C is for Characterization #AtoZChallenge

A guest post by Meagan Adele Lopez

Whether you’re studying classic acting techniques by Meisner, Stanislovsky, Adler or Commedia Dell’Arte, you will be observing human interaction, movement and habits. You don’t need to know the specifics of each of these teachings to understand that in order to realistically and believably act as another person, you must first have a basic understanding of how humans engage. Human engagement can be anything:
  • the way a person holds his/her coffee cup
  • a body posture shift that happens when he/she is getting hit on
  • tension that arises when there is danger around
  • the way two people shake hands

The list of human engagement examples never stops. You can learn more from a few key movements in seconds than you could from listening to someone explain their feelings for two hours.

Every writer should take an acting class. To me, how you can develop another character from the inside out if you have never tried to be another character? Of course, I’m a bit biased as I’ve studied acting for 20 years. For me, the two are one and the same. I wouldn’t be able to write without knowing how to act, and vice versa.

As I write, I consistently reach back into those annals of acting classes to develop richer, more complex characters. My acting teacher told me that it takes twenty years to become a true actor. I never understood what he meant until I realized that it takes twenty years to realize that people aren’t just a mixture of ticks, tocks and habits. Every movement, every quirk, every action has a reasoning behind it. The same goes when describing and drawing out your characters on the page.

Have you ever paused to wonder why you can’t eat bread with the crust? Have you ever noticed how your best friend can’t fully say her “R”s? Have you seen a movie, and wondered why the actor chose to twirl her hair at that exact moment? Acting teaches you all this and more.

This isn’t an advertisement for acting at all. However, there are valuable lessons to be learned from what it takes to create a character as an actor, or to perform improv. It’s a writer’s job to bring characters to life on the page, and it’s an actor’s job to bring them to life on the stage or film. A writer only gets to express this character on a flat piece of paper, but gaining insight into what it feels like to actually be that character will open the writer up to become more vulnerable and to be able to feel if the character is actually acting as he would.

The more you act, the more you can instinctually understand if a character would or would not say or do a certain thing. For writers, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is keeping a character consistent and believable. If a writer has insight into their characters’ minds, they are one step closer to keeping their audience engaged with not only a credible, relatable and interesting storyline, but with characters that are the same way.

Finally, for a writer, presenting the piece or conducting a reading is a huge part of having a successful launch of your book. After all, you want to connect with your audience in a captivating way.

In other words, take an acting class. It can only improve your character development and your technique as to how to do so.

Meagan Adele Lopez is a writer, social media maven and National Hispanic Scholar who is passionate about finding a way to communicate with other humans – purely and simply. For four years, Meagan pursued casting where she worked for such films as Juno, The Day the Earth Stood Still, X-Files II, Jennifer’s Body and Repo Men, and television shows such as Medium and Numb3rs.

While living in England with her British beau, Meagan wrote her debut novel, Three Questions: Because a quarter life crisis needs answers.

You can follow her popular blog, The Lady Who Lunches, at www.ladywholunches.net/blog, and find her on Twitter as @meaganadele. When Meagan is not writing, she spends her time perfecting the art of marketing and social media as co-founder and Vice President of Accounts of social media agency, SocialKaty.

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