Monday, April 12, 2010

Step two: act it out to get it out

In continuation of my new writing habits...

When I am in the planning stages of a story I tend to act out certain scenes that strike my fancy. And as anyone who's ever driven next to me can tell, I find any private moment to myself to do so. This usually involves my drive to and from work, a few moments alone in the kitchen, in my writing room with the door firmly secured, etc. I may be alone in this one, but I do it for several reasons:

1) It helps me figure out how dialogue sounds out loud. Reading to yourself out loud is an age old technique for writers, so this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Things that look debonair and charming on paper sound stilted and out of character when read out loud. It also sometimes helps me better describe a character's physical reaction when saying something, which helps flesh out the scene.

2) It helps me figure out the other character's response. Determining the first half of the conversation - the inflection, the mood, the hand gestures - helps me decide how another character will react, which helps me decide the next bit of dialogue, and so on.

3) It puts me back in the storyline. I usually only find time to write in one or two (if I'm lucky) hour chunks, so acting out a scene puts my head back in that story space and keeps the scene flowing.

4) It's fun. Admit it, when you're reading a novel you think of yourself in terms of the MC. Well, maybe YOU don't, but I do. So why not do the same with your own work? It's even more fun and exciting when it's your own story because then it's like choose your own adventure: you get to tell your character what to do.

So while I'm outlining I will frequently stop and act a scene out if it grabs me (that's usually when I know it will be a pivotal scene). And then I outline what I've come up with. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't, but it always helps me deepen my understanding of each scene, and by the time I get to it in the writing phase I have a pretty good handle on what's going to happen, which makes the writing smoother.

Admit it, you kind of want to secret yourself away now and take a turn for the dramatic.

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