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Don’t Judge a Character

Recently, I started teaching my new Intro to Theater Arts class. One important facet of acting which has been reinforced with me lately is the idea that an actor should not  judge a character.

Think about it. When we see someone doing something bad, we tend to label him or her a “bad person.” Instant judgment. It makes total sense. A murderer has committed a crime against the moral standards that society has deemed to be acceptable. That fact in itself makes that person “bad”.

But as an actor, what happens immediately after you judge the character you are planning on playing? You have taken away the character’s main objective for doing what he or she has to do. Bad people don’t look at themselves as being bad. Far from it! They are merely doing what they think is necessary for their given circumstances.

I can see this in writing as well. In my novel “Beauty Rising”, Martin’s mother could certainly be looked on as a “bad person” for being so overbearing and abusive towards Martin and especially for what she does later in the novel. (no spoiler here)  But in her mind, everything she does is grandly justified. The situation compels her to act the way she does which, unfortunately, leaves a wake of destruction in its path. The consequences of her actions are not important to her, or at least she is willing to live with them because  her objectives, however misguided they may be, are the most important things for her. In other words, the stakes are high.

An actor chosen to play Martin’s mother would have to put aside all judgments and delve deep into her psyche to find the justification for her actions. Judging her up-front would only put up an unnecessary barrier making her true-being much less revealed in the final performance.

In this way, writing is similar to acting. A writer has to build in the necessary tension and obstacles, the necessary back-story and conflict in order for the character to be believable – this often means going to uncomfortable places, but I believe it is crucial in building a character that speaks authentically from the pages.

Readers can judge away!  Actors and writers don’t have that luxury.

 

Proof is in my hand!

I must admit something. It’s quite an amazing feeling to hold one’s own novel in your hand. I received the printed proof in the mail yesterday, and I’ve been devouring it one last time to make sure everything is just right. As an indie author, that’s what must be done. But it’s worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving the story, getting re-acquainted with the characters, and making just a few minor changes along the way.

When I think about everything that went into writing Beauty Rising, it’s hard to believe that the finished print product is just around the corner.   What did go into it?

1) graduating as an English major with a strong interest in creative writing (but being too afraid to do anything with it.)

2) 10 years living in Vietnam, learning the language, culture, and history which was vital in being able to write Beauty Rising.

3) Moving away from Vietnam in order to have necessary perspective.

4) Finding my current job which got me into drama and back into creative writing

5) Suddenly getting the right idea in the spring of 2011.

6) Writing the full novel in the summer of 2011.

7) Having my readers and editors go to work on it for months.

8) Having submitted it to many agents in 2012.

9) Writing my second novel in the summer of 2012. (I told myself I wouldn’t release it until I did it again.)

10) Proofreading and proofreading. Editing. Revising. Proofreading.

11) Releasing it digitally!

12) After a friend designed the cover, I designed the back and spine.

13) Proofing the proof.

14) Final release and marketing.

It’s been so much fun. I’ve learned so much in the process, and I’m so thankful for the many supporters and readers who have been so encouraging.

Available soon: Beauty Rising in paperback. Details to follow soon!

paperback beauty risingj

A Writing Review of 2012

I’d just like to run-down the list of writing and drama projects I was able to accomplish during 2012. As I look back, it’s been a productive year. Here’s hoping for another productive one in 2013.

January 2012 – Finished editing and published the new play “Life with Stewart.”

May 2012 – “Life with Stewart” premiered at the Penang Performing Arts Centre.

June 2012 – Wrote the short story “Honor Requires No Eulogy: The Heroic Death of Ponchicilius” (unpublished)

June 2012 – Wrote my second novel, “The Recluse Storyteller” – currently in advanced reading stage.  Publish date?

July 2012 – Wrote 8 short plays/skits which became the material for The RLT Players’ performance “Drive All Night…Back into Your Arms”

August – December 2012 – Collaborated on the new comedy “Grandparents’ War” to be published and released in January 2013. It’s an absolutely hilarious cross-cultural comedy.

September 2012 – My short play entitled “Drive All Night” won the Audience Choice Award at the first ever Penang Short & Sweet Theater Festival.

September – December 2012 – Wrote my MA Thesis “NINETEEN FORTY-FIVE INDOCHINA BETWEEN RHETORIC AND REALITY:The Shifting Policies of the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations.”  Yes, it is kind of stuffy, but I enjoyed it.

November 2012 – RLT Players’ performed “Drive All Night…Back into Your Arms.” Oh what fun that was!

December 2012 – Published my first novel, “Beauty Rising.”  The reception has been very encouraging.

December 2012 – Started mapping out novel #3. I call it my last, great Vietnam novel.  lol

2013?  Another novel. More plays. More material for the RLT Players. What else? Who knows, but it should be fun.