Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques: Part 2
Continuing on with our series of applying acting techniques for writers (read part 1 here), here are a few more ideas.
Since all stories build on conflict, even non-fiction, using the three sources of conflict are a great tool. These are the standard sources:
· Conflict from Within the Character (Man Against Self)
· Conflict Between Characters (Man Against Man)
· Conflict from Without (Man Against Universe)
Start planting the seed for each of these early on in your story. Your Act 1 Climax can feature one of these conflicts. Your Act 2 Climax can have two of these sources colliding and Act 3 has all three at once. Think of James Bond in Act 2 having to save the girl and let the villain escape. Now in Act 3, James has to kill the villain, save the girl all while the island is crashing and sinking into the ocean.
Creating interesting characters is key for writing and for acting. As an author, it is important to understand these so that we can create characters different from our own psychology. Try using a basic profile for characters that falls into three psychological types found in all great spiritual traditions. Many authors instinctively use these and it helps to know why it works and how to consciously use it.
Here is a brief description of each type followed by a paragraph exaggerating the use of the elements of the type. Each paragraph is a variation of this basic statement:
“She is touching a table, walks across the floor to a window and looks out.”
· The Thinker – This person operates out of their intellect, speaks in monotones, uses air based imagery (air-head, thoughts fly) and lots of fricatives and plosives (air-based sounds like T, B, P, and K). They wear tailored clothes with straight lines, and move in straight lines-pacing, etc. They are direct. Primary blue, purple, white are great colors for them. The top parts of the body lead this person: the head, the eyebrows and forehead, the fingertips, the index finger, the toes.
o She tapped the tips of her fingers crisply on the table. Then her eyebrows hiked high. She flew up and stalked straight across the tile to the window and scanned the sky.
· The Feeler – This person acts out of their emotions, speaking melodically, uses water based imagery and emphasizes vowels and “L, W, Y”. They wear flowing, curving clothes, in pastels, pinks, greens and golds. They are indirect. The curvy middle parts of this person carry the most energy: The eyes, the torso, the palm, the arches of the feet, the middle finger.
o She floated her palms along the curve of the table. Then a wave of hope washed into her heart. She danced across the carpet to the bay window and inhaled the horizon.
· The Willer – This person acts out of their will and does what they are going to do regardless of how logical it is or how it might hurt them or anyone else. They emphasize the lower parts of their body: The limbs, the groin, the heels-both of the feet and hands, the jaw (iron or glass), the thumbs. The line of movement is frequently in angles. They emphasize guttural and jaw based sounds like G, D, R, J, N. The element of earth is dominant for imagery.
o Her thumbs gripped the table tensely as she dug her heels into the stone floor, gritting her teeth. Suddenly, she shoved the chair over and stormed to the broken window, grinning at the ground beyond.
I love using the Wizard of Oz as an example: the Scarecrow needed a brain (Thinker), the Tin Man needed a heart (Feeler), and the Cowardly Lion needed courage (Willer).
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is a great example of a current author using the three different psychologies for her three narrators. The mother is a feeler, the detective is a thinker, and the kidnapper is a willer.
Each type can have many different qualities. The perfect qualities will help generate the desired conflicts and dynamics for great story telling. Play with the idea of inviting the character to appear in your imagination using the techniques outlined in Part 1.
Invite your character to appear before you and do something for you. Imagine you see, feel, hear or sense the colors, vocal quality, patterns of movement, etc. See if they fall into one of the above categories. Look for the line of the movement, the metaphors, where they lead from as they walk, etc.
Ask questions to lead your imagination to generate answers:
· Is this person a predominantly thinking, feeling or willing dominated character?
· What kind of thinking force does she have? Fast, Slow, Smart, Hesitant, Witty, Dull, Scientific, Artistic, Narrow, Broad, Spacey?
· What kind of feeling force does he have? Expressive, Repressed, Melancholy, Light-hearted, Mercurial, Steady, Stoic?
· What kind of will does she have? Steady like a tortoise, Erratic like a hare, Stubborn, Weak, Impulsive, Bulldozer, Reluctant, Lazy, Fiery?
· How are the thinking forces of each character different from each other?
· How are the feeling forces of each character different from each other?
· How are the will forces of each character different from each other?
Simply playing with these questions will provide great inspiration for crafting creative characters that can spice up our writing and lead into the necessary conflicts between and within the characters. Because each person has all three forces and each force has its own way of operating, a great way to create inner conflict–man against self–is to have the heart battle the mind or the will.