What is it?
In this game, the writer explores how their character responds to questions, comments, advice, compliments, etc. in character.
How to Play:
The writer plays the character he or she would like to explore. The mentor (or another player) plays a neutral character in whom the writer’s character might confide. The writer's scene partner holds up their end of the conversation by asking questions and reflecting back what he or she hears. The writer calls and initiates a conversation—a confession, asking for advice, gripe session, etc.
ONE ON ONE:
In a one-on-one, in-person setting, the mentor and mentee are on either side of the conversation. They should hold an imaginary phone and not look at one another during play.
Turn off your video to raise the believability of the phone conversation. Encourage your writer to take notice of what they do because the other character can't see them. Discuss what they noticed after the game is finished.
You can partner writers up and send them to breakout rooms to play this game. For half the time, they should focus on one of their stories and for the other half on the other. Another way to play is more as a performance, with the A/B set-up described for in-person play below.
You can even play this as a writing game, where the writer scripts the conversation themselves. If you want to make it feel more spontaneous, pause a few times in the scripting to add a random statement from the scene partner that the writer must react to as part of the conversation. For instance, you might freeze the writers and say, "The next time your scene partner speaks, they say, "Knock it off!" The writer then has to decide how they will respond in scene. (Was the partner talking to them? Were they referencing someone in the house? Will the writer ask about it or ignore it or ...?)
In person, this game is a fun performance game. Four players can sit in four chairs. Two play their own characters, and two are their scene partners. We imagine that each player is in their own space, which means they shouldn’t look at one another, to heighten the reality of this being a phone conversation (and not an in-person one) for the characters.
The facilitator switches between group A and group B, calling "freeze" every once in a while to pause one conversation and to move to the other. This approach keeps the pace lively and also gives the players a breather now and then to think. One fun way to end is to let both group A and B finish their conversation simultaneously. This results in a loud, energetic end to the conversation as the facilitator counts down from five.
If you're playing in person and don't have time to let all the students have a turn to be the actors in this game, play it once as an example, and then break the class into partner pairs to play their own round and try it themselves.
Subtext: Focus specifically on how body language reveals the difference between what a character is saying and what they mean. Put the character in a situation where they might not be altogether honest, and then play out the physical and verbal scene accordingly.
Character Motivation: Have the antagonist call a trusted friend and explain what's going on and why. Or think of who the main character would be most honest with and have them call and talk to that person about how they feel at some key moment in the story.