The Dramatic Monologue
What are Dramatic Monologues?
Dramatic monologues are usually long emotional speeches that express the feelings, actions, motives and views of the speaker or character either as a solo performance or as an individual part in a play. Dramatic monologues should not be confused with a soliloquy. Soliloquies are when someone talks to themselves about their thoughts and feelings concerning a situation, soliloquies imply that there is no audience. Dramatic monologues indicate that there is an audience whether that audience is a single person, en mass or a movie camera. An actor auditioning for a play, TV or film can use dramatic monologues to show the director how skillful they are as actors.
A long solo speech
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Writing a dramatic monologue
In order to write a dramatic monologue as a one-act play, the writer must consider the start, middle, length and finish, similar to a short story. At the same time the writer must give attention to the gravity of the tone and emotion being expressed. There is only one character, one voice, one thought process so the writer needs to ask ‘what is the speaker trying to say and do, what message is being delivered to the audience? How will I get that message across?’
Direction is very important, in setting the scene i.e. ‘single chair on an otherwise empty stage’, give directions to the actor on how to make his or her entrance. For instance - is the actor on the stage already sitting in the chair or is the actor going to make an entrance? Perhaps the actor is waiting in the darkness at the back of the stage. Does the actor start the monologue from way back there in the darkness gradually moving in to view so creating tension? The writer should give the actor guidance as to how to tell the story, is it a slow, thoughtful drawl or is it to be delivered quickly, with excitement? What about the ending, is it a thought provoking ending or a conclusion, or are you going to leave it ‘up in the air’ – a ‘cliff-hanger’. Are the audience going to have to use their imagination about how it all ends? Does the stage just darken? Does the actor walk back into the dark or just leave the stage? Does the actor stay seated and hang his or her head low?
Successful monologue writers know their characters well, both emotionally and personally. They know what motivates them and how they think because they have created and developed the character, intimately. If the writer can express this in-depth knowledge through the monologue, giving appropriate directions, then the actor will have no trouble delivering the dramatic monologue and the audience will have no problems understanding the message. It is important to note that if a speech takes too long and doesn’t have any substance, the audience will get lost and lose interest, just like political speeches!
Dramatic monologues should build-up to a climax. They should intensively affect the reader, actor and audience. They should evoke the passion or suspense of the moment helping them to reach the climax at the same time without questioning the effectiveness of theme.
Bruce Willis - Monologue
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How do I start?
My first monologue was to do with an old tree. I was at university and I was given a picture of an ancient tree and asked ‘what does the tree think or feel?’ After a while I began writing from the point of view of the tree, thinking about all the things that could have happen to that tree since it was a sapling. The animals that had climbed it, or flown onto its branches, the people that had broken its branches (limbs) without a thought for the tree. How it had a stood strong in all weathers, how it had avoided destruction by fire, war and the dreaded chainsaw massacre. I told of its pain at all it had seen and all the things that had been done around it, how the men came and killed all the other trees. I decided that the audience was a young sapling listening respectively to the old more experienced tree. Like a grandfather telling his young grandson his life story. It was an incredible journey and it didn’t take me long to realise how effective and thought provoking this kind of thought process was for creative writing. You can do it with any object it is called Anthropomorphism is the correct term or Personification.
You can use this similar process to create monologues. For example, take a picture of an old man – what is going on in his head, who is he? Where is he? What has he done? What’s he thinking about? Turn that into speech – let him tell his thoughts to an audience of one – you! Add some sarcasm, humour and drama and there you have it. Keep working it, re-writing it, adding to it, condensing it until you have produced a dramatic story that will capture the audiences’ imagination. Then add your stage directions and character profile i.e. turns head, nods slowly, stares into the distance, leans forward and looks straight into the camera- you know the kind of thing that gives your monologue some substance.
Hope you find this useful.
