"–that something greater that guides us and shows its genius.
Part 5, Bringing it all together, editing, refining through performance. "The difference between a standup show and a solo show is that in standup, the character knows exactly what they're talking about and exactly what they think. And they're going to tell you. In a solo show, the character doesn't know. They're looking for something, they want something, and they're figuring it all out with you, on this ride, together. The hero has a conflict."
Part 6, Kill Your Darlings.
You may have heard this quote before and not fully understood what it meant, so let me elaborate. It was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who spoke it first, ???Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it ??? whole-heartedly ??? and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.???
My senior film thesis in college was a mockumentary about standup comedy. I made a feature length film (video) in which I starred as a struggling comedian, struggling with whether she wanted to be a famous comedian or just date one. It was a lot of fun to make, and earned a high grade in a school where we didn't technically even have grades. And it was good work. But years later, I got re-acquainted with an assistant who helped shoot the movie. He handed me a DVD of my film, recut. He recut my film. From 75 minutes to 40. And you know what? It was better. It was a totally different movie and missed a lot of the points I was making, but there were about 30 minutes of purely self-indulgent material that I had no ability to recognize as indulgent at the time. In fact, if I were to re-cut the film again, I'd make it about 25 minutes long. There is a fantastic scene (which I am not in) that I directed two friends to improvise about chicken soup and sex, and it is probably the best 10 minutes of the whole film. By killing 65 of my "darling" minutes, there is an incredible piece that would be wonderful to watch. And it took 10 years to be able to see that truth.
So take some steps back, acknowledge and let go of your darlings. What is really in your work because it stands on its own, and what is there that needs explaining? What is in your work because it makes only you satisfied, and what is truly satisfying to people in general? What is in this piece that sheds light on some aspect of humanity never before spoken, and what is trite or cliche? What is in your piece that's part of some inside joke and what is a universal joke? What's there to make a secret jab and someone you're mad at, and what's there to speak truth to power? What's there to secretly impress someone you're in love with and seem clever or brilliant, and what's there that was truly channeled through genius? What's there that distracts people from what you really want to say, and what's there to artfully hide what you want to say so they'll come upon it in surprise? It's time to be ruthlessly honest with yourself, step aside, and allow your muses to speak through you. And when it goes well, let them take the credit, too. The joy will come, not in hearing the accolades, but in being an instrument for something truly, humanly brilliant that touches people's hearts and raises the stakes in living their lives fully.
Stay tuned for Part 7, though I have no idea what could follow that!