Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting into Character

When Fiona Harper recommended Getting Into Character -- Seven Secrets Novelists Can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins  at her RWA workshop, I knew I had to read that particular craft book. It was even better that it was available on kindle! (As a side note, I was annoyed Micheal Hauge's Writing Screenplays that Sell is NOT available on the UK kindle. I did get the book but would have preferred the kindle bookself space is very limited) As Fiona likes the same sort of craft books, I tend to trust her judgement.
Ever since Natasha Oakley explained that she had no difficulty in developing characters because of her acting background and Susan Elizabeth Philips also mentioned how acting helped her develop her characters, I have been after finding a book which explains the connection. I don't come from an acting background and felt this part of my craft knowledge was severely lacking.
This led me in the first instance to Orson Scott Card's brilliant Characters and Viewpoints but that book didn't really go into the nitty-gritty of how actors operate. Getting Into Character does and it also explains the reasoning and the adaptations novelists can make.
 Collins used Stavinsky's Method Acting as a launchpad for delving into character. She details the 7 secrets -- peronsalizing, action objectives, subtexting, colouring passions, inner rhythm,  restraint and control and finally emotional memory (how a novelist can use emotional memories of seemingly mundane things to understand the highly charged emotions of their characters).
For example, we have all been intent on murder at times -- mosquitoes and flies generally being the target. It is a matter of harvesting those emotions to give resonance to the character. She also gets you thinking about how to portray a wide variety of emotions on the page. Anger can take many forms from mid irritation to cold blooded revenge to explosion. And how that anger is portrayed will depend a lot on the character and her back story, values, and the way she sees herself.
So now I know and the book does make me think. It is useful and is one way to approach character building, although not the only way.

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