All Writers Should Be Acting Too

The stage manager calls places. The actors, including myself, scramble to get their last pieces of costume on and touch up their makeup once more. I stand up, walk to where I’ll enter on stage, and take a deep breath. Thoughts of doubt enter my mind as I wonder if I’ll forget my lines or blocking, or if someone else will forget theirs. But I stay positive either way. Whatever happens will happen, and we will get through the show scene by scene, as perfectly as we can. The lights go down. I get ready to enter the stage but before I do I ask myself, “Why the hell am I saying these words?”

A writer tends to criticize other people’s writing in the same way artists criticize other artists. I’m no Aaron Sorkin but it’s important to go through a character analysis and even a script analysis and sit down with your director and ask why you’re character says what they say and how it should be said. A good director won’t show you how to read your lines but will explain the motivation behind it.

Ever since I began acting on stage again, I felt it has been beneficial to my writing process. I analyze the scenes I’m in and begin to see the importance of the scene and the dialogue in it. In order to become better in the craft, a writer should act in a few local theater productions for many reasons. Here’s why:

  • First, you’ll understand the courage an actor needs to be onstage. What you request of an actor to do and say onstage should be beneficial to the story and or signify a theme.
  • You’ll begin to understand emotions. Every actor goes through an emotion within each scene. What is your character feeling?
  • You’ll see the hard work that goes into memorizing lines and developing a character from the actor’s point-of-view. What you envision as the character might not be what the actor brings to life. Clarify the personality through description and dialogue, and also through the character’s “voice”.
  • “Voice” is how the character speaks. If the character is Southern, they’re likely to leave out the “g” in words ending with -ing. A writer may not realize they’re utilizing the same voice for each character. Once you’ve experienced acting, you’ll notice that each character is distinct in the way they speak and you’ll develop a different voice for each character.
  • You’ll notice if the lines sound natural. Phrasing can become a big issue in your dialogue. Reading your script aloud could assist with this issue.

Acting is also beneficial for other reasons. While acting in local theater, you meet more people and you can bring those personality traits to the characters you create. Acting also boosts your confidence and helps you to become more of an extrovert.

How has acting benefited you or your writing?

 

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Happy National Screenwriters Day!

Today, we honor the people who started it all! It’s safe to say a movie begins with an idea, and out of that comes the screenplay. So, we celebrate our favorite movies because of the men and women who wrote them.

Here’s a list of my favorite screenwriters who have inspired me and continue to inspire me on my journey¬†to becoming a successful screenwriter, myself:

  1. Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Match Point)
  2. Alan Ball (American Beauty)
  3. James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic)
  4. Paddy Chayefsky (Network)
  5. Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash)
  6. Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous)
  7. Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Lights Out)
  8. Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Story by Kaufman, Michel Gondry, and Pierre Bismuth)
  9. Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight – also written by Jonathan Nolan)
  10. M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)

There’s many more to mention! Quentin Tarantino is amazing with dialogue in all of his films. Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” is a masterpiece of its time. Dustin Lance Black wrote a powerful¬†screenplay with “Milk”. And, I hope Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Kristen Wiig continue their screenwriting careers after the successes of “Mean Girls”, “Trainwreck”, and “Bridesmaids”, respectively.

Who are your favorite screenwriters?

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