Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can you work like an actor?

At the SCBWI Professional Series, Novel Masterclass, on Thursday 22nd February, Pamela Johnson told us we need to consider dialogue and movement like an actor.

She said, you can cheat the eye but you can’t cheat the ear, so read it out loud. Be in the body of your character. Stories are oral and this is why voice is important. So write like you talk. It really is as simple as that. Say something. Then write it. Record it if you want and read what you wrote aloud. If it sounds stilted or wooden, stop and think about what you're trying to say. Say what you want to convey aloud. Then write it down. A group reading or performance is even more useful since each reader, like an actor, will deliver their lines of dialogue at a different pace. But she reminded us, for dialogue, less is more – use limited speech tags.

However, it is not only the way the characters talk that is important, Pamela said you should prepare for writing like an actor prepares for a role. Spend time trying to understand why your characters do the things they do, and how they feel about it. Think about the characters and their motives:
  • What would she do?
  • What happens next?

Make these motives plausible.

Create character sketches and think about their off the page activity:

  • Are you giving yourself enough rehearsal time?
  • Can you step into your characters shoes?
  • Do you know their world?
  • Do you know their voice?
  • What food do they like?
  • What is their taste in music?

All these things can contribute to moving your story forward.


Kate said...

Great tip! I also find inspiration from sitting in a cafe and listening to other people's conversations. I usually can pick up interesting and unique traits for characters.

Great blog!

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Hi Kate,
Thanks for visiting my blog and saying you like it. Kind of makes it all worth while when you feel appreciated. Hope all your writing dreams come true and that visit my blog again soon.
All the best,

Absolute Vanilla... (& Atyllah) said...

I'm always told I write like I talk - sometimes too much so! But with a background in scriptwriting, I think one can't but help writing in this way.

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

I think it's the best way. Somhow it makes the conversation soud more real.