Acting class is like being inside my writer’s brain. Icebreakers include launching imaginary things at your classmates, squeezing your body through invisible doorways, and trying to be all stream-of-consciousness edgy when you’re really not.
My favorite game is the ninja one. Classmates on either side chop me in half while I swing my sword at someone else. It’s about making our bodies match the sounds coming from our mouths. I direct my loudest HAIIII-YAAAHHH at you, then you send your loudest HAIIII-YAAAHHH over to someone else.
It’s violent and loud and so freaking fun.
Then there’s the Repetition Game. I’m sitting cross-legged in front of a partner. Our knees touch. The space between us is filled with so much awkward.
“You are wearing glasses,” I observe.
He agrees, so he repeats, “I am wearing glasses.” Then since it’s now his turn, he says, “You have long hair.”
I do have long hair, so I repeat, “I have long hair.”
WE DO THIS FOR TWENTY MINUTES.
It’s uncomfortable and horrible and everything I try to avoid on a day-to-day basis, but eventually we move beyond observing physical traits to reading emotions.
Shadows circle his eyes, so I say, “You’re tired.”
He sighs. “Yes. I’m very tired.”
I smile, because I got it right.
He says, “You’re pleased.”
“Yes.” I smile even wider. “I’m pleased.”
Our teacher tells us the Repetition Game can get incredibly intense with advanced students. I imagine you’d become so sensitive to the slightest movements in your partner’s body language that you’d wind up responding in kind. It’s rare to be able to go from honest moment to honest moment with another human being. No hiding. No explanation. No apology.
This is what I need to do with my characters. Be in the moment with each of them from the first to last page. Give them the words to tell me what they see and how they feel. Write them with honesty.