);

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: actor

Blogging live from L.A. I have good news and bad news. The bad news first. I have done everything I can, and yet no Hollywood agent has “discovered” me yet. I don’t get this place. How has no one seen what I have to offer? Surely there is some movie in need of a cute, slightly fluffy thirty-something-year-old writer. If not, then I could write it FOR them. What a bargain! Not only could they have their STAR, but I could write the script and I would even be willing to direct and…ooh…I would even be happy to do casting, too.  And wardrobe? I could totally handle that too. I am an excellent multi-tasker. Just drop me off on Rodeo and…

Yeah, well they clearly don’t understand that this gem won’t be here for long. Limited time offer, Honey. And … well, they’ll be sorry.

The good news is that this conference seriously ROCKS. That has helped to take my mind off the fact that launching my career as a movie star is not going according to plan. According to my original calculations, I should have been signing a movie deal by now.

But back to the conference…

The Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention has gathered together a mind-boggling collection of experts; everything from forensics experts, to the ATF, to NY Times best-selling authors to teach attendees how to be the best they possibly can be.

Thus, the only nugget of advice I can give you guys is to invest in yourselves. Invest in your careers. We are in amazing times to be a writer. There are so many potential career options. It is liberating and terrifying to think that now everyone can be published. In ways, this is excellent news, but it is staggering to think of the competition we will face in the coming years.

Ah, but the cream will always separate, which makes it even more vital that we do everything we can to learn our craft and take our business seriously.

Thus, a handful of tips for every budget.

1. We must read books about our craft. I gobble up everything I can, particularly books about structure. My opinion? Writers who really understand structure are faster, cleaner, more prolific writers, regardless their style of execution (plotter/pantser). It might take 5 years to write our first book, but when it comes to book two? We need to significantly shorten that timeline without compromising quality.

2. Get on Twitter and follow every agent, editor, publisher and best-selling author you can find. We have to do everything we can to know the ins and outs of our business. Knowledge is power. Twitter is one of the few places that stalking is encouraged. Apparently here in L.A., it will get you banned from a restaurant I didn’t like anyway. Jerks.

3. Read novels of all kinds. Yes, we can read our own genre, but the real art side of the craft often comes when we blend elements from other styles. It gives new blood to our genre and helps our work stand apart.

4. Build a social media platform to support our careers for the long-term. I can attest that it takes time to get momentum. You will feel like nothing you are doing is making one bit of difference. Just keep at it, no matter how discouraging. Too many writers give up just shy of the tipping point.

5. Do everything you can to go to conferences. Feel free to start small with local conferences, but when you get a chance try to go to the big ones. It is a totally different world and the relationships and professional connections you’ll make are priceless.

Everyone can be published. That is now a reality. BUT, not everyone will approach being an author with the skill, energy, focus and planning necessary to thrive as a career professional in this new paradigm.

All right, so back to choosing an outfit for the day. I need something eye-catching. Maybe the Hollywood people just haven’t seen me yet. Okay, well one saw me. I went to the Hollywood track yesterday to become peeps with the producers, but then nothing. Can you believe that? I couldn’t either. So I figured that they probably just didn’t make a big deal out of me because they were worried they might make the other writers jealous. I was not one to give up.

Anyway…

I think that producer Lee Goldberg turned his sprinklers on deliberately to flush me out of his hedges. Ruined my stack of head shots. Some people are so rude. But I was gracious and slipped one under his windshield wiper along with the script I wrote on the plane about the story of my life. I clearly stated in my note that I was totally willing to play the part of me to save the studios money, but that he was free to cast Reese Witherspoon. I would approve.

What does a writer have to do to get famous in this town?

I miss you guys and thanks so much for all of your comments. You have no idea how awesome it has been to read your thoughts and opinions in between speakers. I just don’t understand how I could be so naive. You guys can see how awesome I am. What is wrong with these Hollywood people? I think we need you guys to take over, because clearly you have superlative taste.

What are some of your tips to make it in this modern publishing jungle?

