Today I bumped into an old friend from high school at a grocery store near Indianapolis, and although I had my suspicions he was just patronizing me, he said he'd just finished my novel Excluded.
While I'm almost certain no writer will fully admit to enjoying their own work, when he pointed to a few chapters he recalled in an almost creepy detail, I knew why I enjoyed writing some of them.
Around the time Excluded was written, I was heavy into the arts. I was always typing away, strumming the guitar, acting, and filming. All four activities helped my writing out, but it was the latter two that truly made a difference.
Be a Character Before You Create a Character
If you read and write every day, your words become stronger in terms of craftsmanship. You build your vocabulary this way and your writing becomes much cleaner on the page.
However, the act of writing won't directly influence the art. What's wonderful about art is its mirrored portrayal of reality. No matter how extreme or nonsensical a manuscript is, people will enjoy it if they can relate to it.
This is where acting comes into play. If you're a writer of sorts, you should consider taking an acting course or at least exposing yourself to theater or film performance. There are directors, mirrors, and audiences that will explain where your acting is strong and where it can improve.
Acting can play a crucial role in your writing. In essence, writing is all about character interactions and stage directions. How you act out a character can translate to the way you create one on the page. You discover what people can relate to and what they believe is honest. Verisimilitude is key. The stage directions will add to a story's sense of physical location.
Plays and cinema work well because they are designed to. The stage directions should operate in such a way that an audience can keep track of when or where characters are. It's advantageous to picture your physical locations and actions in a story as stage directions, for it will allow the reader to truly visualize the words on the page.
Acting alone will contribute to your writing success, but another place to turn is cinematography.
Hold a Camera Before You Hold a Pen
By no means am I the best cinematographer in the world. I can't even say I qualify as the worst, since that's a sort of championship on its own accord. But I have handled a camera, and in my mind, it has done wonders for my writing.
With acting you've already discovered the best ways for characters to interact with others and their environments. Let's be honest, though, he said this and he did that can become boring. Description is crucial for any work of literature.
My recommendation is for you to try to film something. Notice the certain way you can look at a forested trail and capture all of its beauty. Try to record the natural sound of cicadas at night. Little snippets such as these add to the art of writing. In another words, these slight details (if not overused) bring beauty to the page.
If you retain anything I've said, let it be the following tips:
1. Read every day.
2. Write something, anything every day.
3. Go out into the world with real people doing real things.
4. Try acting. Actually read the script and accept criticism on stage.
5. Try to film something, even if it's with a smart phone.
I'm interested: What Helps You Write?
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Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.