Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques: Part 3
(This is part 3 in the Writing Tips Using Acting Techniques series. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here).
Atmospheres: The Soul of The Story
The single most absent yet critical element missing in storytelling by actors is Atmosphere- the vibration of the space. For a writer, the entire vibe of the story is critical as well and I believe writers are more aware of its power and role than most actors. Nonetheless, this bears addressing.
The Atmosphere is the result of the physical elements in a space or place, combined with the energetic quality in the air. Atmospheres are everywhere. Sometimes they are powerful and dominating like a hospital, cathedral or circus. Some are subtle yet permeate the air nonetheless. In all cases, they are at least half of the emotional impact that is made on the audience and the characters as they inhale the air.
Atmospheres are not wholly defined by the space. The Cathedral atmosphere for a coronation is different than for a funeral. The vibe in the hospital birth unit is different from the Oncology ward. What we know is that the things that happen in the space change the vibe. People change the atmosphere just through their thoughts.
Each book, blog, play, movie, story of any sort, will have a series of atmospheres. In fact, our basic genres are atmospheres: Romance, Action-Adventure, Historical Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Murder Mystery, Erotica, Sci-Fi, Self-Help, Business, Etc.
The Events change the atmospheres. Actors are encouraged to identify the major atmospheres in the story and “baptize” the sections by naming them. This might be likened to authors’ and writers’ chapter titles. Great juicy names evoke powerful images, engaging the soul of the audience.
If one imagines that your hands can move as the molecules of the air might be moving in that cemetery or at the beach, this can help get the feel you are looking for, into your whole body. Give your self a break. It is fun to let the whole body shake out and move with the energy of the atmosphere you are writing about. When you resume, you will have your whole body, mind and spirit inspiring you.
Try to think back on some great writing that you read long ago. What do you remember about it? Chances are you will remember a few very specific images of the characters or an event, and mostly, you will remember the overall atmospheres that were so powerful in the story. The atmosphere is the first thing to permeate the reader and the last thing to linger. It is well worth understanding atmospheres.
Practice “baptizing” atmospheres that you experience in everyday life. Notice how the atmospheres change, and when they do, how people walk, talk and do things differently because of the atmosphere. This exercise will train you to think in terms of describing juicy atmospheres when you write
Reach out to me with questions and for more information about using Michael Chekhov’s Acting Technique for Writing.