Okay, publishing smublishing. More about me.

I’m running out of time. Any suggestions of how I could get my movie deal? Maybe you guys can think of something. The world needs to know the story of me, or it will be a sad, dark little place where life is never fully experienced. So help me out!

And, in return for your assistance with launching my stardom…

For the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Stay tuned for March’s winners. Will post soon. No Mash-Up of Awesomeness today. The hotel Internet connection makes glaciers look fast. I nearly tore out all my own hair just trying to get the blog posted. Okay, done whining. The MUA will resume next week. Promise.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

DanielLast week we discussed one of the tactics used for creating great characters. The beauty of the Warrior Writer Boot Camp format, though, is that we appreciate that not everyone learns the same way. Not all tools are suited for all people. Thus, I would like to introduce you to another WWBC technique you can employ to not only create amazing characters, but also to craft believable scenes guaranteed to draw in the reader and never let go.

Method acting.

Now this doesn’t mean we have to take up living in a Dumpster for a month if we desire to write about a homeless person (though Daniel Day-Lewis would be proud), but it does mean that we have to use and develop our ability to empathize. Empathy can be defined as the ability to identify and understand somebody else’s feelings and experiences. But, it is also the ability to step into that person’s (character’s) perspective. Unless one is writing in omniscient, it will be critical to keep the POV camera where it belongs in order to gain the most impact from each and every scene.

I’ll give a few examples.

Example #1

PERSPECTIVE PROBLEM

At critique, one of my dear friends and fellow writers brought a selection from his science fiction novel, which happened to be written in first-person. The opening scene is a robbery of sorts and his protagonist, like most sensible folk, dives under a nearby table and hides. The narrative that followed was very clever and engaging, but I happened to notice one HUGE problem. Thus, I raised my hand and asked, “How can your character know all of this detail if he is crouched under a table at the other end of the restaurant? The most he will likely see is legs and shoes.”

The writer had gone to great lengths describing details and events that simply would be impossible to see from the protagonist’s perspective. What my friend should have done (and eventually did do) was to have his character relying on other senses, since his visual sense was handicapped by situation.

It was a simple detail, but one that made all the difference in the eventual quality of the story. The writer, by stepping into an authentic perspective, made the experience visceral and real. Now he was SHOWING and not TELLING. With the right use of description, my friend successfully transported the reader under a table at a Chinese All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. Before we knew it, we were in the head of the protagonist, desperately trying to connect different voices and personalities to their shoes while searching for the nearest escape.

He greeted me the next week, beaming with pride for his reworked scene, bubbling with stories of him lying on his living room floor under a coffee table imagining what his protagonist would likely be able to see—method acting.

Example #2

PHYSIOLOGY PROBLEM

Another author and friend of mine brought a selection from his horror novel. In this scene, the protagonist (who starts out as a misguided petty thief) is with his buddies and they are robbing a convenience store right before a major hurricane hits. The Korean store owner pops out of nowhere, scaring the hell out of this motley group, and they take off toward the front door. Mere steps from freedom, the protagonist slips on rainwater that has spilled inside, and cracks his head on the counter, then floor. All good, but what followed was again a lengthy detailing of events that would be impossible for anyone in this situation to experience in this way.

Physiology would have taken over. That blow. The pain would have taken center stage. Voices would have become indistinct, and thus the sentences should have been shortened to a word or two to give the impression of someone who has been knocked senseless. Perspective would have changed. He (the camera) is now on the floor looking up. This needed to be consistent.

I challenged the author to think back to any time he’d been whacked in the head. Make a list of all things he remembered (or didn’t remember) of the experience. Stars in the peripheral vision. Blackness. Blurriness. Sounds. Were they dull or sharp? Pain. Sharp? Throbbing? Funny smells? What was the first thing he noticed when his head cleared? Voices? Faces? I advised him to then take that list and overlay it with the scene he wished to create.

Example #3

MULTIPLE PROBLEMS

One of the writers on Twitter bravely posted her prologue for public view. Being the nosy editor I am, I just HAD to take a look. This is supposed to be the beginning of a thriller—a young woman running from someone chasing her through a swamp. In this selection, I noted several oopses.

