Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

ACT Out Your Scenes

The other night one of my Louisa’s writing friends , HeatherPitre, had her script Dodgers, read at the ACT Theater in Seattle by 15 talented SAG actors. This is a new program sponsored by the ACT Theater and The Film School.

It was exciting to hear them act out her story. You can only imagine how thrilled she was to see it come to life on stage.

This is something we did at Hugo House with Robert Ray during an 8 week course I took from him last fall.  Well, minus the 15 SAG actors: though we did have 2 actors in class that really did an amazing job.  When my scene was read I was able to see what worked about my dialogue and what didn’t work about my narration.

If you can, take a chapter from your book and write it as a scene for actors to act out. You’ll need to have characters, and then a narrator for everything that isn’t dialogue. It took me a minute to wrap my mind around writing for actors to read, but once I did it rolled. Of course when Bob Ray says ‘just do it’, you just do it. And it works cause he’s usually right.

This is an invaluable learning experience no matter what you write. Do this with your writers group. Have them stand to read their assigned characters. This is fun and a way to shine a light on your writing that shows you what works and what doesn’t. Seriously, try this if you can.

Here’s how we formatted (very informal) our scenes for reading. This is an excerpt from mine where there are 3 characters (narrator as character) on scene after a fight;
Year: 1957 Nehalem Oregon – Location: Toreck Sealy’s workshop, afternoon – Characters: Toreck, Father Theo, Sheriff Bud, Oz, Narrator  POV: Theo – Mid scene roughly page 17. Warriors – M.S. Halleck – Chapter 3
Narrator: Ozzie Jefferson, a coal black mountain of a man, lifted Theo as if he were a small, hundred and seventy pound child.
Oz : “Let’s get you up now.”
Theo:  “I can stand.”
Narrator: Theo gently pushed him away.

Theo: “I’m alright.”
Narrator: He brushed off the dirt and stood.
Theo: “I’m fine.”
Narrator: Theo’s head spun. He leaned into Oz, pressing his hand to his hip to stop the throbbing.
Oz: “Here.”
Narrator: Oz took a white hanky from the pocket of his overalls.
Oz: “You’s done bleedin’ on that there white collar, Father Theo.”

That’s just a small excerpt to show formatting not content. This NOT a script format, this was just for class. Script formatting is much more complex.
I cut a great deal of boring exposition after this assignment and now my scene is clean, sharp and moves at a much quicker pace.


This entry was posted on February 4, 2012 by in Act Theater, Bob Ray, Hugo House, The Film School.
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