Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Acting Has Taught Me About Writing - A Writing Journal

As some of you may have noticed, over the last several months I've been very busy. This is mostly due to the fact that I was a supporting actress in my school's play, "Flowers For Algernon". This experience was wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Besides making amazing friends and stretching my acting skills, it also taught me a lot about story telling. Though the medium is different and it lends itself to different things than novel writing does, there's a lot more in common than you'd think.

1. Everything needs a purpose. When you're performing a play, for every scene change you have to change the set, possibly the costumes, and add several tech cues. It might not seem like it, but if you have to change scenes every two seconds, it gets to be a lot. If you're going to go through all that, the scene better be important. The same thing is true for novels. You are going to bore your reader if you have a bunch of passages without any real meaning. Every chapter needs to advance the story, increase the conflict, and make the reader/audience want more.

2. Avoid double characters. Let's say you have a scene with high-schoolers and they're discussing a band. The scene is much more interesting if you have more people in it, right? Not necessarily. I was in several group scenes in "Flowers" and I'd have to say those were my favorites. Why? Because it was clear that every single person had a different agenda than the person standing next to them. There weren't that many people in the actual scene, but they all had different importance to bring. That's what made it great. In novels, you can't afford extra characters. The reader will forget which one is which and they won't care enough to go back and check. If you're going to have a large group make sure each person is defined. And remember sometimes, most times, less is more.

3. Characters need motivation. This is very obvious when you're the character. As an actor you have to make very conscious decisions about how you say things, how you'll portray that emotion, etcetera. The best way to do that is to think of your characters' motivation. You have to ask yourself, why is my character saying this? Is there any subtext here? Why are they doing this instead of that? What's the motivation in the scene/line? In your writing, if motivation isn't there, your characters are going to get very confusing and unfocused. The more you know your character's motivation, the better you can navigate through a scene.

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