Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writing Advice Courtesy of RPATZ (sorta)

Don't worry. Robert Pattinson's not actually the one giving the writing advice. I am.

(you can decide later if that's better or worse)

Basically, I sent an email to some of my friends, sharing a particular piece of writing advice--and they liked it so much, they started calling it The RPatz Advice and convinced me to share it with you. (personally I thought I was just rambling away, as usual). 

So without further ado: The RPatz Advice (cut and pasted straight from the email)

The best advice they gave me in film school was to: THINK LIKE AN ACTOR (it was DRILLED into my brain). It's why they made us take acting classes and why in our writing classes we had to act out our own scenes. (so. embarrassing.) An actor not only needs to know the motivation behind EVERYTHING (why do I say this? why do I move this way? Why do I BREATHE?--omg it's so annoying). But they also try to reduce the character to a single defining thing (or a couple of things) to guide their performance. 

For a bad, cheesy example: Robert Pattinson decided that Edward is manic-depressive. And once he decided that, he used it to shape his entire performance, giving him really high highs and really low lows (which actually would've been a really cool take on Edward. If only RPatz could act). But that's what actors do. They need something to guide them. It's usually linked to the character's internal want, but not always the way you think. Like, I've heard a story of an actor who decided that the character carries a special talisman in their pocket to calm themself down. And even though that wasn't in the script and no one in the audience ever knew that was their take, THEY knew it. And it affected their performance because anytime a scene got tense or emotional, they'd reach into their pocket and touch the talisman. If that makes sense.


(yes--btw. If you've never had the privilege of getting one of my long winded emails, they really are that rambly and full of parenthetical statements)

(much like this blog)

(at least I'm consistent)

So obviously we're talking about character development. Specifically, creating real, believable characters that will jump off the page and awe the readers with their depth and dimension. And for me--the way I do that (or try to anyway)--is to think like an actor. 

I ask myself: what I would need to know if I had to play that character on stage or screen? What kinds of gestures and body language would I use? How would I talk? What would I need to know about my past? What secrets am I hiding? What gets under my skin? 

The same things that would craft my performance will craft the characters on the page.

So there you have it--The RPatz Advice! Worth the hype? Or is it sadly a bit too much like the actor? (overrated and inexplicably big-headed) ;) Would love to know your thoughts in the comments.

OH--and OMG you guys. Elana Johnson FINALLY has the first two chapters of POSSESSION available for you to read online. What are you waiting for? Go HERE to read them!

27 comments:

  1. That's awesome advice. It's probably easier for you to implement with your acting background than us who haven't had it drilled into us. But it's definitely something to remember as we write. Thanks for the tip.

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  2. He he. I already do this. Great advice, Shannon (especially since I already do this). :D

    I'm waiting to read the first two chapters of Possession when it comes with the rest of the book in my mailbox. No point keeping me in suspense for another month. :D

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  3. I dig this advice. It reminds of something I read somewhere online (wow, vague statement is vague) that you know you're telling the reader something if they wouldn't be able to act out what the character is doing/feeling. You couldn't demonstrate 'MC feels angry' but you can show 'MC clenches fists and narrows eyes into slits'. Parenthetical statements FTW!
    - Sophia.

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  4. Behind the RPatz, is the smexy Shannon! Yay!!! Take care
    x

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  5. I trained as an actor before I started taking writing seriously, and everything you say here is absolutely true. I always spend time getting inside my characters before I write their scenes. I don't know how to write any other way.

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  6. Oh Shannon, don't diss Rob! I've met him before, he's actually a sweetheart. And I personally love the hair :)

    But good writing advice! I love giving them something behind the scenes.

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  7. Great advice! Thanks so much for the reminder!! Also, thanks for the nice pictures that put me in a better mood this morning....

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  8. Lol. The hubby and I were just talking about this last week. He was super into acting in school (I'm more of the behind the scenes, stage craft type). I was trying to explain why my mood had changed (for a few hours) to him and I likened my writing to method acting. You have to literally be the character as you are writing them. Sometimes scenes are so impactful it takes a nice nap and something chocolate to recover. :)

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  9. Great advice, and it made me laugh to boot. This totally wins.

    From now on, I will totally be picturing Rpatz acting out my scenes.

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  10. Oh great advice! Writing and acting go hand in hand. For both, you have to know the characters and dialogue is huge! It's all in the delivery.

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  11. Actually, that was great advice! :) I used to act, so this all makes sense...yet I never considered putting it in my writing. :)

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  12. I went to the Pike's Peak writing conference this past weekend and attended a workshop with Deb Dixon about character arc that echoed some of this - just that when developing a character, you really need to consider a LOT more than just hair color, eye color, height, favorite color, etc. GREAT Advice, Shannon. Thanks!

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  13. Love this advice! It makes total sense, and it's easy to understand. (I love parentheticals! You're not alone!)

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  14. That's great advice, Shannon!

    I'm not sure what "high" RPatz can point to with regard to Edward. When did Edward ever do anything fun or happy-like? Please. There were no highs. He's clinically depressed, all the way. (And that's coming from an Edward fan.)

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  15. This is great advice. All your advice is good but it always means more work for me.lol Good thing I love doing this.

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  16. Great advice Shannon, it's always more fun to feel like you are on the adventure with your characters.

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  17. At least the pictures that go along with this analogy are easy on the eyes...

    Seriously though, great advice! :-)

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  18. Love this advice! I've never put the two together but it makes so much sense! RPatz advice = pretty darn amazing.. as long as my hair can stay the way it is. ;)

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  19. Wonderful advice - love it!! Thanks for sharing, Shannon :)

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  20. /wave

    Hey Shannon! =) It was so great to see you pop by yesterday. No apologies for being sparse - I haven't been around much, either. That real life thing, ya know?

    Excellent advice, even if it is wrapped around a glittery creep. <3

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  21. Wow, ich bin impressed. Way to take a crappy actor and turn him into some fabulous writing advice. Love it.

    And I agree, Edward would have been much cooler if he was manic depressive. The dialogue of the movie didn't help those poor actors either.

    (Although I didn't hate him in Water for Elephants.)

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  22. omg why wasn't I sent this email

    *cries*

    jk. lol, I love your RPatz advice :)

    It is really interesting to think about. Not just understanding a character's motivation, but using that motivation to guide what they do even in the smallest details.

    Also, I would have cracked up watching a show if a character reached into his pocket every time things got intense ;-)

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  23. stellar advice, Shannon. Funny, I have a background in theater which I apply to writing too. :)

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  24. You know, I never htought about it before, but Robert Pattinson looks like a WRITER in these photos! LOL!

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  25. Ooh I love this advice! Thanks sooo much for posting it!

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