Thursday, April 21, 2011

Emotional Realism

I just turned the channel to one of my favorite TV shows . . . Frasier. Niles was in the middle of an emotional crisis regarding the impending divorce from his wife. The scene where he breaks through his denial in a panic is priceless. It's also ironic.

I started a class tonight. Acting II. I took Acting I last year, and finally I'm back for more. Acting II is all about emotion. It's about tapping into, or conjuring, internal feelings and manifesting them through action. Notice I didn't say speech. Some people make the mistake of thinking acting is about delivering a line. It's not. It's about behavior.

And that's exactly why I'm taking this class. I want to refine the behaviors of the characters I create by tapping into the emotions that drive them.

In fiction circles, we talk a lot about GMC--Goal - Motivation - Conflict. In glass tonight, the instructor talked a lot about Objective and Obstacle(s). This scene-by-scene approach frames character study so that, even though I may know that my character's goal is to buy the hero's ranch, her objective in the current scene is to get him to notice her as a woman and not view her as just another ranch hand.

This,, of course is done through her actions. But it's the emotions that ensure we as writers chose the correct actions in the first place. Emotion is what enables us portray the actions in a way that makes a visceral connection with the reader . . . or not.

Have you ever read a scene in a book and thought, "No woman in her right mind would do that!" Frustrating, huh? Maybe the writer didn't have an accurate picture of the emotions coursing through the character at that time.

Emotional Realism

The assignment for the 20 of us that showed up tonight was to take 3 extreme emotions (as in: not anger but rage) and write down 5 ways our bodies react to that emotion when we feel it. In other words, 5 physical characteristics we display in that state. I'm thinking of selecting:
  • jubilance
  • contempt
  • despondency
although this list may change in a couple days. Especially when I have to act these things out in front of the class. Heck . . . maybe I should choose terror.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. This is something I've wanted to do too! Good for you for taking the initiative.

    It sounds fascinating. I just wouldn't want to have to, you know, act. LOL

  2. I think acting could bring a lot to writing -- feeling the emotions of the character. That is an area I definitely need to work on. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more about your acting class!

  3. Interesting. I love the reasons why you're taking the class and being such an excellent writer already, I KNOW you will have a keener insight into sharpening your characterization. As for the terror...not sure that will be acting! LOL. I know I'd be terrified. Good luck!

  4. @Cheryl
    I'm not too crazy about the actual "acting" aspect either. LOL! Since I've already taken Acting I, what I've learned is to volunteer first and volunteer early. That way, you get it over with, and your chances of getting picked later are significantly reduced. LOL!

  5. @Kathleen,
    You are SO right! Terror would not be acting. Dang it!

  6. @Writer,
    Taking this class is really helping me to "stay inside the character's skin" when I write.

  7. Good for you, Kim! I'm convinced that the theater classes I took in college help me.

    Acting is another way to tell stories, which makes it an outstanding addition to the writer's toolbox. Drama teaches us more ways to get inside our characters, how to develop good dialogue, and more subtle skills like structure and the use of symbols/imagery.

    Hope the next class went well! Keep us posted!

  8. @Ann,
    You are so right about the storytelling aspect of acting. Head to toe storytelling. And as for the drama, I really need to step up my "drama" game! LOL! I'm looking forward to learning more.
    Week two . . .