Acting and Writing

blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

truths Cynthia

Acting is a unique artform, but it’s also a vital skill for writers.

Accomplished actors become the characters they’re tasked to portray. They “crawl into the skin” of the hero, heroine, villain. Actors often talk about enjoying the challenge of portraying a character wildly different from their own personality or life experiences.

Writers can benefit from crawling into the skin of others at all stages of the writing and publishing process.

Act the part of the reader.

Novelists and nonfiction writers who become their readers step out of their own frames of reference. They consider the perspectives, knowledge-base, interest-level, and felt-needs of those who will eventually read their work. acting and writing

The facts, stats, or thematic language may fascinate you, the writer. Will they fascinate your reader? Is the story you’re telling a personal catharsis only, or is it an invitation for the reader to adopt hope-giving principles to their circumstances?

In self-editing workshops, I suggest writers read their work aloud as if seeing it for the first time. Read it as if an expert on the subject. And read it again as if never having heard or cared about the subject before. Become the reader.

Act the part of the agent.

How does it change the artistic delivery of your query or proposal if you play the part of the agent receiving it? How would you react? Ooh. Needed proofreading. Missed one of the main elements the agent asked for. Sounds condescending/entitled/unprofessional, now that I read it from the agent’s point of view.

Play the role of an agent. What would make the agent lean forward?

Act the part of a freelance editor.

acting and writing imageYes. It’s true. Some writers rely on editors to do the work they should have done. They ignore the squiggly lines in a Word document, leaving grammar errors, spelling mistakes, obvious typos. They turn in their manuscripts with obvious plot holes or nonfiction organizational questions, content to leave it to the editor to fix.

Imagine how much an editor appreciates receiving a “clean” manuscript to work with.

Act the part of an acquisitions editor.

Step into the role of a acquisitions editor for a moment. As much as you–the writer–may dislike creating a synopsis, gathering comparables/competition information, reporting the truth about your platform numbers, thinking through a compelling marketing plan, imagine it from the point of view of the person tasked with making a decision about whether or not to pursue beyond opening the email.

What would you want to see in a proposal? Would you appreciate having to dig for information not provided? Would you take time to do that if a thousand other tasks were also pulling for your attention? What tone would you appreciate from the writer? How important would it be to you to have a project cross your desk that ticked all the boxes? Well-written. Compelling concept. Fresh approach. Solid platform. Easy to convince the marketing and sales departments that it’s worth taking the risk.acting writers

Self-absorbed writers always have something to say. But it’s said from a singular point of view–the writer’s–and with singular benefit in mind–for the writer.

Imagine the scene transpiring on stage when a writer learns to combine acting and writing–acting the part of all the players in the theater of publishing.

Which of the non-writer roles is the most challenging for you to imagine? One of an agent’s many roles is acting coach–helping writers envision the scene from other characters’ perspectives.

 

22 Responses

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I’ve always read easily and widely. God has called me to write adult thoughts to low-literacy readers. He’s brought reluctant readers into my life (including one of our sons) to help me understand what it’s like to plow through text one word at a time. For every word I write, I think, “Is this word worth the effort to read it?” At the same time, I ask, “Is this thought interesting enough to engage high and low literacy readers?” My ultimate goal is to invite those dear folks who struggle with reading to the Bible study table. I’m not writing exclusively to them–I’m just don’t want to exclude them.

  2. Naomi says:

    Great Perspective! I spent time with a Christian Theater company, and have always felt that the “becoming someone else” helps to get real characters through in my manuscript. It will be a helpful reminder to act as those on the reading end as well.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      It’s interesting how helpful it is to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, no matter our pursuit.

  3. Thank-you Cynthia for this post. I love to write, and acting was a potential career for me earlier in my years. But, I had to make a choice with an agency that wanted me to be their chosen person to compete in the sitcom division of the IMTA Convention (International Model and Talent Agency) way back in 1993. Problem was at 35 years of age, I was newly engaged to my future husband scheduled to occur September 25th of that year. The convention was during the summer. I had to make a choice. The agency expected me to to do well and was strongly suggesting I not only compete in the contest but to also move to California. This September 25th, I celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with the man who was secure enough to chose a never married, independent, risk taking lover of Jesus, who was unafraid to travel on her own, or stand up for an underdog. I guess that answers the question of what choice I made. Seeing the exposure of all the “Me Too” actresses makes me feel even better about my choice back then. God saved me, I’m sure of it,

    SO, I do love to act, and love gaining the perceptions of others. You helped me gain the perceptions for the agent and acquisition editor. If I sat and thought about what it might be like having read blog posts, articles, and books written by agents and editors I might be able to draw the same things out, but getting it directly from an agent with so much experience in various positions is a definite plus. Thanks again.

