WAYW: Emotionally Charged Action Verbs

This post is part of a series on Writing About Your Writing. Check out more posts here.

Anytime you are writing about your writing, you always want to think in terms of actions. Both the action of the plot, and more critically the action of your characters. To do this well, you must harness the power of Emotionally Charged Action Verbs.

Most dramatic writers are obsessed with dialogue. Dialogue is important, obviously, but it’s best to think of dialogue as the vehicle in which your scenes move. The engine is the actions. Doesn’t matter how slick your Porsche looks from the outside, it ain’t gonna go anywhere if it’s running on a Ford 4.2 V8 (and yes, I had to google that in order to make this metaphor work.)

Emotionally Charged Action Verbs are particularly useful when crafting a Logline because of the need for brevity. But let’s pretend the following is an excerpt from a synopsis, treatment, or outline. (More on those in another post).

Bad WAYW looks like this:

Continue reading WAYW: Emotionally Charged Action Verbs

WAYW: Loglines

This post is part of a series on Writing About Your Writing. Check out more posts here.

A logline is a one to three sentence summary of the main elements of your story told in an emotionally engaging way. Think of it as your ultimate elevator pitch. The term logline is mostly used in the Film/TV industry, but I find it useful for any type of dramatic, narrative storytelling.

Loglines are incredibly useful when you’re trying to market a show, pitch an idea, or apply for grants and awards. The better you can succinctly communicate your story, the easier it is for people to jump on board.

But Loglines can also be useful for you, the writer, to help shape and heighten the arc of your characters and story. Let’s dive in. Continue reading WAYW: Loglines

Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)

One of the most important skills for a writer is being able to write ABOUT your writing. Ironically, this is often one of the hardest types of writing for writers to do, and many – if not most – do it badly.

When writers don’t know how to write about their writing it suggests a very damning truth: She hasn’t done the work to craft a strong, compelling, or emotional story. This isn’t just happenstance. Being a good writer and being able to write about your writing¬† are tightly connected. In other words: good writers have an awareness of how their writing works. Bad writers either don’t know, or don’t care. Continue reading Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)

Big Choices to Make

“Have you considered suicide?”

My acting teacher asks me this question with unsettling regularity. No, she’s not suggesting I give up. (At least I don’t think she is…) She is simply pushing me to make big choices.

Because I never went to a formal acting program, I would sometimes get confused about the idea of “making a choice.” What does it mean to make a choice? A choice about what? Furthermore – what does it mean to make a “bigger” choice? Continue reading Big Choices to Make

How to Improve Any Skill

When I first began teaching at USC, I was hesitant, afraid. “Those who can’t…” kept ringing in my head. I didn’t want to focus too much time and energy training other people to do what I was still focusing on perfecting myself.

The past few years of teaching acting has proven me very wrong. Rather than sapping my attention away from my skills, it has only honed them and made them all the more available to me in my professional career.

It reminded me of the time I spent helping my friends with their homework in grade school. My friend Danny was not very good at math. So I would sit with him and work through the problems, step by step, going through the process we had learned. Doing this allowed me to solidify the process in my own head. When it came time for the test, I now had double the practice and confidence to do well.

If you want to improve something you know how to do, all you have to do is teach it to someone else. Here’s a list of things you’ll find: Continue reading How to Improve Any Skill

How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today

07a7f800-b3b0-0132-457f-0ebc4eccb42fIf you’re shy about taking risks, you can thank evolution.

Humans evolved to be risk-averse. As social creatures, we don’t always feel comfortable standing out from the crowd, and in small populations (as humans typically evolved within) taking a risk could lower your chances of survival.

But as artists and creators – risk is necessary to success.

In teaching actors at USC, I’ve noticed that one of the hardest things to get them to do is to be “outrageous” with their acting choices. To go too far. Even though that’s always the advice acting teachers are giving! “Go too far, and then you can dial it back.”

But people are afraid of doing what they think will be making a fool of themselves. The truth is, however, when you “go too far” you’re actually going exactly as far you need to go. The ideal place to get to is exactly one step outside your comfort zone. That’s where vulnerability shows up, and real moments begin to happen.

But how to get there? Continue reading How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today

Craft is for the Brits!

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An article in The Atlantic caught my attention the other day with the headline The Decline of the American Actor. Being an American Actor myself, I must do what I can to stay up-to-date about my decline. Wait…come again?

First a quick digest of the article: author Terrance Rafferty makes many assertions that bumble about throughout the piece. The most important, in my opinion, is the comment that (in relation to their more successful British counterparts) American actors have less appreciation for training and technique. Continue reading Craft is for the Brits!