Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WRITING WITH THE STARS

Wow, great idea for a reality show.

Stephen King steps up, writes a couple paragraphs and then the
“guest” writer fills in the rest. When done, the winning
“guest” gets a publishing contract with Harper Collins,
Simon and Schuster, Zondervans or
any other publisher of his/her choice.

HEAVEN HELP US! SIGN ME UP!

Now, that’s the way it should come to us.
Wrapped in a bow and filled with all the goodies
the literary world has to offer, but . . .

REALITY REARS ITS UGLY HEAD
and here we are, plugging away at the keyboard,
not with Stephen King, but with the cat,
or the dog, or the ferret or (fill in your own helper).
Chris Harrison isn’t holding a rose, waiting
for us to finish the next great American novel.
“Will you accept this publishing contract?”
And he hands us the rose.

WAKE UP, STUPID! WRONG SHOW!
Jeff Probst might be closer to reality.
After all, to make it in writing,
you need to persevere and be . . .
A Survivor!

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE NEW CHARACTER WHO LIVES AT MY HOUSE

Well, just came back from my oldest daughter’s wedding.
Didn’t find any new characters in Oregon to write about,
but when I returned home
and looked at the photos, there was this old, chubby, bald,
homeless lady in a bunch of the photos.

Yikes! It was me!

I’m not that old in my stories when I picture
myself as the protagonist.
So, what happened? Did that old broad with the
sagging eyelids and thin hair
just move in one day when I wasn’t looking?
Okay, so now I have a new character to work with.

A bag lady in
the middle of romantic suspense?

Hmmm. I see some possibilities.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Theatre and Fiction Parts I and II Revisited

PART ONE

A couple folks who just joined were interested in the theatre/fiction blogs, so I thought I'd repeat these two interviews with actors/director. Enjoy!

Interview with Rachel Arbaugh
Originally from Michigan, Rachel is finishing her
degree in Theatre at Regent University in Virginia.

As an actor, when you first get a part, how do you prepare for it?

I first read the script over and over. Then I do a play analysis and a character analysis, pretty much filling out a series of questions that makes me reflect on the character’s past and current situation.

You once showed me a journal that you
used to get ready for your part as Jo March.
What was the purpose of the journal?


I actually copy and cut up my script and glue the script to one side, leaving the other side open for notes and pictures. I find pictures online that help get me into the mind of the character for certain situations. When Beth died, I needed an immediate and emotional reaction in rehearsal and sometimes the scenes were rehearsed out of order, making it hard to build emotion. It’s also hard to get to a high emotional level when you are literally reading your scene; this way I could look at an image that would immediately get me there. I also knew that actor wasn’t really dying, so it helped me feel a real emotion. As an actor you still have to live in the moment even though you already know the future. For that scene, I found pictures and artwork of sisters. Some paintings that really spoke to me were of people dying in their beds with someone at their side. I had pictures of babies, of sisters, one was a little girl looking into her sister’s bassinet. To get me where I had to be, I needed to have old memories as part of the current situation, so looking at “her” as a baby, then her as my dying sister really helped.

That’s perfect because as writers, we have
to somehow create a past for our characters in much
the same way. Can you give me an example of another
memory you created for that part?


All the sisters and Laurie would play tag and hide and go seek before and during some rehearsals. That way we could bond as a family. It’s easy to do what’s in the script, but in order to create a relationship that’s fun and playful, you have to do things that actually get you there. (I should say also say that these emotional connections need to be done in a safe way, so you still know that you are you and your character is your character. You always have to be careful not to get “too” connected to your scene partner. You must know where to emotionally stop.)

One of my readers mentioned setting an object next to
her computer to make her think of her character.
Have you ever done that?


When I was in, As It Is In Heaven, a show about the Shakers by Arlene Hutton, the little girl my character was raising got taken away by her dad. Throughout the whole show, my character was sewing a ragdoll, and it’s something my character always had with her. And the audience didn’t know what it was for, but it was a connection I was able to make with the little girl. My character gave it to the little girl when her dad took her away. It was an emotional connection that was tangible; I could actually hold it and look at it. For me it was a representation of the little girl, allowing me to build emotion throughout the show. I endowed that object with emotion, so that anytime I looked at it, I would remember “my” little girl and have an emotional response.

