Confession by Katherine

Katherine Longshore Reply Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Little known fact:  I wanted to be an actress.  Spent several years studying it.  I even got an acting scholarship to my (first) college.  Live theater, the murmur of the audience, the smell of the dust and sweat in the costumes, the creak of the floorboards.  The applause.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the applause.  But the best part?  Getting into character.

I was taught acting by a believer in the Stanislavski system – related to Method acting – where the actor must discover ways to become the character in order to represent her fully onstage.  Every scene, every action had to be questioned (which, at the age of 18, became a little tedious, but now I get it).  Why does the character arrange the flowers in this scene?  What is her motivation?  What does she want?  And what will she do to get it?  Not in this scene, or even the next, but is she thinking about what she will do in Act II already?  And how do you convey that?  With a look?  A gesture?  A stillness?

Brilliant stuff, right?  So what does all this have to do with writing fiction?  Everything.  But you’re clever people, you’ve figured that out already.  Because what do we do when we write a scene?  We ask ourselves the question, “What does my main character want?”  But Stanislavski and I are asking you to go a little deeper.  Walk in your character’s shoes.  Sit for a minute in his chair.  Listen to the silence or the chaos that surrounds him.  Drink his cold cup of tea.  Feel that.  And write it down.

You don’t have to run out and take an acting class to get into character.  You can do it at home.  Answer Veronica’s questions.  Think of some of your own.  But if you want to try, go for it.  It’s awesome.  You get to do things you’d never do in real life:  slap people, kiss strangers, dress up as the opposite sex, spout gibberish, become a queen or a mad man or Blanche DuBois (one role I always coveted and never got to play).  But then, you kind of get to do that, anyway, don’t you?

End note:  What happened to my dream of becoming an actress?  Halfway through my college career I took my first trip abroad.  And round about month three, in the deserts of Morocco, having seen real faces and characters and life and death and fear and pain and joy, I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a windowless black box.  I’ve done lots of plays since then, and hope to do more.  I admire the people who make a living at it.  I admire even more the people who strive to – therein lies passion.  But me?  I’m much happier where I am.

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