Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Muse is not a Method Actress

I took an acting class in college.  I don't know what possessed me, or why I thought I'd enjoy it.  I didn't.  The idea of being an actress was a glimmering pool of water enticing me, and I was the cat that plunged in, only to realize milliseconds later, with claws splayed and ears flat against my head, that it wasn't in my nature to be wet.  Life experiences teach us about ourselves.  That semester I learned I have too many inhibitions to stand on a stage and howl at an imaginary moon at the top of my voice, or hop around pretending I'm a rabbit and then morphing into a human who embodies the physical and emotional characteristics of the rabbit.  Method acting, improv, vocalization -- just not in my nature to explore.

Maybe that's why writing is so appealing to me.  I conjure the character in my mind, and explore her through written words.  I read once on a writer's blog that she liked to get up in her writing studio and physically act out the scene she was crafting, capturing a realistic account of her characters' movements and gestures.  Somehow, I can't even picture myself doing that.  Not from fear of being seen or looking ridiculous.  It just wouldn't feel natural to me.

I prefer to observe people in everyday life.  Always having a notebook handy helps me record what I later use in my writing, but when it isn't polite to spontaneously scribble in public, I store slice-of-life moments in mental files, to be journaled later.

Last week, we adopted a baby kitten -- and yet another opportunity for characterization ideas presented itself.  Getting to know a new pet is surprisingly similar to getting to know a new character.  At first glance, the physical characteristics are noted.  (This kitten looks black, but upon closer examination you see much of her fur is gray with black tips.)  As she becomes more comfortable here and we gain her trust, her true personality begins to shine through.  And, as she is confronted with new challenges (locating her litter box; processing noise from the vacuum cleaner; figuring out what lies beyond the hallway entrance), we see her inner conflicts come into play (she was only a couple weeks old when she was abandoned by her owner, and was later rescued from a drain pipe -- her first instinct when frightened is to hide).

Characters are everywhere, around us and inside us.  To truly capture them is to be a writer.

Here are some pics of Lily-poo, newest princess of our castle:

Too cute for words!

Ooh, scary claws!

Take me to your leader.

Have you ever been inspired for a character by a pet?