Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Character

I had a bit of a rough play practice last night.  When I got on stage I couldn't remember my character!  It wasn't like I hadn't been studying my script -I had.  It was just that as soon as I stood up to practice, I blanked out.  I wasn't a retired Centurion's wife, I was Grace Clay fumbling around.

   Acting skills and writing skills are closely related.  In both cases the characters have to stay in character, even if all they do is walk across the stage.  And in both cases, you can blank out and completely forget what the character you're trying to portray is like.  It's really frustrating, and humiliating.  If you're on stage you go `oh no!  I'm a rotten actor!  Everyone is probably looking at me in a funny way!'  And if you're writing you go `oh no!  I'm a rotten author!  Everyone will think I'm a hack who never made it through English 101!'

If I blank out on a character while writing, I find it helpful to re-read what I've written and look for establishing moments.  That can often be enough to get me thinking like the character again. 

Sometimes the problem is that I'm trying to be too many people at the same time.  In that case, layering can help- that is, writing out the basic scene between two or more characters, then layering in another character (remembering to have the previous characters react to them) and keep doing it until all the characters are in the scene.

And of course, there are always those days where I've just had a busy week and didn't get enough sleep. The nice thing about that is, as soon as I rest up, the problem goes away.

As for my acting, hopefully sleep and practice will solve the problem.  If not, I can always smack myself with the script a few times and hope something sinks in.

So how about you all?  Any favorite tricks for when a character just... isn't themselves?


  1. I'm afraid I have to work out the problem with characters not acting themselves on a case by case basis. The last time I ran into it... well, I'm still trying to figure out the solution. I've gotten as far as identifying the problem. Three new characters get introduced, and meet some old, well-established characters. On the first draft, I concentrated on trying to establish the new characters so much, the old characters felt like chess pieces who just got moved thru the scene as necessary. I haven't really found a way to fix it, but I just thought of something to try: introducing the new characters in ones and maybe twos. If I don't introduce them all at once, maybe they won't be so distracting. {hopeful Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. That's a good idea. And yeah, it really is case-by-case. I was just listing things I've tried in the past. :)

  3. My idea was inspired by your idea of layering. The scene is too complicated for me to want to figure out alternate versions with fewer characters, but introducing them separately might work. So thanks for the inspiration. {Warm Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin