Sorry for the lack of a podcast so far this week, guys! I’ve been pretty busy getting some things organized for work but I did want to make a book recommendation for character exploring and development.

I find that the best advice usually comes from unexpected places. I was doing an acting workshop when it was suggested that we read Audition by Michael Shurtleff to use as a lens for studying our roles. The section on relationships is especially powerful for me, as it helps me better understand how to handle my own characters.

To give you a taste for it, the book suggests that actors (in an audition setting) should move beyond the obvious motivation in a scene. While it may be tempting to make a shy character lower their head, avoid eye contact, play with their hands, and generally avoid human contact, it is a cliche at this point. It doesn’t add to the character and leaves the actor (or writer in this case) much room to go anywhere. The book suggests to dream big, to allow the character to desire opposites at the same time.

There is an example in the book of a meeting between a man and his new stepmother, who is his own age. The director asks for their motivation, and each actor says that they are “discovering” that they are attracted to each other. The director suggests that they push harder, that the characters be madly in love with each other from that very first moment, the reason being that it gives the actor a lot more to work with. And then you have a powerful opposite that is simultaneously true: for the stepson, the desire not to hurt his father outweighs (in the first scene anyway) his desire for his new stepmother; and the stepmother’s reminding herself that she JUST married the man’s father counters her own desire for him.

The powerful opposites make for a far richer performance (and written scene) than an obvious reaction.

It reminds me of a common problem writers have with beginnings. I’ve heard several times that whatever you’ve got written down, you should cut the first three paragraphs and then begin the story there. The first part is useless information. It isn’t a strong beginning. I think this is part of that concept, that two characters are already in love when they meet rather than “discovering” one another.

So that’s one interesting thing I got from the book but there are plenty of other lessons. Definitely check it out, I’m rereading it right now and loving it.