In writing, there are a few main themes that are
repeated over and over, much like re-cycled characters.
We try and make the characters fresh in each novel.
How so with a character on stage?


It’s always different with everyone. You will always bring something different because you are you and no one else can bring that to the character. You will always have your past and your world view. Everything that makes you—you, will be in your character. And that’s something no one else could ever play the same. You also have a script in which the author has givens for you. These are things that make that character a unique person. So between the author and the actor, a lot of thought is put into that character. And like I said, you put yourself into it.

From an actor’s point of view, what would you ask of
a playwright to help in your role? Help your character
have a multi-dimensional character?


Please don’t stereotype your characters! No one is just good or just bad. And don’t judge your character, because we, as actors, are told never to judge our characters. We play them in the moment and don’t judge their actions. You wouldn’t want to say, “That’s not something I would do, so it’s bad.” If you do that, you’ll have labeled that character instead of making her a real person. Please give us conflict, decisions should never be easy. So I’d say, “Nothing is black and white, nobody is or all good or all bad, and people do things for a reason”.

To finish, if you had a chance to play a character. What kind would you pick?

I want a chance to play a character with depth. But, of course, it’s up to the actor to make whatever part they get, the best they can be. Again, I wouldn’t want to judge a character before I even started.

How does your faith affect the way you view a
character or your decision to take on a part?


It has everything to do with it. Not in what I choose per se’, but how I go about it. You always have to ask yourself, “What is the story that needs be told and how can I do justice to it?” If there is a message that needs to be told, or a story that I believe needs to be relayed, I am a servant to that message, whether I initially “like” that part or not. You play the part that you have to because you believe that God will ultimately use you. If you have faith in God you must have faith in all aspects of servitude. It’s not ever about us, and that’s what we have to remember. When people refuse to do something or play a certain role, it’s mostly about themselves, they are selfishly saying that they don’t want people to judge them. (Though I’ll say, it’s not always the case, it’s just often the case.)


PART TWO



Rob Arbaugh
Rob Arbaugh is originally from Michigan.
He is an actor, director, teacher, fight choreographer
and designer. Rob is finishing his MFA in Acting
degree at Regent University this May. He and other graduates
have already started a theatre company that
will be moving to Chicago next fall.


Rob, you once told me how a director has to look at the stage and “see” a picture. As writers, we have to help the reader “see” the picture in his/her mind’s eye. How do you do it on stage?

First, as I’m directing, I’ll see in my head what I think
a scene should look like. The whole play picture,
they become stills, each individual picture and then
I let that go and let the actor do whatever. Meld my
overall picture with their individual pictures to see
what I have to get. But then you have to let the actors
flow to be able to create themselves.
As a director, I let the world of the actor play into the story.

That’s interesting because as writers,
our characters often
take off, so to speak, and turn
into personalities we never expected.

It’s the same with an actor’s character, seeing what the actor will
bring to the table. It’s a collaborative process.

Sort of like the writer and character working together to create a “real” person. Our characters often seem to have minds of their own, like your actors.

After this first step, I watch everything I’m creating
and make sure every moment and every thing
is grounded in reality. In other words,
don’t create a picture just for the sake of the picture on the stage.

It’s easy for a writer to get caught up in that and
put in an action just for the sake of the character
doing something during dialogue.
When a crit partner tells us, we need some
action here, it’s easy to want to
just fill in. And sometimes that doesn’t
move the story along at all.

Well, I had a professor once say, if you start with the phrase,
“Wouldn’t it be cool to…” then it’s probably not too
brilliant an idea because you’re doing something
just to be cool. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do this.”
Whether it fits or not.

So there has to be a reason for every action/reaction
on stage just like in a book?

Yes.

Why did you choose the expression “a picture”?

Because a picture is used to reflect life back to people.
So they can see life in a mirror. And take the message
to instill it in their own lives. The picture grounds them
in reality. A springboard for self-reflection.

