Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creating "Life"

Last night I finished up the first set of revisions for the novel I am writing. As I have mentioned here on the blog here and there over the last two years, this novel takes place in a theatre during a community theatre production. The product of a writer/actor that is writing about theatre. (Is there some kind of metaphysical implosion risk in there somewhere? I think not, because I have the ancient axiom of "write what you know" covered from many angles in this one.)

As I have been writing this novel, something that I always knew to be true came into even greater focus; that writing fiction and acting are cousins. Not siblings, but certainly cousins. Not that one need be an author to be a fine actor, nor vice-versa. In fact you don't find many that are a legitimate success in both. However both creative activities have similar aspects.

There is the need to create a back story in your mind, even if that is not shared with the world, before a character can be three dimensional. There is putting a little bit of yourself into the characters you create both on the page and on the stage. The sheer amount of mental work and practice it takes to become good and then great is high for both art forms. And they are both enhanced by a keen observation of the world around you, and the people in it. ("People watching" is a pastime of many a writer and actor.)

The people watching leads to perhaps the most important knowledge that both great writers and great actors require, in my opinion. That is an understanding of human nature. Motivations. Reactions. Social trends. Personalities. By no means do I suggest that eithe the actor nor the writer has any chance of understanding all of human nature, and they sure as hell cannot solve it, if we look at it as a conundrum to be deciphered. What I mean is that to understand most motivations for most people most of the time, based on reading, observing, and just plain living as much as one can will give both the actor and the writer a believable foundation upon which they can begin to build a character.

Yes, in both cases short cuts could be taken. Stereotypes utilized. Details skimmed over. Those that do such second rate work do in fact sometimes become acclaimed and rich doing so, both in the writing world and the acting world. It can be infuriating to a lot of people, myself included. But take comfort, loyal blog readers, in the notion that to be a true master of either art form is to touch at the very heart of humanity, regardless of the genre of story. To make people see themselves, or at least some aspect of themselves, in the lives represented. Yes, even the darker sides of human nature must be made familiar to theatre goers and reader alike. Second rate cookie cutter actors and writers will never actually attain this, no matter how many millions they rake in. But those like me, who care about such things will, hopefully after practice and commitment as both a writer and an actor, are able to do so.

I will always strive to be a master of writing as well as acting, kissing cousins that they are.

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