Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Are Writers Actors?

Are writers actors?
Yes, we are. At least us fiction writers, that is.

My husband asked me the other day, "What makes you a writer?" My answer: I love drama.
Just what every man loves to hear, right?
But, it's true. I love drama. The more the better (not in my own personal life, though). Whether in a movie or on the page, I love strong, dramatic characters--characters that are so realistic you can't forget them. Take Scarlett O'Hara for instance. No one really likes her, but mention her by name and everyone knows exactly who you're talking about. Or Joe March, for example, constantly struggling to conform to society or follow her own heart. Who can't connect with that?

So how do writer's create unforgettable characters? We become actors. To develop a character--whether they be a hopeless romantic or an evil villain--we have to delve into their psyche. Based on their motivation and story goal, we have to make them react correctly based on their personality. Ask ourselves questions like: what makes them tick? We have to become the character in order to create it.

I always start by deciding the characters' name and physical descriptions. And quirks. My characters always have a habit they repeat throughout the story. Let's face it, in real life we all have them--good or bad. After writing the first draft of the story (what events are going to transpire), I revise the second time by getting into the characters' heads, making sure they're reacting accordingly to the situation in each scene. I put myself in their shoes, even acting out parts to get a feel for body language and facial expressions so the characters' come to life. (Thankfully I live far enough away from all my neighbors they don't have to witness this display of temporary insanity.) Then I revise a third time, reading things through, looking specifically for holes in the plot of my story and any loose ends I need to tie up. From there it goes to the sharp eyes of my critique partners. And then another revision . . .

Multi-published, award-winning author Deborah Raney told the ACFW Journal that she reads her entire manuscript aloud as if she was recording a book on tape. "There's a mirror on the wall by my desk. If I'm having trouble finding the right inflection, or the right beat, I'll act out the scene in the mirror. It's amazing how watching the body language and emotions that come naturally for me when I read a character's line helps me see if the line is stilted or if it achieves the effect I wanted." (For more about Deborah and her wonderful collection of books, visit www.deborahraney.com.)

So, are writers actors? Yes, we are. We have to be to cope with all the voices in our heads. LOL

What methods do you use to create deep characterization in your stories?

1 comment:

  1. Very well said, Candice. Oftentimes, when I write about the heroine's action or facial expression, I have to close the door and then act it, otherwise my family may say I am insane. LOL. I, too, have to come up with a name and personalities for the character before I start writing the story.