Perth Film School

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A Blog Post

How To Shape Your Audition Character

The following extract is part of a wider piece by a favourite of ours, Erik Sean McGiven. Erik has a highly recommended series of articles on Acting.

This particular segment focuses on a topic we explore often at The Audition Technique.

The delivery of dialogue, utilising pauses, as well as varying tempo and pace, are major factors in achieving audition individuality. We couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed.

If you enjoy this extract, be sure to read the full piece HERE.

Dialogue Delivery

“For the beginning actor, dialogue delivery is the initial focus, concentrating on the obvious techniques of projection, articulation, and phrasing. These vocal skills are essential to properly communicate the spoken word to the audience and one should spend considerable time in perfecting them. However, there is much more to be explored in this area and the learning process should also include the dramatic aspects of dialogue delivery.

These dramatic aspects are the choices that help bring the play and its characters to life. Choices, which propel the story to its optimum potential and create the desired illusion within the mind of the audience.

To make these choices, we must first recognize that dialogue communicates more than verbal information. It can also carry the character’s intentions and emotions, and provides the vehicles through which the actors interpret and give purpose to the scene.

When people speak in real life, they follow, for the most part, certain unconscious principles of delivery. Principles which give logic and meaning to their words, and the intentions behind them. Actors should strive for the same credibility by understanding these principles and using them to make concise dramatic choices. Choices that provide readable behavior, character definition, and complement the theme of the story.


One of the main concerns in dialogue delivery is – WHERE TO PAUSE. What are the reasons whereby the character pauses or stops speaking?

In dialogue delivery, the number one rule is – Never pause for reasons of punctuation. When we listen to real life dialogue, we don’t hear the punctuation. So why should we hear it in a life-like performance? We don’t hear a pause at the end of a sentence, nor do we hear a beat at every comma. Dialogue flows from idea to idea.

Where does one pause? The answer is the same places that people pause in real life. Here are the most common reasons:

1. At the completion of a thought. Dialogue flows mainly from ideas to idea. In analyzing and breaking down the script, identify the ideas, especially in long speeches.

2. To take a breath. When the character is calm and in a controlled state, this will usually occur at the end of a thought. When in a tense or unstable situation, breathing pauses are more random and can occur within a thought.

3. When searching for a particular word or thought. The feel, think, act process should be evident and the words should not always come easily.

4. When interrupted or distracted by another person or by one’s own unspoken thoughts or realizations.

5. Pausing to place special emphasis on an up-coming line. This could be a quote, dialogue as another character, or setting up a laugh line. Likewise, a pause used after a key word helps to reinforce the idea suggested by the word.

6. At the transition or a change in state of mind or emotion. Such a pause turns the focus on the character’s internalization’s, i.e., thoughts and emotions.

7. To wait on a response or to reflect on what was said.

8. To leave space for audience reaction: laughter, shock, building suspense, or time for the audience to speculate what’s going to happen next.

9. To isolate or spotlight important stage business.

10. For no other reason than it works for the audience; a determination arrived at by trial and error.

Pauses have dramatic focus, especially when combined with eye behavior, and they can assist in leading the audience in the desired narrative direction. Look on pauses as an integral part of ones behavior and the frequency of their use, their placement, and duration as variables upon which to build a character.

Too many pauses create an air of uncertainty, weakness, and ambiguity. Likewise, frequent use creates choppy speech, communication difficulties, as well as diminished impact via overuse.

Making pauses too long draws attention to the technique and slows the action to the point where the audience may loose interest. The length of time given a pause is determined by the situation served. Whether you want to show strength or vulnerability, prominence or non-importance, each demands a different use of the pause.

For instance, a critical turning point in a story will be given a proportionately longer pause than the search for a particular word. Pauses have dramatic power. Don’t waste this energy by poor placement, overuse, or unnecessarily long duration’s. Use them discriminatingly to serve the story.”