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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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emotion

So, I’m in another play…..

……a one-act, more specifically, which lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. There are four other one-acts in this production, thus it’s referred to as the one-act festival. It’s held every year and seems to have a fairly good turn-out.

Which makes the time frame about the length of a two act play (two hours).

This is actually a nifty idea, because you can get maybe four or five playwrights’ work staged and exposed to a receptive audience, instead of just one. It enables unknown playwrights especially, since you could also mix them in with well-known playwrights, whose work has been established.

The stage where the one-acts will be performed, but not with this backdrop.
The stage where the one-acts will be performed, but not with this backdrop.

I’m having a lot of fun with finding my moments within my character’s speeches and today, I made my director cry. Which I suppose was the point – my character is blind, and is writing an email home, feeling very insecure about what may occur upon her arrival. So there’s a lot of emotion and empathy coming out.

That’s part of an actor’s job – to make you feel what the characters feel. Same thing with a writer. Or songwriter.

The arts are about creating empathy between you and the subject. It can be uncomfortable, it can make you mad or upset or happy or melancholy. No two people will have the same kind of experience, even if they see or read the same things.

In a play, there is a symbiotic relationship between the actors on-stage and the audience that is watching them. My job, as an actor, is to make you feel what I’m feeling. If my character, in the moment, is feeling something so powerful, that you start to cry, then I’ve done my job.

Even if it’s a tiny sniffle, I will consider that I did my job and transported you to another plane of emotional existence.

It’s an experience that’s harder to pull off via film or TV – not impossible, just harder.

Go see live theater, even if it’s a musical you grew up loving as a kid. It’s an experience that is always good to share with friends and family.

 

“The stage is set, the curtain rises. We are ready to begin.”
Sherlock Holmes, The Abominable Bride (2015)

So, I’m working on a scene……..

……….in one of my Current Works in Progress and I found myself cringing, blushing furiously, and muttering “Oh, my God, I can’t believe I just wrote that” several times under my breath. It was a scene of pure sensation, one that required me to get inside the character’s head, to immerse myself into her experiences. It was difficult, agonizing, frightening and I wanted to bolt, to avoid writing it.

This is not the first time this has happened to me – indeed, this fight-or-flight reaction occurs with almost consistent regularity. This is particularly the case when the scene in question either threatens to touch old wounds or inspire feelings that I’m not in a position to resolve. It’s neither bad nor good – it simply is. It’s my path as a writer.

What allowed me to finally get the scene down, on paper, was to treat it as an intellectual exercise. I had to distance myself from what was occurring with the character, her self-awareness and her own journey of discovery. By using that approach, I was able to get past my reservations (or discomfort, both work and both apply) and get the bare bones written.

When I go back and revise, polish and make this particular story shine with its own merit, I’ll have the framework ready for me to expand upon. I may still have reservations, discomfort and fear, but the fact that I’ve got something to work with will give me the courage to go further, to challenge myself even more and to fully embrace the sensations and feelings this story evokes.

Good stories, regardless of genre, make you feel everything – emotionally, physically, intellectually. To make that happen in your own work, you need to find the little tricks and tools that will facilitate it. There is no right or wrong way, just your way.

Which, of course, goes back to reading and continually pushing oneself to be a better writer, but that’s another blog for another day.

So, by observing my surroundings…….

……my intent is to process the mood, emotions and other chaotic elements of what I see into the story, the characters and their surroundings. This is helpful in two ways – one, I have details that I can attribute to one or more characters and enrich the story and two, I can see an inevitable end to the course that’s been set by chance (or a few choice words on paper).

Of course, as the writer, you might think I have ultimate control over how things pan out with the characters, but I don’t. They’re just as taciturn and ornery as the people I meet in a bookstore or a bar or, well, anywhere. That I arrive at the ending I planned on is always a bonus, but getting there has always been a road trip on the back roads of America (or Europe or Africa, for that matter) without the use of a map. Adventurous? Yes. Recommended? That depends – some writers/authors use outlines, others don’t. Personal preference.

But I digress.

I write about the things I’ve experienced or observed to better process and understand them.  I’ve seen some head-scratching incidents and behaviors that had me in a state of perplexity. I’m only half-successful in that I can recreate those situations to a certain degree and have the outcome turn out in a way that makes sense to me, but wouldn’t necessarily occur in real life. At least, that’s been my experience.

And I suppose that’s the way of Life and the way of Fiction or Art of any kind – one that Is and the other is How I Perceive It.

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