Therefore, in selecting material the monologue writer should choose those gags and points that can be told in pictures, and every word he uses should be a picture-word.
5. Smoothness and Blending
A monologue—like the thin-model watch mentioned—is made up of many parts. Each part fits into, the other—one gag or point blends perfectly into the following one—so that the entire monologue seems not a combination of many different parts, but a smoothly working, unified whole.
Count the number of different points there are in “The German Senator” and note how each seemingly depends on the one before it and runs into the one following; you will then see what is meant by blending. Then read the monologue again, this time without the Panama Canal point—plainly marked for this exposition—and you will see how one part can be taken away and still leave a smoothly reading and working whole.
It is to careful blending that the monologue owes its smoothness. The ideal for which the writer should strive is so to blend his gags and points that, by the use of not more than one short sentence, he relates one gag or point to the next with a naturalness and inevitableness that make the whole perfectly smooth.
We are now, I think, in a position to sum up the theory of the monologue. The pure vaudeville monologue, which was defined as a humorous talk spoken by one person, possesses unity of character, is not combined with any other entertainment form, is marked by compression, follows a definite form of construction, and usually requires from ten to fifteen minutes for delivery. Humor is its most notable characteristic; unity of the character delivering it, or of its “hero,” is its second most important requirement. Each point, or gag, is so compressed that to take away or add even one word would spoil its effect; each is expressed so vividly that the action seems to take place before the eyes of the audience. Finally, every point leads out of the preceding point so naturally, and blends into the following point so inevitably, that the entire monologue is a smooth and perfect whole.
WRITING THE MONOLOGUE
I. CHOOSING A THEME
Before an experienced writer takes up his pencil he has formed definitely in his mind just what he is going to write about—that is the simple yet startling difference between the experienced writer and the novice. Not only does the former know what his subject is, but he usually knows how he is going to treat it, and even some striking phrases and turns of sentences are ready in his mind, together with the hundreds of minute points which, taken together, make up the singleness of impression of the whole.
But just as it is impossible for the human mind—untrained, let us say, in the art of making bricks—to picture at a glance the various processes through which the clay passes before it takes brick form, so it is identically as impossible for the mind of the novice to comprehend in a flash the various purposes and half-purposes that precede the actual work of writing anything.