Write your own exesanonymous.com monologue

by Dr. Joem Antonio

In the most recent draft of exesanonymous.com, I added a few instructions with what happens before the play and during intermission. The general idea is to get audience members to write monologues of their own within a short time. A big part of this is to immerse the audience of exesanonymous.com, and another part is that it's a nod to the roots of the play. It was originally conceived as a monologue writing exercise.

The submission form in the script, while tongue in cheek, is a stylized version of the exercise. The actual exercise in its simplest form looks like this:

A. Fill in the following prompt generators with just a phrase or a few words:

Storyteller's occupation: ________

Cause of breakup: ________

Occasion to tell: ________

Objective for telling: ________

B. Within 10 minutes, reveal the four bits of information through a monologue. The first bit should be at the first sentence.

It's that simple, and there are a few principles that back up the exercise:

  • People naturally tell stories, no matter how crude the storytelling. That's the way we let others share our own experience.
  • Words trigger associations, and four words are enough to shape a story. In the same way we build connections among words in a sentence, we do so as well with prompts for a story.
  • The more we tell, the more we experience. We are our own first readers and listeners. The more we say about what we know, the more ideas come to our heads. This is how we make paragraphs and keep a conversation going.
  • Unlike writing, when we speak, we don't edit. That's because speaking happens immediately, while one can take time when writing. Hence, one can simulate the immediacy of speaking when one has no time to edit the written work. That's where a timer helps a lot.

I'll do a demonstration here below to show how the exercise works:

A. Fill in the following prop generators with just a phrase or a few words:

Storyteller's occupation: PLAYWRIGHT

Cause of breakup: MISUNDERSTANDING

Occasion to tell: RUMORS

Objective for telling: DEFENSE

B. Within 10 minutes, reveal the four bits of information through a monologue. The first bit should be at the first sentence.

She underestimates me. Again. No, not underestimates. She doesn't really know me. But shouldn't that mean that I don't know her either? We worked together many times before.

She was my favorite actress and I, according to her at the time, her favorite playwright. I admit that it's because of her that I started attending rehearsals more often, even if I wasn't needed. I'd drive her to her house after rehearsals and, yoi know, take advantage of the congested highways, talking and listening to her. No surprise that we finally were dating. That part is true.

But yes, I might have misjudged her. The way the relationship ended was stupid. She got jealous all of a sudden. Why was I using everyone as material for my plays but not her. I told her, you don't understand, you wouldn't want to be source material. Besides, I'm already writing the best lines for you!

She wouldn't listen, and I don't have time for such vain stupidity. She wants me to write about her? So here. This is my side of the story. She finally gets what she wants but I get the last laugh.

The writing itself will still look rough, but with the ten minutes I gave myself, I'm already happy with the rough structure of the monologue. Now, I can edit the monologue to make it sound better and to make the story flow smoother.

Before editing, I make notes of what I want to improve on. For a first edit, it's best for me to limit myself to just four points, so I don't overwhelm myself.

Things to improve on the monologue:

  1. Specify the events to make the monologue more experiential.
  2. Give the actress a voice as well, to invite the reader towards an insight as to how playwrights imagine dialogue.
  3. Emphasize the irony of the ending.
  4. Tease the readers/listeners that this playwright may or may not be me.

Now that I have the notes, I can work on improving the text. This time, I don't necessarily give myself a time limit.

REVISED VERSION:

This time she underestimates me. No, not underestimates. Wrong word. What I mean to say is that she doesn't know me after all. I understand how she thinks she has a chance at a verbal argument. I'm no good at that. Heck, I'll even let her win. But now that she's brought the fight to social media... With all her passive-aggressive posts and "blind item" attacks... Well, woman... You don't use the written word against a professional wordsmith. And to accuse me of stealing material online, pretending to care for other people so I can use their sorrows for my material...

Consider this contribution to exesanonymous.com my way of defending myself, medieval style: trial by verbal combat.

She was my favorite actress and I, according to her at the time, her favorite playwright. I admit that it's because of her that I started attending rehearsals more often, even if I wasn't needed. Just listening to her, I'd catch her wit, her depth, her capacity to bring out the nuances of her lines... That alone already made her more attractive than how she already looks... And she is already a looker as it is. Her performance became the body in which the soul of my script resided.

I'd drive her to her house after rehearsals, on the premise that we should talk more about the script. A blatant euphemism. Both she and I knew that I was just going to take advantage of the congested highways and the bad traffic talking and listening to her. She knew, and she let me. No surprise to everyone that we finally started dating. That part is true.

But yes, I might have misjudged her. I don't exactly recall when it started, but all of a sudden, she did what I consider a mortal sin: she meddled with my writing.

I think she got disturbed when she once caught me not listening to her.

"I listen to you all the time! What are you talking about?" I told her.

"Exactly," she replied. "What was I talking about?"

Oho, I thought. She's trying to be witty!

"You can't answer me now, can you?" She continues. "You can't, because you were too busy eavesdropping on the couple behind me!"

Now that... That was unfair. I only paused because I was thinking just how hard she was trying to sound witty. And now the couple stared at me, as if I ruined their private moment. Don't blame me, you two. If you don't want anyone to hear your petty LQ, then find a more private spot, or better yet, put it in writing...

"Finally, the great playwright is at a loss for words," my girlfriend continues.

She thought she shot me down. I let her think that. I wouldn't tell her that I was too distracted... too focused on more exciting matters to dignify her accusation with a response. Nonetheless, I couldn't let her think that I'm such a pushover.

After that incident, things changed. She'd be eyeing me, in case I eyed someone else, especially girls. Of course I eyed girls, but not in the way she thinks... What, does she think that I write female lines just by channelling my inner woman? That's not how writing works. She had to understand that I couldn't just make all women sound like her. She had to let me collect data.

Then came the point when she'd always ask: "how are your drafts doing?" Little did she realize that I was on to her: other than what she performed, she wasn't interested in my writing; she was making sure that I'd use whatever research I gathered! Of course the dialogue isn't going to sound exactly like the people I've eavesdropped on! That would be invasion of privacy! Worse, it's borderline plagiarism!

That last part is exaggeration of course. My real reason for dialogue sounding different from my sources is that I cull out what's unnecessary and improve on what's boring. That's how it works.

Ultimately, the way the relationship ended was stupid. That fateful coffee date, she got jealous all of a sudden.

"Why do you keep using everyone as material for your plays?" She blurted out.

"Why? Do you want me to use you as material?" I asked. "You don't understand, you wouldn't want to be source material. Besides, I'm already writing the best lines for you!"

She wouldn't listen. I then told her that I don't have time for such vain stupidity.

As I write this, though, I realize that I'm possibly making her sound worse than she is... It can't be. I did fall for her after all. And there was a time when we weren't... Toxic to each other. Well... She was toxic in the end. And when I told her about that toxicity, she replied:

"If you can't accept me at my worst, you don't deserve my best."

That was the last straw. Her spouting cliches was bad enough, but she wants me to accept her at her worst when her best can't even accept my worst. I must have started to chuckle because the next thing that happened was I felt my cheek stinging as she walked away.

And if that wasn't enough, there came the passive aggressive posts, the "blind item" comments... And then the rumors. Annoyed as I was, there's no denying that she was such a character...

She wants me to write about her? So here. This is my side of the story. She finally gets what she wants but I get the last laugh.

Now that I've made revisions on the monologue, I give it a title and a pseudonym. The title I get from the monologue itself, and the name from the character's occupation.

Title: How To Make a Writer Write About You

By: wordmastersmith

And that's how the exesanonymous.com monologues are done.

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