Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for this wonderful article about writing characters.
“As a writer, I am just an actor in a play, telling a story that needs to be told.” ~Rita Webb
I hate memorizing lines.
In my teens, I had a brush with the acting bug. I enjoyed the thrill of being on stage. The thunder of the applause was intoxicating. I lived in southern California at the time, and I briefly considered having a go at acting. The main problem: I hated memorizing lines.
Come to find out, the acting world is far less glamorous than it seems. Actors frequently have to be early risers, especially if the character has to wear heavy make-up. The hobbit characters from the Lord of the Rings movies, for example, often had to be at the cosmetics trailer at 4am to begin putting on their feet extensions. Ugh.
I abandoned the notion and really didn’t revisit the thought until recently. Years ago, I read an interview with Harriet McDougal Rigney (widow of James Rigney, author of the iconic The Wheel of Time Series) where she mentioned that whenever he wrote from the viewpoint of the villain Padan Fain, his mood was different, almost reflective of the character himself. One day he came into the kitchen, and she said, “You’ve been writing Padan again today, haven’t you?” It turned out he had. It was then I realized that writers become a part of that character when they write them, to one degree or another.
I’m sure we’ve all watched interviews of actors who virtually became that character for a time. One example of this dedication that comes to mind is Heath Ledger as the Joker. Heath gave an unbelievable amount of effort into becoming that role. He prepared for it by reading every relevant comic book, reading the Joker’s lines, closing his eyes, and meditating on them. He reclused himself away in his hotel room for weeks and wrote a diary of his findings, experimenting with voices. I think few people could match that level of character dedication.
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