Book Review: Getting Into Character

With all the books made into movies, and movies made into books, actors have quite a bit to do with novels. Just like writers, actors must learn their craft in order to portray a character well. We've all seen badly acted movies--and poorly written books.

Enter Brandilyn Collins. Before becoming a writer, Collins studied drama for a lengthy time, particularly Method acting. During Collins long wait to be published, she wrote a book applying Method acting to novelists.

Method acting is believed to be developed by the Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavsky. He held that actors should know the characters they represent to such a degree, that they assume the  characters' lives. This is accomplished through a discovery of what motivates the character, and the characters' emotions.

Since getting to know a character in order to act out the character is not so different from understanding a character in order to write about the character, Collins has a winner in this book. She examines seven major aspects of Method acting, and breaks them down for writers.

The chapter I appreciate most is the one on subtexting. I've read about it, and understand it, but sometimes have a difficult time applying it (If you're not familiar with subtexting, it is the technique of showing the underlying meaning of the dialogue we speak). Collins spend two dozen pages on subtexting alone. She begins by stating the actor's technique of subtexting, then translates that into what writers need to know.

In the chapter, she begins with an introduction, and moves into a deeper look at subtexting, including numerous examples to help the writer identify the technique. Next, Collins explains when to use subtexting, and when to avoid it, and spends several pages showing how to write subtext.

The chapter finishes with several book excerpts, where the writer can practice finding the subtext within a passage. After the excerpt, Collins breaks down the passage in her well-explained "exploration points".

This book will not be your only book on writing. But if you'd like your readers to truly "believe" your characters, it belongs on your shelf.

For more about Brandilyn Collins, check out her website and blog.

To read my other book reviews, click here.

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