Diary of a hopeful author: How acting can improve your character writing

After a break and then being a tad unwell (we’re talking buckets by bedsides…) my Wednesday Wafflings post is now here again. Nice to be back. Minus the nausea. Here’s my latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 I used to love acting. 14-years old and staying back after school, a bunch of us from the drama group would sneak round the warrens of corridors, delighting as we would in the fact that we had the whole school to ourselves. It felt exciting, scary and odd all at the same time. But more than that, we would act. On the stage. In rehearsals. Even, in class, but don’t, you know, tell my old teachers.

(Many) years later, that’s the thing that now, I am pondering. Acting. Not acting on stage, you understand, although to be fair, I don’t think I could clamber up to a podium quite as fast as I used to. No, I mean acting in writing.

See I am in the 3rd edit stage of my novel. The plot is smooth, the chapters are running nicely into each other. But I was reading it the other day and something wasn’t right. And then it clicked: the protagonist. Yup, the main character, as it turns out, needs work. This comes as no surprise. Half way through edit round one, I changed the gender of the protagonist from male to female. The book worked better for it. Then I developed, as you do, the fabric of the character. Basically, the female lead, I decided, was to have mild Asperger’s. It worked. It made her jump out of my mind, out of the page. It fitted with where I wanted to take the novel, the story, the plot.

And so to acting. Asperger’s is not something I am overly familiar with and so a lot of research in the past few weeks has had to be done. Now, I have a good picture of what I need to do, of the filter I need to put on edit three to round out the character to be true to her Asperger’s.

Thing is, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. See, to write it well, to feel the character, I need to get inside their head – I need to get inside the head of a person with Asperger’s. And then I remembered acting. I don’t know why but back when I acted, I would try to get to think like a character by watching films of similar characters. I would watch how they would talk, walk, move, think. Then, what would happen, was, after watching the film, I would start to think like them too. It was remarkable really. Even now, I can watch a film and even though I’m not trying for any acting roles (trust me, you wouldn’t want to see that), I can still retain a film characters nuances in my head.

So, I thought, hey, why not try this method with my writing? And know what? It works. Yup, who knew watching films would help you write characters for your book. There is one particular TV character with Asperger’s I had seen and it is that character I looked up. I have watched her, recorded her actions, just sat, stuffing popcorn into my face letting her character seep into my head like osmosis. Then, I flip open the laptop and begin writing, editing, shaping my own protagonist on the page.

Fingers crossed it will work. Like anything, it’s worth a shot – ain’t nothing to lose. Actually, thinking about it, perhaps the only thing to lose is myself. Yes, turns out, thinking like other characters means you think less like yourself. But, wait. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all…

How do you edit your characters? Do you act them out or have your own methods? How vital is it to get it into the heads of our characters when we are writing?

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s deep cutting influence on society and local public transport…**

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4 thoughts on “Diary of a hopeful author: How acting can improve your character writing”

  1. I attended a conference over the weekend, and acting out characters was one of the workshops offered. I was a little intimidated, so I didn’t go to this one. 😀

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    1. Ooo, workshops. Been to a few of those myself. Try watching a film or play instead and see if that helps. On the plus side – you get to watch stuff and call it work! Happy days. Good luck with the writing. Nice to meet you.

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  2. I do pull from my high school drama classes for characters. I use a lot of Stanislaus’s Method – what do they want? What are they going for? Also, what is the conflict in this moment? Then, I read it in my head with different voices and cadences – hopefully, all this makes it to the page.

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    1. They sound like useful questions to run through when writing characters. It does take a while, getting into someone’s head, but when you’re they’re it’s amazing what can turn up on the page. Happy writing.

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