© 2010 Leni Sands
Leni Sands (author) from UK on February 02, 2014:
Glad to be of help to you donnah75 . You can of course kill two birds with one stone by writing a monologue using an object rather than a person and giving it a human persona (Personification), depends on the age group and how much they can take in. A person sitting alone possibly outside a church can have a short 'thought bubble' monologue, remembering! Just a couple of ideas, I hope it all goes well!
Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on February 01, 2014:
My drama class will be writing monologues next week and I was trying to think of more ways to approach the process. I like the photo idea. Thanks!
Leni Sands (author) from UK on December 01, 2013:
boss, Kantesh & lol - thank you for visiting hubpages and reading my article I hope it continues to be of use to you.
Leni Sands (author) from UK on August 28, 2012:
Thank you HungerSuperGirl, glad to be of help.
HungerSuperGirl on August 02, 2012:
I've always wondered how great writers write breath-taking and gripping monologue. After this one article, my short stories have gone from a okay to an awesome. Thanks so much for this.
Leni Sands (author) from UK on June 18, 2012:
Thank you for reading and commenting
boss on May 27, 2012:
thx so much more explanitory then my teacher
Kantesh on May 03, 2012:
Explanation about monologue really deserves appreciation.
Leni Sands (author) from UK on March 05, 2012:
Thank you bottletree nice to have you aboard...
bottletree from Kingston Ontario on March 05, 2012:
Short monologues are always in demand for use by actors and aspiring actors for audition purposes. Both comic and dramatic. A very useful article
Leni Sands (author) from UK on February 17, 2012:
hmmm...knock yourself out - link away!!
Howard S. from Dallas, Texas, and Asia on February 16, 2012:
The initial paragraph forms an interesting counterpoint to the introduction and quiz in my soliloquy hub. I must link them.
sweetguide from River side on February 14, 2012:
good one leni. Keep rocking
lol on January 17, 2012:
Leni Sands (author) from UK on September 13, 2011:
Thank for your comment, jeremytorres, sorry I did not respond sooner...
jeremytorres on September 07, 2011:
Great hub, leni.
Leni Sands (author) from UK on May 11, 2011:
Thank you K. Burns Darling.
Kristen Burns-Darling from Orange County, California on May 11, 2011:
Great Hub with lots of useful information! I like that you have added the excersise at the end.... I look forward to reading more of your hubs!
Leni Sands (author) from UK on January 12, 2011:
Thank you Docmo and welcome to my hubs - I am not writing at the moment because I am editing a writer friends Crime Novel ready for him to send off to the publishers. We are hoping that this is the one...anyway once I've finished editing I will write again and maybe there will be something else educational, dramatic or ???
Mohan Kumar from UK on January 12, 2011:
This is really good. I have spent a lot of time working on dialogue and never paused to consider the dramatic monologue in the scheme of things. A nice systematic approach and your own examples are a good reference point. Well done!
Leni Sands (author) from UK on November 12, 2010:
Happy you find it informative. Now I'm following you.
Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on November 11, 2010:
This is a very informaive hub! Thanks for sharing, Leni. :D
Leni Sands (author) from UK on September 22, 2010:
Thank you for reading and commenting, Shelly
Shelly Bryant from Singapore and/or Shanghai on September 22, 2010:
Thanks for the useful information. Very nice hub.
Leni Sands (author) from UK on September 02, 2010:
Thank you. I love the idea of verbal fencing. I would love to read some of those monologues I do hope you wrote them down???
attemptedhumour from Australia on September 01, 2010:
Having lived in Stourbridge until immigrating to Oz at twenty five, i had the pleasure of participating in verbal fencing where monologues were a part of everyday life. It took hundreds of years to create that subtlety and richness, something that i am attempting to recreate in stories i write from The Nags Head pub. Some of the characters i came across in the West Midlands were wonderful to jostle with. Even as a teenager i would take forty or fifty year olds on and they loved it. I got stung of course but also had some memorable victories when they took the bait and were stung back. You will understand what i am saying but will the rest of the world get it?
This hub is really informative and should be visited much more as should the rest of your work which i intend to read. Cheers