Lesson Two: Memory of Emotion.
As I said on Friday, today is the continuation of the First Six Lessons of acting translated into use for writing. Today's lesson is on the "Memory of Emotion". If you're interested in the book I'm using as my basis it is Acting, The First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky.
"We have a special memory for feelings, which works unconsciously by itself and for itself. It's right there. It is in every artist. It is that which makes experience an essential part of our life and craft. All we have to do is know how to use it." (pg 36)
This chapter discusses how B. believes that every person has the ability, unconsciously, to attach emotions to objects. When this is done those emotions become so attached to the object that we cannot help but experience the emotion whenever we see the object. I believe this to be true, particularly if you consider aversion therapy and positive reinforcement in regards to both animals and humans. He suggests to the actress who has come to him in this chapter that as she has been concentrating on everything in her life as well as in her art that hidden within her is likely the emotion she needs to access, and she has only to remember the occasion or the object of that emotion in order to bring it up. He spends the chapter explaining to her how at first she may need to re-tell the story in great detail to bring up the emotions she experienced at that time. But that through practice she would be able to condense that feeling and bring it into action whenever she liked.
Writers are people who go through a myriad of emotions for just as many reasons. We have to know what a character's feeling and to be believable we have to know WHY they're feeling it. We have to know the character so well that we can bring up an emotion... well what if that's not the only case? What if we as writers need to know ourselves and our own emotions well enough to bring forth an authentic emotion in a differing situation? Here's where I suggest that the turnover is. Just as B. told the actress to go over the emotions until she could bring them up at a single thought, perhaps we as writers should be doing the same. When we understand the nuances of each emotion that we are capable of, that we have experienced and when we can call them up then we can understand our character's emotions with a depth and truth that we may have been lacking before.
I'm often told in acting to "keep yourself out of it". You don't want to "impose" yourself on the character. This is a danger for the author as well, but where I am not supposed to do that in acting, no one tells you not to do it with writing. Seriously consider your characters, know them inside and out and know the feelings of emotions and what can bring them out. When you know yourself you can know what is you, what is your character and how to breathe life into your character that is not entirely your own.
Lesson Three will be Wednesday: Dramatic Action