Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques: Part 1

Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques: Part 1, guest post by Lisa Loving Dalton

I happened to love to act and to write and find I use my tools in a crossover fashion. So today I want to share a basic concept from acting that I use in writing. As an actor/teacher/director/producer, I use Michael Chekhov’s imagination driven approach for creating characters, script analysis and emotional connection with the audience. Here is a three part series that looks at using Michael Chekhov’s acting techniques for writing.

Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques: Part 1, guest post by Lisa Loving Dalton
What if there are Pre-Existing Images?

While it calls me to write a whole book on this, the most basic principle that distinguishes Mr. Chekhov’s approach offers the idea that the stories and characters already exist. The artistic work has already been created in some other dimension and yearns to be expressed by you. He suggests that this is why Michelangelo knew David was inside the rock and Beethoven was haunted by melodies insisting they be written.

IF this is true, then your story already exists. Now, let’s look a little more closely at that “IF”. By the way, we don’t actually need to believe our story exists in order to use this tool. You can pretend as if it does. This “Magic If” says: If this story already exists, then all I need to do is allow it to be revealed through me.

Many artists sense great relief in this concept. Finding and downloading a pre-existing word doc. image from the cloud is easier that creating it from scratch. Trying this approach is free and it just might help!

P.S. My first two books were written in a weekend with this approach under the guidance of Tom Bird, whose approach happens to coincide with Michael Chekhov’s idea. Clearly, neither of them created it, and to both of them I am grateful for imparting it.

Tapping Into Your “I” Cloud

What if we each have our own “cloud” of images that live in our highest realm of imagination. Pretend that your imagination is such a huge cloud that it envelops the whole planet, outside the ozone layer. Like on Star Trek, you have the ability to beam yourself up to it, and explore it. At the same time, you can beam stories, plot points, and characters down to your Earth.

In a quiet state, center your concentration on a point near your heart, about three inches down from your collarbone and right in the middle of your chest. Imagine there is a powerful radiant energy like the sun right there inside of you.

Pretend that this sun inside of you fills your whole being with creative juices that stir a vibrancy inside of you. Now, focus a beam of energy from the center point, up through the ceiling, the sky, the ozone layer, bursting into your unlimited cloud of images. Invite your story to appear to you.

Listen and write as quickly as you can when something begins to appear. Avoid correcting, researching, judging what is coming through. Just let everything flow. Don’t stop for research. Just keep writing quickly with abandon.

After you have downloaded the inspiration the image has given you, you can click the  “save” button of your mind, sending the image back to your I-cloud (Imagination Cloud) for the next time you want inspiration.

Defining the Plot

Whether telling a true story, presenting a set of non-fiction concepts or pure fiction, audiences have responded for millennia to a fundamental rhythm that we use in theatre to generate compelling dynamics for the audience.

In the Michael Chekhov acting/directing technique, all stories are seen to consist of three acts-your basic Beginning, Middle, End. Each of those acts will have their own beginning-middle-end and each will have one climax and two lesser climactic events. These are sometimes called turning points. Three events in each of three actors creates a total of nine major events.

None of the events has exactly the same dynamic and the energy rises to a peak in each act and each succeeding act rises higher and falls deeper than the previous, until the resolution.

To qualify as an “EVENT,” something must happens that affects all of the major characters and if it does not happen, the story cannot continue as it does.
Sometimes, there are subplots that have their own line of events.

When writing using the free-flowing Images mentioned above, when you are done, then you can go back to identify whether you have the needed events. You can rearrange the story in non-linear fashion, build up or lessen an event to create the arc.

If you like storyboarding or outlining before you write, you can create these events first and build around them. Next up we will talk about building dynamics and then creating contrasts, characters and atmospheres.

Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques: Part 1, guest post by Lisa Loving Dalton
From a bullied, dyslexic, messy, freckle-faced, klutzy pixie, Lisa Loving Dalton grew into a statuesque and skillful stuntwoman, actor, director, teacher, author, filmmaker, leadership and life coach, and ceremonial minister. Always seeking and finding the silver lining, she has made the most of whatever life threw at her. She says, “I spill stuff, trip and drip all of the time so I made a career out of it. My advice: Embrace what is as perfect.”

Dalton appeared in more than 200 films, television shows and commercials in New York, Hollywood and Texas, including work in Ghostbusters, Money Pit, Crocodile Dundee, Married to the Mob, FX, Legal Eagles, and Splash on the big screen and ER, HBO’s Carnivale, Dr. Quinn and Melrose Place among her many TV credits.

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