It's The Only Way To Keep Moving Forward
In acting there is a phrase called "delaying the event." It's a technique where the actor does everything in their power to withhold any release of emotion until the moment in the play when it is absolutely necessary to let go. Every story has a moment where once a character reveals a piece of information or admits to something earth shattering, the story is over and the rest of the action is just cleaning up the mess that's been made. One basic "event" might be when a character says "I love you." After that exchange, nothing that transpires between those two characters can ever be the same and a new story begins.
If you watch a movie and a character says "I love you" fifteen minutes in and there's a big make out session followed by a sex scene you know you are watching a terrible movie. There is nothing, nothing interesting about watching two people kissing in the middle of a drama. It in fact should (and almost always does) signal the end of the play. Because any good love story is about what the characters can't do. It's about tension. But I digress.
Here's another example of an event: take Breaking Bad. The main event after all five chaotic, bloody, brilliant seasons is this simple exchange:
"Everything I've done--"
"Walter, if I hear one more time that you did all this for the family--"
"No. I did it for me. It was fun."
I'm playing that scene from memory. Not exactly how it went, but you get the idea. The moment Walter admits "I did it for me. It was fun" is the event. He spent five seasons hyperactively convincing himself that he became such a towering criminal for the sake of his family. The moment he admits the truth, the play is over.
The actor Bryan Cranston from then on knows that there is no more arc. There is no more urgency, just a sense of brutal resignation. At long last he can surrender to the wave of the story, as opposed to making order out of the immense chaos thrown at him by the writing team. The event is the moment the character stops fighting their fate. And all stories are about characters fighting their fate--battling the gods until the moment they absolutely can't anymore.
Phrased another way, the question becomes "what will it take?" What will it take for a character to finally admit their love? What will it take for Walter White to admit the truth? When an actor knows this, they've found one possible way into a character. And when a writer knows it, they have a solid event to build a narrative on.
But I'm not coming at this from a purely technical perspective on story telling--I wouldn't presume to. I'm simply regurgitating what I've been learning over the years as an actor and now presumably a writer. I am bringing this up because it might be helpful to think about how we as human beings "delay the event" in our own lives. And "what will it take" for us to finally admit the truth about ourselves.
In storytelling one must delay the event as long as possible, because people come to see drama not a moral lecture.
But in life, I don't recommend it. I speak to myself first. Admit that you love someone. Or hate them.
Admit that you're not buying a third, fourth, fifth round at the bar because you need to "recharge," you're doing it because it's fun. Which is fine. But do you stop when it stops being fun? Can you tell when it stops being fun? What will it take to admit that to yourself?
What will it take to stop acting like your family or your parents have to give approval for every action you take in life? What will it take to stop pretending that your friends are supporting your life journey and not being a crutch every time you feel obligated to respond to their need to "hang out."
What will it take to finally admit to yourself that you are in fact ambitious as hell? That you're not too young or old to be so. Not the wrong color or gender. Not born in the wrong time or have the wrong name or speak the wrong language.
What will it take to admit to the fact that if you're reading this, you are every bit as capable as you hope to be?
I don't want to give some inspirational speech. I just wanted to think about a technical aspect of strong drama that sheds some light about how we live our lives.
Honestly, as humans we can't help but delay the event. There are simply things we must go through, mistakes we must make, burnt and ugly roads we must follow before we know what our place in life is not. At one point or another something so monumental, so irresistible will come along that we will have no choice but to live the truth of our lives.
Or it won't. Which is the scary thing. And, I can't help you there.
But with some reflection and understanding; an honest and consistent examining of one's life, you might have a better chance of catching those moments where you are finally open to letting go of the lies in your life.
Drama is about the lie. At the end of the drama, the truth is revealed.
That doesn't mean that at the end of your drama, you die (unless that's what it has to mean), it means that this story of your life is over. And a new one can be begin--and in that story more lies will have to be uncovered.
I am just a work in progress figuring things out. Trying to move on to the next story, like an actor looking for the next job.
I know an actor who said once, "an actor's best job is his next one."
That is absolutely true.
Life is about finding the next story. Once you reveal the truth of one story move on to the next. There will always be a lie in your life worth defeating. Always be on the look out for the next story, until the day comes when you have no more stories to tell.