Acting It Out

When I was at Writers Holiday in Fishguard last month, we had a particularly illuminating session with Della Galton one day (on the ‘Writing With Emotion’ course), when she asked for 2 volunteers to act out a short scene.

Della had written an argument between two chararacters – no actions, just words – and it was really interesting to see ANGER (because that was the emotion we were examining) brought to life before our very eyes.

And a lot of the actions – invading personal space, jabbing fingers, sarcasm and people turning their backs on one another – were things that I probably wouldn’t have thought of including, had I been writing that scene without actually seeing it first.

We were all surprised and delighted by the result (obviously, the excellent acting helped! Well done Chris and Julie!). It was refreshing to hear Della also say that she’s a very ‘visual’ writer and she needs to see things, often, before she can write them. Oh, what a relief! So you don’t have to imagine everything! It is acceptable and even advisable, sometimes, to go and see things for yourself and to get ‘hands on’.

Linked to that, I’ve just come across this great article on the Scottish Book Trust blog (which I have recommended before), in which Emma Healey (author of Elizabeth is Missing, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2015) talks about ‘Practical Ways to Bring Your Novel To Life.’

And the final point she makes is.. guess what? ‘Act Out Your Scenes’.

She talks about how she’s crouched in cupboards, picked blackberries, peeled moss of brick walls and even tried to persuade her boyfriend to try to push her part of the way down a bannister (he refused), all in the name of research and to really feel and experience those actions that she was trying to write about.

The message is, it’s OK to get up from your desk and MOVE! I’m going to give it a go.

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10 Responses to Acting It Out

  1. Patsy says:

    I find it also helps sometimes to try to remember when I’ve been in a similar situation to that in which I’ve put my characters.

  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    I would comment but at the moment I’m writing angry words on my bedroom wall.

  3. Teresa says:

    I think that’s great advice – to act out scenes and experience as much as possible while you write. It’s fun to do as well as useful. I liked that Emma’s boyfriend refused to push her backwards over a banister, bless him 🙂 xx

  4. Keith Havers says:

    My wife helps me act out arguments nearly every day. I don’t even have to ask.

  5. juliathorley says:

    I can imagine this could be quite liberating – or embarrassing, depending on the storyline.

    • Yes, I know what you mean, Julia. I couldn’t have acted out that scene in front of 12 people, as the volunteers did, quite happily (and brilliantly!) on that course. I’d have felt much too self-conscious. I think I could only act out scenes with someone I know very well OR on my own.. if that’s actually possible!

  6. rosgemmell says:

    That’s a great idea, Helen, thanks for sharing it. I’m a visual person and this would help enormously!

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