Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The writer's stage: converting acting techniques to the page

Grad student Vicki Wittenstein took some acting lessons to help her get into her characters more and discovered how helpful several acting techniques can be.

One of the techniques is to study a character's actions and his/her objectives in a given scene. A character's actions give rise to emotion, so finding the right action lets the writer show, rather than tell, the appropriate emotion. This is based on Stanislavski's method acting technique.

This approach makes perfect sense to me. As an observer, I like to speculate about what people are thinking/feeling based on their actions and body language. I tend to use this in my own writing.

Vicki also walked us through an excercise to help generate sensory details. She asked us to remember a painful event and then list all the sense memories we could recall. Where were we? What did it look like? What did it feel like? What was the light? What was the weather? Who was there? How did they sound? What were they doing?

After listing details for a couple of minutes, she asked us to pick one of our characters and start with this prompt: [fill in your name], there's a lot you don't know about me. Then we wrote for four or five minutes from the point of view of that character. I learned something pretty surprising that I didn't know before. The parents of my main character fought terribly one night, just a few days before the dad dies in a fire.

Finding an emotion/feeling from my own past to use for a character, and then personalizing the emotions for that character, will be another helpful tool I'll be practicing.


At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget about smell as a sense...hugely connects to memory and emotions and yet so few people in the arts incorporate it into their work (thankfully for some).


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Michele Regenold said...

Very true about smells. Every time I smell Earl Grey tea I remember the summer I spent in France, living with a family in Lyons. They made that tea for breakfast every morning.


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