Art of Writing: Writing and Theatre- Bring Characters to Life

by Kate Jameson

Storytelling is an art no matter what form it takes. I’ve always had a passion for theater, but it wasn’t until college that I discovered how much writing and acting have in common. I always knew, as most people do, that the scripts have to be written by writers, but that was never an genre that I wanted to pursue as a writer. After I declared a Theatre Arts minor, I spent a lot of time thinking about how my two passions could benefit each other. And I eventually landed on the idea of characterization.

Characters are important to any story. They drive the plot and pull the reader (or audience) in. They are, essentially, the medium through which the story is told. It follows that a good story must have well-developed characters.

As an actor, character is key. In a sense, you become someone else when you step on the stage. You have to know how your character would react to any situation, what he or she would say, and what nervous habits he or she would have. Even if the audience never knows these things, the actor must. This article, “Character Building and What Makes a Great Actor,” outlines ten questions every actor should be able to answer about his or her character.

When it comes to writing, it’s very much the same. As an author, you should know every detail of your character, even if those details don’t make it into the book. They will still influence what your character does and how your character acts. The same questions apply. Who is this person and what does he or she want?

Characterization can be harder when it comes to writing because you have to keep track of so many characters. When acting, you are generally only responsible for one (though in some cases you play more than one). But it’s worth the effort. You will find yourself with realistic, fleshed-out character the reader will be fully invested in.

Acting taught me how to fully immerse myself in a character, to know my character even better than she knows herself. If I can do that, I can fully anticipate everything she will do or think. The story becomes more real because I don’t force her into actions or situations that don’t make sense based on her personality or choices. The better I know my characters, the better my story becomes. So whether it’s under the lights or on a screen, I know that understanding my characters is essential to crafting a good story.

How else can acting aid your writing? Share your ideas in the comments.

Kate Jameson is a Professional Writing major. She blogs and blogs about fairy tales and storytelling here.

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