How Acting Can Help You To Develop Character

Before becoming a writer, author Rachel Vail, studied acting and theater. Today she may not grace the stages of Broadway but her numerous books showcase her ability to “get into character”, or more accurately create them. During her breakout session at the 2010 SCBWI LA Conference she explained how it might be worth your wild to check out an acting class.

Things I Learned About Character From Acting Class:

  • You must know everything about your character. Where were they the moment before the scene you are writing? How did they sleep last night? This will affect the scene and how the character behaves. (This was an acting lesson Vail learned before going on stage).
  • What does your character want? What does your character enter the scene wanting? An actor friend of Vail’s told her that the way in which he keeps scenes fresh night after night of doing the same show is by changing what the character wants as they enter the scene. “Each time I do the show I have different motivations.”
  • As hard as it can be to get into character, it can be just as hard to get out of it.

How Body Language Develops Character:

  • Before I can know a character, I need to know them emotionally and physically.
  • All characters walk from a different part of their body. This is called the center of the body. Some people are centered at the forehead and walk with their heads down. Others are centered from their chests and have a confident walk. Drunks often walk with their shoulders first. How does your character walk and move through space?
  • For a book about a ballerina, Vail learned all about how ballerinas hold themselves (posture, walk, etc.) They often hold their hair back. They don’t cross their legs. These small physical effects changed the whole way in which Vail saw the character.

Rachel Vail has written over 30 books for kids through teens. Her most recent include her trilogy for teens: Lucky, Gorgeous and Brilliant; and her novel for kids Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters.

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5 Responses to “How Acting Can Help You To Develop Character”

  1. Laura says:

    Great post, Ingrid. Rachel Vail is amazing – a fantastic writer and so prolific. I love that she writes (and gets published) for many age groups. Thanks for introducing her to us. The ideas about characterization are so true.
    — Laura

  2. Laura says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that I think you’re wonderful for sharing all the info you pick up at conventions. I’m an ex-pat and have no access. Your blog is terrific!

  3. rozmorris says:

    Really enjoyed this post, Ingrid. These are such interesting points. BTW, other groups who don’t like crossing their legs, wearing shoulder bags or doing anything to pull one side of the body unequally are Alexander teachers and dressage riders. Not all of them, of course, but many are fanatical about developing each side of their body equally.

  4. […] How acting can help you to develop character. […]

  5. Kathryn says:

    This is a great reminder. I took theater for several years and it has definitely helped me with characterization. A lot to go off from that point of view.

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