TIME.

There is the weirdest time shift I have ever seen. It goes from being evening at sunset to pitch black in a matter of three sentences. There is no steady progression of losing the light and the desperation that would ensue from that (a missed opportunity to create growing tension).

CONSISTENCY.

The author describes it as pitch black, as in can’t see your hand in front of your face black…but then describes the crescent moon. Any moon (even a crescent moon) would offer some light and negate the pitch black—the author really should have chosen one for consistency. It is supposedly pitch dark yet the protagonist sees/describes quite a few objects and critters that she would need light to see. Which is it? Dim light or no light?

PHYSIOLOGY.

This character fears for her life. Yet, a handful of paragraphs down in this prologue, there is a very lovely description of a sunset. Big problem. How many people running for their lives through an unknown swamp filled with snakes and alligators take time to notice the “pastel sky?” When humans are under stress, the brain takes blood from the cortical brain and diverts it to the mammalian and limbic brain (and the large muscle groups). That is part of the adrenalin response. Fight or flight. Out of self-preservation, the body shuts down higher thinking capabilities while kicking primitive senses into hyper-drive. Thus, if one truly steps into the shoes of this character running for her life, it would be physiologically impossible for her to make such flowery observations. Reptilian brain cannot process information beyond the level of the five senses (and possibly a sixth).

PACING.

The greater problem (and this is a style issue) is that this writer actually did a great job of creating tension. Yet, three sentences of poetic description of a sunset RUIN all that effort by pulling the reader out of the conflict.

Remember. Our goal as the author is to transport the reader into the head of our characters. Method acting is a way that we can create a genuine experience. There was nothing, per se, wrong with this writer’s prologue, but she missed great opportunities to create spine-tingling tension. When we step in the head of a character that has time to notice stars and sunsets and butterflies, we are subconsciously cued to not get too stressed.

Example #4

CHARACTER PROBLEM

Perspective is our greatest tool for creating great characters. We have to feel what they feel, notice what they notice so we can craft the world in which they live. This morning I edited a piece that had me banging my head on my keyboard. This author has a fantastic story, but his failure to truly empathize with his characters is KILLING—no, SLAUGHTERING—a great plot.

His female protagonist has just, hours before, witnessed her mother’s murder at the hands of Yankee renegades. Yet, nothing in her actions tells the story of a woman whose life has just collapsed before her eyes. She has romantic feelings for another male character. She is calm. She never gives the situation another thought. It is as if it is just another day of milking cows and saddling horses while making goo-goo eyes at the boy from town. Not only does this make her utterly unlikeable, but the reader doesn’t care about her losses…because SHE doesn’t care about her losses.

This writer, I know, is just excited to get the story rolling, but he is doing so at great expense to his characters. As authors, we have to think like actors (or profilers). We need to get into the heads of our characters and display the emotions properly. If someone is grieving, then we need to see that character going through the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Death and Dying—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The event also must fit the character’s psychological profile. Is this character the kind who would stay in denial for years? Is she one to be angry? Would she get through all five stages quickly, or get stuck in depression? The writer needs to understand who this character is in order to slip into the correct head and craft the scene accordingly.

And this applies to the entire spectrum of emotion. Who is your character? I have heard people squeal and scream on the radio because they won free movie rentals from Blockbuster. Other people win ten million in the lottery and barely crack a smile. These are questions that have to be answered in order to craft believable characters and riveting scenes.

Warrior Writer relies heavily on learning from the experts, on drawing from unconventional sources of wisdom. It is a holistic approach that calls on the writer to dig deep inside to the true emotions, into the dark scary places where we are weakest and most vulnerable. Actors, in many ways, do the same. In fact, we could consider them to be the founders of our craft. Actors were the keepers of legends long before the authors. Actors kept stories alive on the stage and passed them on to audiences who would not be literate for centuries. We can learn a lot from their insight into the human condition.

Until next time…