Friday, February 27, 2009

The Writer As Actor

Ever watched your favorite actor or actress in a show or movie and thought to yourself, “I could be an actor”? Well, if you’re a writer, you almost have to be.

In order to have strong, lovable, and alluring characters, the writer has to become those characters themselves in order to properly portray them on paper. They have to get inside the mind of their characters to know how they think and act and why. So, believe it or not, writers are also part actors.

But, I must say, writers take the cake in the acting department. No offense to all those actors and actresses out there! Think about it though... While a working actor becomes only one or maybe two people per story/job, a writer can be many people at once (in just one story)! And that takes a lot of brain power and effort because writers have to make each and every character unique and enticing.

Also, and I don’t mean to sound arrogant or anything, but writers are a bit more creative as well. While actors are told who to become and given specific people to be, writers create who they want to be from the ground up (or, moreover, who the characters in their story want to be).

Haven’t ever thought about this for your writing? Now might be a good time to start. Put your characters shoes on and figure out how they tick. Boy or girl, doesn’t matter. Writers have to be both. Just become someone other than yourself.

Get your findings down on paper -everything from why they love blueberries to what makes their heart race or makes them cry and why (this is just as important). How they walk, how they talk, everything. The more questions you ask, the better you’ll know your character. And no question is too silly. You may find you can use something later on in the story to add comedy or drama.

I just read in Ethel Herr’s, An Introduction to Christian Writing, that to increase perceptivity you have to try new things. “Break old patterns. Take risks. And purposefully broaden your interests.” So, try wearing a different outfit -one you might not even really like, take a different route home from work, and don’t be afraid to learn new things. Experiment and learn.

That’s what actors are after all, aren’t they? Expert experimentalists? They become someone that does things they don’t. And, in order to do that, we writers have to know what is out there to do.

Observe, yes. I’m not saying that isn’t important. But do it yourself as well if you can. You learn a lot more when it’s hands on -it offers a lot more depth you can add to your writing.

~~ Put It To The Test (PIT3)- In one of your current works, focus on an important character you can’t seem to get a grip on. Make a list of questions (which will no doubt lead to more questions), and have both a:

1) “session” (where you sit across from them and pretend to ask them your questions and they give you responses..) In this case, be sure to make note of how they respond to certain questions -example, if you asked them about their home life before they moved away, do they flinch? That flinch says a lot. And then,

2) act them out and answer the questions on your own -become them. Pretend your finished book is being put on the big screen and you get to play the character.

Then leave me a note. What did you learn about them that you didn’t already know before? Did you prefer to talk to them or become them; observe or transform? Did you get more from one above the other? Was this exercise helpful?

Above all though, have fun!:)

~L. Pierce

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