    P.S. I really do like to act, but seeing I gave up Hollywood, my next favorite is the spoken word. When I write, I read what I write many times, because I have to get the words just write, even in the sound and rhythm, and how it feels when I read, each word, phrase, sentence and word. I was in choir for many years, and did some solo work, and also painted and did various wire and mixed media sculpture, so now when I write it is more than words to me. It is a musical score, a painting in motion.

  4. What a neat perspective, Cynthia! My sister acts and teaches theater, and we’ve often compared the similarities in our art forms, especially in terms of character development and motivation, etc. Of course doing our best to “step into our characters’ skin” is a key element for writing fiction. But I hadn’t thought of it specifically as an analogy for other writing relationships! Come to think of it, though, I have often tried to look at a piece of my writing–especially a proposal or contest entry, or even an email–from the perspective of the person who would receive it. And it does help put a different view on things. 🙂

    Thanks and blessings!

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Sometimes we’ll discover that we wrote a character into a synopsis and didn’t explain who that character is! As the author, we know the character well. But an editor hasn’t yet been introduced.

  5. Interesting post, and it directly relates to a conversation I had with Barbara yesterday.
    * It was a weekend that could only be described in scatalogical terms; bones suddenly breaking under minor use, every lung inflation an exercise if fiery, mind-bending pain, and walking a forced impalement on every part of my body.
    * So I asked Barb, “How the **** do I write this?”
    She shook her head. “You don’t. You can’t put the reader in your shoes. Anything you write will either become horror worthy of Stephen King, or a weak-suck pathetic appeal for sympathy. You can write a lot about dying, but something like this, don’t even try.”
    I was surprised. “So I just let it go?”
    “No. Distill the lesson, if there is one, and write that. If there’s no lesson, if it’s just a senseless beasting, then write THAT. But don’t try to make your reader cringe with you, or for you.”

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Barbara is a wise–and very articulate–woman!

    • I am so so so sorry that it was/is such a horrific time. As always my prayers are going up for you and Barbara. It all seems so senseless, but I pray you find peace in the midst of it all. My heart breaks to even have a glimpse of what you are enduring. I wish I could do more, but I am sending you virtual hugs and many prayers up to God on your behalf. May Christ comfort you both.

      • Crystal, thank you so much! It’s not senseless; I’ve learned so much, but the prime lesson is that we’re here for one another. Our victories are supposed to be treasured in fellowship, and our heartaches washed clean by the mingled tears we share with those around us.
        * The only thing we can leave this life with, is the love we carry in our hearts. I aim to have a record excess-baggage fee when I hit the Pearly Gates.

      • I love that. Record excess-fee. 🙂 I think you will achieve that goal, my friend. You will be blessed to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Can’t wait to celebrate with you one day on the other side of those Pearly Gates.

  6. Cynthia, this is such a great perspective! I tend to be rather singly-focused. Working to make my story/synopsis/proposal the best I can. But I don’t often think to look at the project through the eyes of others. Love this idea! I think for me, it would be hardest to look at it through the agent’s eyes.

    Thanks for this!

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      And the agent is trained to look at it from all angles, including readers and editors.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Jeanne, it is utterly amazing to work that “become the other person” practice into our writing. Sometimes I read a chapter and think, “How would my grandmother identify with this scene? My granddaughter? A skeptic? A reviewer? The heartbroken? The person who’s heard it all? A stranger who picks up my book at a–gasp–rummage sale?”

  7. So helpful, helpful, helpful! Thank you.

  8. “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
    * Today was the nadir of the worst; pancreatic cancer is coming for me, and it may win, but I will (mess) it up so bad that it will cry like a little girl at the mere mention of my name.
    * That’s ain’t acting. That’s a promise.

  9. Acting and writing are both fun because they let me use my imagination. I never thought of using that skill to think like an editor or agent.Maybe writing proposals will be more fun for me in the future.

  10. I love this article, Cynthia. At the moment the hardest to envision is both the agent and acquisitions editor. Those positions seem so foreign to me that I need to study the actual positions before I can look from that perspective. Not surprised that would be necessary though. How much study and hard work go into an actor becoming a character. I’ve read about many who commit to months and sometimes years of training before they ever set foot in a studio. the background videos on the Greatest Showman are amazing if you ever get the chance to watch them. It really gives a glimpse into the dedication, challenges, and cost of giving something your absolute best all of the time. And actually, that is just the encouragement I needed. 🙂 it is exhausting work, but so worth the eternal reward. “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men,”
    ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭HCSB‬‬ Okay, rambling. A sure sign it is bed time. God bless and thanks for the article.

  11. Steven Fantina says:

    Very good advice. To often in life (in multiple situations) we fail to see the other person’s perspective. Life is always better when we put other selves in someone else shoes.