Think Like An Actor, Write Like God

Molly Ringwald wrote a very interesting piece recently for the New York Times: Act Like a Writer.

“The appeal of diving into a character has always been the back story: everything that my character has been through up to the point when the audience first encounters her. I have eagerly invented intricate histories that I shared with no one — except during an occasional late night boozy discussion with other like-minded and obsessive actors.”

Yes! Yes! Yes!

And more yes! when she writes about needing to “find the humanity in the stereotypes that we had been assigned.”

No argument.

One of my primal joys of writing a book is getting into the head of the characters.

Finding out what they feel like, what floats their various boats … no matter how twisted or evil they might be (altho that can be a psychologically draining experience) … for, only when you have become the character, can you credibly write about what they will do, how they will react in any given circumstance.

That’s like method acting.

So, rather than act like a writer, I think that a writer must write like an actor.

And be the writer. Because Ringwald’s article goes on to point out the limitations of being the actor:

“I could control only my character. The other characters, and the world in which they interacted, were untouchable. Even my influence on my character, I came to understand, was fundamentally limited; ultimately the character’s destiny was determined by the writer — or, in certain instances, by the “auteur” director.

“There is that moment when you realize the limitations of what you are doing and it shines a light on other creative possibilities. Before I acted in film, I had grown up in the theater and always considered it the apogee of art.”

So, think like an actor, write like God. Omniscience and omnipotence rock!

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