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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I asked one of my best friends to beta-read my book. She did, and provided me with lots of awesome feedback, critique and ideas. There is one piece of advice I'm struggling with. She is an actress and I based a character in my book loosely on her. In the book, this character is preparing for an audition by practicing a monologue from Rent. My friend insists no actor would ever, ever do a Rent monologue in real life and really wants me to change it. However, I don't know of any other "edgy" plays that a lot of people would recognize (its important to the scene that the monologue be edgy.) My friend suggested just saying "she was practicing an edgy scene" but that seems so generic to me.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Is it more important to be totally authentic and respect her advice as an actress? Or is it more important to try and write something the reader will automatically understand/respond to?
 

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I'm purely an amateur, but I'm on stage two or three times a year and that doesn't ring true to me, either, unless she were auditioning for a musical and doing one of the musical numbers. Remember, you can make your details sound unusual and specific without being completely topical. Not that there's anything wrong with mentioning a specific play, but you could say something like this and have it work just as well:

Elisa spent the weekend working on her audition piece. She wanted angry and militant, so she picked a play by an obscure Dutch playwright about a lesbian who kills her lover with a hammer. But standing in front of the mirror, working on her lines, she could only see a frumpy housewife with three elementary-aged children staring back at her. The lines that sounded so edgy on the page sounded silly and affected as soon as they came out of her mouth. Maybe the problem was the writing and all she needed was better material. She went to the library to find something more angry, more militant.
 

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I've never seen Rent, so I have no idea if it's edgy.  I actually thought it was some kind of comedy.  The idea you're trying to get across with the title would have missed me completely.  I like your friend's suggestion of just saying she's practicing an edgy scene.  I'd go a little further, because without any context, the word 'edgy' doesn't mean much.  I don't think I know anyone who's seen Rent.

 

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All I know about Rent is that it's a Broadway musical so I wouldn't bat an eye if I read about someone practicing a monologue for it. I guess it'd depend on the reader though.
 

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It sounds like your beta reader is giving you what I call "local" advice.  The thing to listen to is WHY she would not use Rent for a monologue. What are her reasons?

If the reason is that it's out of date or un-cool in some way, don't worry about it.  Everything goes out of style.  Everything was once IN style.

If her reason is because there is something about Rent that the lines make for a bad monologue (i.e a technical reason), or that it's controversial and you should never use something controversial, then you've learned something important about the world your character lives in, and about her craft. She can still decide to do it, either out of inexperience or arrogance or whatever, but if you understand why this is a bad idea, then it makes her an individual.

Camille
 

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Details create authenticity, even when they're not exactly right :). I had a similar issue when my older sister, who is an ER doc, did a beta-read for me. There are a lot of medical details in my book having to do with medical research, a subject on which I am a relative expert, but she caught a medical detail I had incorrect in acute medicine. The detail was critical to my plot and changing it would have substantially changed the story. I asked all the other beta readers, and none had a clue that what I'd written was inaccurate. Even my sister agreed that only another ER/trauma doc would ever pick up on that detail, and so I left it as is. No one has mentioned it since.

If Rent is a poor choice for some reason, ask her what show would be a good choice and use that. If there's not a better choice, leave it as is, and don't go "generic". Details create reality, even if it's an altered one.

My $.02,
Maria
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Lots of good advice. Sounds like Rent isn't conveying what I want it to the average reader anyhow. I'm going to spend some time on it to see if I can figure out a way to make it vague but still detailed, if that makes any sense.
 

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Mamet.
Just have her do Mamet. The steak knives monologue. Or anything from Speed the Plow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Haha, unfortunately there's another scene where she talks about being the only person in the world of theater who thinks Mamet is over-rated ;)

Which said friend was also a little put out about, as she loves Mamet in real life.
 

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I personally think that Michael's version is actually much better than "Rent" for the simple reaosn that it is to the point while being unspecific. As you can tell form this thread, people have different connotations with "Rent." Like others I always thought it's a comedy and would see your mention in no way as anything edgy. Your intentions would probably go straight over the head of countless readers there. Taking Michael's advice however, his example makes it perfectly clear what is going on, that she's looking for "edge".
 

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Rachel Schurig said:
If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Is it more important to be totally authentic and respect her advice as an actress? Or is it more important to try and write something the reader will automatically understand/respond to?
Speaking as a part-time director, I can assure you that plenty of actresses will prepare monologues from Rent.

What is increasingly true, however, is that monologue-based auditioning is being used less and less frequently in major theaters. (It's still alive and well in community and many regional theaters.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I ended up going with this:

"... I happened by her room, where she was performing an unfamiliar monologue- one that was peppered liberally with swear words and appeared to be about prostitution."

It's vague but gets the point across-- the point being that the monologue is inappropriate to be performed for children- but that is exactly what the actress character is doing when she is overheard by the protagonist:)

Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions.


 

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Thanks for asking this question, it has been interesting reading all the advice given.

Only thing I would add is be careful to separate your fictional character from the person who inspired her.  It's great to have a "source" to draw on, but ultimately the character you are writing is her own person, and as the story develops, you may need her to do things your friend never would do.  Use your research as a guide to keep you on track, but dont let it become a limiting influence dominating all your choices.
 
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