Review: Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors

Quick review for a quick read. Oh, this was a good one. Very well organized and appropriate link to how writers can employ actor’s techniques in helping them craft their fiction. I was fascinated by the premise of this book, so I took no hesitation in picking it up. The book revolves around describing seven techniques that actors use to convey their performances of character, and Brandilyn Collins expands on these techniques to show how writers can make their characters (and stories) more effective by using a step by step process for each consideration.

The seven “secrets” this book expounds upon are:

1. Personalizing
2. Action Objectives (Four Ds – Desire, Distancing, Denial, Devastation)
3. Subtexting
4. Coloring Passions
5. Inner Rhythm
6. Restraint and Control
7. Emotion Memory

Much of this text was a refresher to me for techniques that I employ, because I always say that the best stories can provide you a vivid sense of showing the dynamic of a story playing out in you mind. Personalizing had to do with shaping the character and individual aspects that make them stand out. Action Objectives had to do with the character’s desired goal through the narrative, and breaks it down into Desire, Distancing (how far the character has to reach or what barricades block them from reaching the desire), Denial (character questioning abililty to reach goal, and Devastation (optional, but ultimately the character not being able to get what he/she wants).

Subtexting covers everything that a character isn’t explicitly saying, but is implied or beneath the scene in dialogue among other measures within a scene. Coloring Passions is self-expansive, as it deals with conveying the dimensional passions of a character. Inner Rhythm means showing the progression of a character’s emotions and roots. Restraint and Control shows appropriating techniques that match the intention of a scene (action scenes requiring shorter sentences, etc.) Last, Emotion Memory relies on how events can shape the emotional landscape of a character, and how an writer can use their own emotional memories to shape their characters.

It’s definitely a book I would recommend picking up for any writer that wants to deepen the portrayal and experiences presented with the characters in their stories.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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