The other week, I was talking about the “movie” I filmed when I was a teen, based on one of my short stories. Written/Directed/Produced/Starring ME, ME, ME, ME (not in the least bit vain, huh?)
That made me start thinking about acting out stories, in general. Even without literally filming it, I always see a lot of passages as scenes, so I have to get into the action.
Picture It, Virginia, 1996, a teen girl sits in her school’s computer lab, tapping away on the keys of an IBM, tears streaming down her face as she mouths her characters’ words and imagines them as real people. Her classmates all stare at her like she’s nuts, but they’ve grown used to her neurotic antics.
Me (as a teen): Mom, if you found out I’d committed arson and stole a car with my delinquent boyfriend, how would you react? (No, I’ve never written this story, FYI. Or, you know, done this.)
Mom (not even batting an eyelash): Well…
Me: Let me just start yelling at you and we’ll go from there.
Mom (cheerfully): Okay!
She, too, had grown used to my random, hypothetical questions and pretend fits.
Me (to my hubby): Stop what you’re doing and stand here. I’m going to pretend to kick you in the crotch, you do what comes naturally, okay?
The man has endless patience.
Even when I’m not weepily typing and mock beating my husband, I am still constantly aware of “look-alikes,” those people on TV or in movies that have a trait one of my characters does. I once sat and watched a remodeling show, smiling like a lunatic, because the host was built like my MCs love interest. Okay, it may have been more than one show…whatever.
Acting it out really helps me to see what’s working with flow, pacing, emotions, etc. and what’s not working. For those of you high school drama geek alumni out there like me, you’ll understand what I mean by “blocking.” For those that don’t get the term, it’s basically putting everything/everyone into its place.
It’s indispensable on stage to keep things flowing smoothly and it’s just as important in writing. If a prop (scene) seems out of place, do something with it before an actor (or character) trips over it and starts a snowball effect. One stumble, even minor, can throw off the overall timing.
Now go ahead and try it – get up in the middle of writing your WIP and act out a scene – be all the characters. Pretend like no one else is looking and really get into it. You might feel silly, but trust me, it actually helps.