The most important thing an actor learns is to listen. This is the key to great acting. This is the art of acting.
Because to listen is to be in ‘the moment’ – to be spontaneous. To react as it’s happening. No two takes by any actor worth her salt will be the same. If it is it won’t be in the moment. Which is to say… it won’t be organic.
So, because actors listen, does that mean characters should?
Well, do you always listen? And I’m not just talking about to the words being said to you, but do you listen between the lines? As @scriptcat says: sometimes we say more by not speaking.
So, are you listening to what’s not being said?
And characters may listen but it doesn’t mean that they always answer. Sometimes characters are so focused on their own goals that they fail to listen to what anyone else wants or needs.
Look at Aron in 127 Hours. If he’d have listened he’d have returned his mum’s calls, told her where he was going and would have escaped his suffering.
Writers – are you listening?
Are your characters?