Today has been a good day – one full of pedagogy, macabre toys, and editing photos of my…snake. Allow me to ‘splain.
Today I had to teach a writing class. In my Advanced Short Fiction class, each student has to take a day and teach the class. Any topic we want. It’s a great exercise (we’ve done it in past classes). Everyone comes in with different backgrounds and offer neat little angles of writing that our one teacher wouldn’t have offered.
The problem was…we’ve done this three times before. What was I going to teach this time?
So last night I have a kind of crappy list of things to talk about (but no central theme). I recently picked up a writing book called Write Now! and was flipping through it for ideas. I find a few relaxation exercises…and they are almost verbatim matches of the exercises I learned in my acting classes (relaxing, breathing, character visualization, etc.).
And then it clicks.
Some of the things I’ve gotten good comments on in the past are character dialogue, characterization, and first person stories. I think, in large part, this comes from my theatre background. The same exercises we use to get character speech patterns and movement down are the same ones (I’ve found) that can be used for your character dialogue and descriptive metaphors on the printed page.
There was my angle. None of the other writer’s had that background. So I copied out example exercises from the book. Wrote down my own from past acting classes. And off I went to teach today.
It went very well. My lesson was WRITERS AS ACTORS. I explained the exercises. I told how most art comes down to the same, single celled evolutionary ancestor – storytelling. I took out the lists of character questions (got reacquainted with an old friend – Uta Hagen) from Bill’s classes. I was able to present everything in a cool, collect manner, and it all seemed to connect.
Then, Dr. Perkins (former English teacher at Eureka and the reason I’m in Springfield) said, “Can we do one of the exercises?” I have not done one of these in a while. I certainly haven’t run a group of people through one in several years…not since I directed “The Veldt” (remember Torrie?). But, my general view on things is that when confronted with something that scares or intimidates you, dive in head first and you’ll tread water because you have to. On my better days I actually follow through with this philosophy.
“OK,” I said.
So I dimmed the lights, used my best (not too overtly) hypno-voice, got everyone to relax, breath, control breathing, relax each muscle (one at a time), visualizing stress with colors (made that up on the fly), and, after enough time, got into the characterization exercises (picturing characters as animals, objects, and how that affects them). I then crossed the bridge from acting and explained how this helps wiht writing. I won’t go into it all…but it went really well…they wall went to Never-Never Land and when they got back they said it worked. Years of systemized procrastination trains one to think on their feet.
In fact one of them said, after I brought the lights back up, “I found the ending to my thesis!” I smiled, thinking, Excellent! I’m a genius.
I’ll try to remember this, when, inevitably, next week, I’ll be at my key board, pulling my hair, screaming, “I’M A MORON!!!”
Another bright note in my day…I’m now the proud owner, through an ebay bid, of the action figure of….you guessed…EDGAR ALLAN POE!!! Observe:
That’s right! The Edgar Allan Poe action figure, complete with: detachable Raven, karate chop action, and slip-silently-into-madness™ button.
Well, that’s all for now. Oh wait…I forgot something…oh yes! I have finally taken pictures of my “snake” and want to post them on the web. Wink, wink.
Thanks Torrie, for taking pictures of me playing with my snake. But enough porno allusions. Ladies and gentlemen – here at long last – making her premiere appearance – taking over for (but not replacing) my last familiar for my word-weaving wizardry (every writer should have one), Rocco, is that sexy lady serpent…LENORE!