Friday, September 02, 2011

Playing All the Roles


Frankie here. School has started again, and I’m shifting back into my nine month a year schedule: academic research/writing during the day (on the days when I don’t teach); mystery writing at night.

Regarding my mystery writing, I’m getting a little concerned because I should be working on the revisions that my editor suggested for the new novel. Instead I’ve started doing research again. It started innocently enough. I went on the Internet to look for images of a futuristic building I wanted to describe. That reminded me of a book I’d bought but hadn’t read.

I am now two-thirds of the way through that book and feeling the urge to read at least two or three others. Research mode. That alluring state of mind when that little voice is saying that if you keep searching – keeping following the tantalizing leads – you’re find that one fact that will rock your fictional world.

But what I really need to focus on now is my last chapter. That is what my editor wants me to work on. So I need to break out of my recycle back through research mode that could go on for days or weeks.

Last night, to distract myself, I pulled a bunch of writing books off the shelf. I was flipping through James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers when I got to strategy 41, titled “Apply the Spencer Tracy secret for creating memorable characters.” Tracy’s secret and the secret that Bell suggests writers apply to character creation is “Think about being you as the character” (italics in the original).

Bell suggests this approach – with the writer playing all the roles – as a way of not only understanding but actually experiencing the characters’ emotions.
So I’m going to stop doing research and spend the weekend playing all the roles as I read my manuscript aloud. I always read the manuscript out loud sooner or later because it is so important to hear the words. But I have to admit it isn’t a process I enjoy. Sometimes I end up mumbling the words. But could be if I let rip my inner actor, I’ll not only have more fun, but actually be able to mine for material I can use in expanding that last chapter.

Even better, if I go to the locations here in Albany and act out the scenes playing the characters. . . . next post from a mental hospital if I’m mistaken for a raving lunatic. But we have to do what we have to do for our art.

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