Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writers as Actors

An interesting fact came to light at the ANWA conference I attended in February. A well-established author pointed out that most writers have a drama background. The author had everybody in the class raise their hand if they had taken drama at one point in their lives. About ¾ of the class acknowleged that they had.

I thought about the concept for a moment and thought back to high school. Yep, I took drama for two years and directed the Senior play, Arsenic and Old Lace. I felt at home in that environment, enjoyed the limelight, but I never imagined my fellows of the pen experienced a similar thrill. Not only did I act, but I took choir too, which required a certain number of performances each year. When you think about it, to act or to write is so similar in the particulars of the craft, that it really isn’t surprising that many writers have done both.

So that pushed me to research the concept a little further and here is what I found out.

We Portray What We Know - Both writers and actors pull emotions from past experiences and present them in the characters they portray or write about. They both think through how a character might show how they’re feeling.

We Show Instead of Tell - Writers and actors show a character through actions. Some actors even go as far as living the physical environment for days just to throw their mindset into their character’s world. As a writer, I have acted out scenes at my desk to inspire the words in my mind. It is all about drawing the audience into the reality of someone's life who really doesn’t exist. But by the time a writer or actor comes to the end of a project, part of their personality has altered, or at least they know the character they have portrayed like a best friend.

We Present On Stage - The scenes of a novel or a movie are played out on either a literal stage or in the format of chapters or an entire book. It’s how we throw the light on that stage, how close to reality we present the hero and heroine, that creates a mood or brings the character to life.

We Escape from Reality – Let’s face it, to write or act allows a crafter to escape the bills, the dull existence of day-to-day life and sucks someone else into that world too. When I sit down to watch a movie or read a book, the more convincing the actor or author is, the more immersed I become and sink into a dream state of existence. It relieves stress and tension and allows me to imagine myself as if I were there. I love the escape and it makes me want more.

So, it’s no surprise to me that most writers have participated in the world of acting. It’s quite natural. About the only thing different about the two is a writer might be more of an introvert than an actor, although with a little coaxing, I’m sure a writer could find the extra drive.

What do you think?

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