A to Z Challenge: Acting

Acting is quite tricky to catch when editing.

“Now what is this silly girl talking about?” you might ask.

Well… your characters, of course. For your story to work, your characters need to be realistic. By realistic, I mean they must act in a way that people do.

Which is a fun concept, because every person is different.

So how can I say characters must act like people?

Easy. People (usually the sanish ones, but the less than sane ones too) have motivations, dreams, desires. They have personalities. Complex personalities. Including quirks. And they are ruled by them.

So. Take this guy (and yes, I am aware that this will be a cliche fest): 

Image by extranoise

Let’s call him Jack. Jack looks like a really nice person, and he is. He has some issues about his image (which is silly, because he’s actually a good looking boy) from when he was a small boy wearing specs. He’s sensitive and caring and generally speaking an affable guy. Everyone’s best friend. Including Jill’s: 

Image by tibchris

He’s not going to snark. He’s not going to be a badass dude waiting to knife you in the back. So anything that he does and says that goes against that, has to be fixed when you edit. 

Except, of course, it happens around this guy. 

Image by xlordashx

 See this badboy (let’s call him Stephan) is cheating on Jill. And everyone knows. Except Jill, because she refuses to believe it. So if Jack didn’t have a negative reaction around Stephan, he wouldn’t be acting to character either.

So if you were to write Jack’s story, it’s vitally important that everything that Jack does and says fits with who he is. Even the things that look like they’re out of character until closer inspection.

Look out for these: 

1) Moments sticking out because it isn’t gelling with the rest of the scene.

2) Dialogue that doesn’t suit the character.

3) A supposedly sane character looking bipolar because there’s no constancy to the way he acts.

Do you get your characters to act true to who they are? What shows you that your character’s “acting” is off?

Something weird that works

Today’s post is for Young Adult Teen Tuesday, which is hosted by the wonderful S.A. Larsen.

As some of you might know, I am not only editing Doorways. I’m also slowly starting to work on the rough draft of the sequel.

Insanity, some might say, but I believe there’s method to my madness.

See, the real insanity would have resumed if I didn’t do it. I simply CAN’T wait another two years before continuing the story. I want to know what happens. And I want to know now.

Which would lead me to something really illuminating that I stumbled upon recently.

My crit partner and I let our main characters meet.

Yes. Meet. And interact.

Yep. It does sound weird. But after the initial WTF moments, we discovered that the interactions between the characters form a treasure trove of information.

I think it’s because there’s no story into which to force them, so they can just hang out, be cool, or not, or do awesome stuff. OR mess up.

And I’m there, making notes.

This is particularly illuminating when it comes to two of my male main characters, because neither of them actually talk to me in character interviews. It ended up that my crit partner and I forced a bunch of them into a room and let them get drunk.

With some VERY interesting results. Half of the stuff I now know about my main characters will never make it into the books, but like backstory, it’s something that forms the foundation of their actions and choices.

What weird and wonderful things have you tried in order to get to know your characters?

Acting for Writers

Good morning, blogosphere! My name is Laura M. Campbell, a mystery writer from Bucks County, PA. Today, the topic of my guest blog focuses on an acting technique you can employ to improve your writing. 
Let me start off by thanking Misha for allowing me to share the knowledge I acquired from the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh here at My First Book blog.
Pennwriters, my first conference, forever changed me. The community between the authors, speakers and aspiring writers made for an exhilarating and inspirational experience. I absorbed everything possible during the three days and gladly share it with you. If anything catches your interest, please check out the links below.  
Under the tutelage of Kathleen George, published author and theatre professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Kathryn Miller Haines, actor, mystery writer and award-winning playwright, I learned several acting techniques to enrich my writing to bring a more realistic reading experience to my stories.
Kathleen and Kathryn encouraged the seminar group to pull from our memories, similar to method acting, to create realistic character and scene portrayals to evoke the reader’s emotions and increase their investment in the story. I’m sure most of you do this already, so I won’t waste time explaining.
What I would like to dive into is Cross Purpose Improv. This technique put character interaction into perspective for me. On stage, two actors are separately given back-story and a goal they must accomplish in the scene for their character. Although the back-story is similar, each character interprets their status quo differently, creating two different goals. Accomplishing the goal, whether through dialogue and/or action, becomes the obstacle or conflict.  
Moving from the stage to the page, the reader is aware of both sides about to play out while the characters enter the scene unaware. Tension builds between the characters through the reader. The suspense builds while the characters attempt to reach their goals in the scene.
What’s the end result?
The reader continues on to discover which character reigns victorious. Depending on the characters method of reaching their goal, the Cross Purpose Improv technique can bring high drama or comedy to the story. Either way, your reader is hooked. Quality entertainment and enthralling reading experience is accomplished.
Looking back over your stories and novels, do you know any character interactions that could benefit from this acting technique? Or do you already employ it?
Interested in other seminars from the Pennwriters Conference? Check out these blogs:
Laura M. Campbell @ Writing Unleashed 
Alex @ Magpie Writes