Thursday, September 3, 2009

Acting the Part - Musings on Writing

At the time I wrote this post, there were currently 1500 little words staring back at me waiting to finish a short story I started for a magazine. The big finish somehow always has me procrastinating. I think about it while I clean my office, organize my computer folders and do everything else but sit down and try to finish that last scene.

I'm a procrastinator, I admit it. Especially when I get down to the home stretch and I can see my characters racing toward that resolution. I start to sit back and ponder it while apart of me just wants to finish the thing already!

It got me thinking about how strange and unpredictable the writing process is overall and how much it resembles another interesting profession.

When I was younger, I wrote screenplays to get a handle on the structure of plotting and telling a whole story. In the end no matter how much a story was penned, a screenplay was just a blueprint for the producer, director and actors to go off of. For actors, they have to embody the role and bring it to life. While actors had that one to focus on, writers have many and in a way have to "act" and be in the heads of each and every character that comes on screen. Now, acting is probably much more strenuous and I'm sure tons of writings would shudder in horror at the thought of going in front of a crowd and bring their characters to life physically, but I couldn't help noticing how close the two are.

The relationship between an audience and the actor is one of emotion, empathy, a suspension of disbelief and a little bit of suspense itself. When I hear someone say "the acting wasn't good" I imagine they mean "the actress didn't sell to me that she was that character". The viewer was not emotionally involved in the story.

Same thing with writing. A reader may not like a story because of some elements they're tired of or offended by but if they are "meh, it was okay" they were not emotionally invested in the work.

Sometimes it's hard to gauge that beforehand but a good character arc that changes and improves upon the character throughout the book can help the audience root for them to obtain their goal. A great hold on story structure (plot, conflict, rising action, resolution, etc.) will help keep the story tight so the reader doesn't keep checking her time every other page.

Sadly, you lose some even with these elements above and that's okay. Some readers just don't connect for various reasons that have nothing to do with the writing itself but for how they feel about the story that is told. That's okay. Not everyone the world loves all actors or their style. Like actors, we learn from what went wrong, pick up and do our best (or better) next time. Some actors say they don't pay attention to reviews. They just focus on the craft. Perhaps in the case of writers, we could do the same and focus on the feedback of readers (if it applies) and our gut for how to challenge our writing for next time.


Rebecca Royce said...

Rae, What did you do with your old screenplays? Have you ever thought about pulling them out again?

Sandra Sookoo said...

Yeah, be a screen play writer. Get yourself to Hollywood! Great post!

J Hali Steele said...

Writing is a 'strange and unpredictable' profession - and I love every frustrating minute of it!

Great post, Rae.

Unknown said...

Hi :)
Thanks for a great blog post.
I'm a procrastinator too and I can empathize with you. I love that you wrote Screenplays!
Love and all the best,
twitter: @RKCharron

Annie Nicholas said...

I hate getting rejections letter that say, "The writing was great but I couldn't connect with the character/story." How do you learn to connect?

Rae Lori said...

Rebecca, I still have them stashed away somewhere but I'd have to do some major updates on the storyline because they feel very "outdated" lol. I do want to turn one into a novel though. Maybe one day...

Sandi! Oh man, I wish. Hollywood makes the publishing world look like, well, Disneyland hehe. It's way cutthroat there and your screenplay doesn't even resemble what you wrote after it goes through all the rewrites, tweaks, script doctoring, director input, producer input...ahh! At least with books you get to keep most of your word! :-)

Joann, you said it! It's crazy and half the time it makes no sense but dang if it isn't fun at the same time lol.

RKCharron, heya! Thank you. :-) Procrastinators of the world unite! Tomorrow lol.

Annie, that's a big bug of mine, too. I wonder sometimes if it's true or if the editor/agent needed an excuse to pass because "it's just not saleable"? Come to think of it, the connect thing kinda goes up there with "it was a great read but I have no idea what to do with this". :-/

Gotta love the writing profession!

LM Spangler said...

Great post, Rae!

Writing certainly is so unpredictable. Some days you're on the horse others you just aren't and can't mount the darn thing if you tried.

That's cool that you used to write screenplays. Sounds exciting actually!

Again, great post!


Rae Lori said...

Thanks Liena! So true! Some days it makes you want to rip out your hair and other days it makes you want to hug your computer lol.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Great post, Rae! I agree with the fact that we need to play the parts of each and every character we write. It's often tedious and stressing, but it pays off if you hit the nail on the head!



Kathye Quick said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Rae. I totally understand what you're saying. Somedays I sit down so excited to be writing and nothing happens. Other days, like yesterday, one of my charaters did simething I did not expect and it's changing the plot.