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7 Smart Ways to Memorize the Difficult Lines You Keep Missing

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Sometimes when you're memorizing a script, you find you keep missing the same words or phrases over and over, or you keep getting stuck in the same spot. For some reason, you can't seem to make those specific parts stick in your mind, no matter how much you drill. What do you do when you're stuck like this? Here are the best strategies to help you out.

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1. Hook the line you don't know well to the line you do know well.

Go to the line you are stuck on and find the line just before it that you know quite well. Think about what is going on in the scene at that moment. Is there something about the transition from one line to the other that you haven't clarified for yourself? What is the logical bridge between the two? What is your character doing right there? How does one thought lead to the other?

If you're still having trouble, use The Link Method to hook the lines together. I described this mnemonic method in my post on memorizing cues. It's quite simple. Here's how to do it: Find the main keyword in the first line (the one you know well), and find the main keyword in the next line (the one you're having trouble with.) Come up with a striking representative image that associates the two words together. Make the image surprising in some way; it needs to stand out in order to be memorable. See my post for examples of how to do this.

2. Define why your character is saying those EXACT words.

If you're having trouble remembering the exact wording of your lines, decide for yourself, why must your character express themself in this exact way? What are the intentions behind their word choices and their phrasing? Are they trying to hide something? Are they trying to impress somebody? Are they trying to be diplomatic? Make it so you have reasons for choosing certain words and not others.

3. Free associate

Think about the particular word or phrase you're having trouble with and allow your mind to free associate. What do the words make you think of? What idioms or cliches come up? What are the various contexts where you commonly find the word or phrase? What images or scenarios pop up? Don't judge where your thoughts go. Are there other similar sounding words you think of? Play around.

4. Act it out literally.

Have some fun. See if you can act out the line literally. Use your whole body. Think of it as if you were doing an interpretive dance or playing charades. How would you physicalize the words?

5. Say the line aloud and pay attention to the sound and feel.

Sometimes it helps to say the words aloud and really listen to how they sound. Appreciate the words from a sensual perspective. Delight in the sound and feel of the words. Savor them in your mouth. Get a sense of the texture.

6. Play around with the intention behind the line.

Say the line aloud with different intentions. Play with different ways you might say it: softer or louder, faster or slower, etc. Feel free to exaggerate it or be goofy. Just have some fun. You might actually hit upon a real intention you'd like to use.

7. Use the Isolation Effect (aka the Von Restorff effect)

The isolation effect is quite simple: you remember things that stand out from the crowd. To use this, make the word or words you're having trouble with stand out in some way. Highlight it with a distinct color. Write it in your script in big bold letters. Put stars around it.


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