I guess that’s similar to readers seeing themselves
on the pages of the book. We can have reality
reflected back or the suspension of reality
for a while, but still,we want to see ourselves
in the characters. Okay, I realize scripts aren’t
filled with description,but what piece of advice
would you offer from the director’s point
of view to help us make our readers
see what we want them to see?

I think from the directing side of things that you have
to present real people, not characters.
“Characters” are a misconception in theatre or any
aspect of the arts. One of the biggest mistakes is that
you play a mood or character stereotype.
When you do, what you have becomes a
two-dimensional object instead of being real.
As a director and actor, you have to become a child
of psychology, a student of human nature.
I can imagine that would help the writer as well.
As a director, my job is to
bring a script from page to stage.
I have actors to help me. For the writer, it should
be the same thing. When I read a character in a book
going through situations, I tend to cast the roles in my head.

How does your faith impact what you do?

I am faith-filled so everything I do is Christian.
But truthfully it all comes down to speaking truth.
God is truth, and whether the truth comes
from a believer or a non-believer, truth still comes from God.
Sometimes in the strangest places.

Rob, thanks so much for taking time from your schedule.
I know finishing this year has you really multi-tasking
to complete your degree. Do you mind if I
shamelessly let you promote
your site for Uncovered Theatre Company?

Not at all. Just want to say as artists, our whole goal in
our company is to create art that helps people
self examine. I can send that same charge
to writers; stories shouldn’t be in vain, just like
shows on the stage.
Be passionate about what you’re writing.
Visit us at: http://www.uncoveredtheatre.com/

Monday, September 6, 2010

WHERE THE WILD VIOLETS BLOOM


Utilizing the senses in fiction
When we first moved into our 120 year old home,
I found wild violets, wild asparagus, and
wild strawberries at the back of the property.
Now, I have wild concord grapes growing everywhere.
Yummy, tangy grape jam.

But what can you do with wild violets? They are so fragrant,
so beautiful, and so DELICIOUS!
Have you ever considered wild violet jelly?
It is a delicate flavor that is wonderful on homemade biscuits.

What an amazing thing to include in a story.

Very few people have heard about violet jelly, let alone tasted it.
Can you imagine your heroine picking a bunch,
smelling deeply of the rich aroma, and
putting them on display in her old farmhouse.
The next day, she picks another bunch and turns them into jelly
to take to a sick neighbor. Can’t you just feel the senses
all kicking in when the reader hears about and tastes on
the tip of their tongues your wild violet jelly?

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that draw a reader in.
Have you ever tasted wild violet jelly?
Ah, it’s heaven to the tongue and makes for a
spiritual connection to the bounty God offers.

Don’t neglect these wonderful opportunities to titillate
the senses of your reader. Walk outside, close your eyes, and
FEEL, SMELL, PARTICIPATE IN
what you should add to your story.

Anyone with any particular scenarios
where you used the senses to
connect with your reader?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

OLD COOT


Woohoo! The brown stumps with green
all over them really are trees.

The cataract’s gone, folks.

Where did that young woman with thick
brown hair and bright blue eyes go?

She’s an old coot. Cataracts and all.

Only now, there’s just one bad eye and it sees pretty good!
The years flew by just like my grandmother said they would. And she was a wise woman. Lived into her 90’s and was sharp (almost) as the proverbial tack. She had silver hair swept up in curls all over her head like Spring Byington, and if you know who she was, you’re as old as I am . . . maybe older.
(December Bride)

Time moves ever forward.
Are you living your dream?

If you aren’t at least attempting to put some time in on your writing, if you’re only skimming by, if you don’t treat writing like (at least) a part-time job, then why bother in the first place to think of yourself as a writer?

If God blessed you with a story. Write it!

And now that the surgery’s over, I have no excuses.
Back to the proposals that have been sitting here, waiting for me
to LOOK at them.

Woohoo! There really are words on the pages!!!
Important details were highlighted and made larger for the rest of you
OLD COOTS!