Acting and Writing: More Compatible than Many May Believe 

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Every time I mention that I’m in college to someone I ever just met, they inevitably ask the most common follow-up question: “What’s your major?” 

This question requires me to explain: “I’m a double emphasis, studying acting and screenwriting.” 

It doesn’t normally draw a vocal comment other than the generic ones that everyone receives: “That’s cool.” “Sounds fun.” “Interesting.” Or perhaps yet another follow-up question: “How’s that going?” “Do you like it?” “How busy does it keep you?” 

However, despite the lack of interested responses, most people would not pair acting and writing in one person. On the one hand, the stereotypical actors: outgoing, extroverted, goofy. On the other, the stereotypical writers: withdrawn, introverted, serious. Those two trait sets do not easily mix; they are, after all, exact opposites. Because of these stereotypes, one wouldn’t think, “You know what would be great? An actor-writer!” 

Said statement isn’t wrong, however. 

If there is one thing that both acting and writing have in common, it’s their search for the truth. Ask any (good) acting teacher and they’ll tell you that acting is about the truth of the moment. Stanislavski and his method are really all about that. Ask any (good) writing teacher and they’ll tell you similarly, that writing is about the truth of the characters’ actions, feelings, reactions. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he’ll tell you exactly that. 

As an actor-writer myself, I can attest to the compatibility of these two fields. Both require a deep understanding of human nature in order to convey the truth to an audience. One simply does it visually, the other verbally. Combining the two leads to a greater understanding. Acting allows a writer insight into the inner workings of humanity. Writing allows an actor insight into the complexity of relationships and actions. Together, the actor-writer has a deeper, fuller, more well-rounded understanding of human nature. 

Not all actors are outgoing, extroverted, goofy, just as not all writers are withdrawn, introverted, serious. Not all people fall into one category other than “human.” Not all people in one group fall into one category other than the grouping itself: “soccer team,” “class,” “family.” Each of us is more complex than the most intricate machine, no matter how many gears, gags, and whirligigs make it what it is. 

That’s part of what makes humanity so interesting. We are all complex. We are all interesting. We are all unique. Some people can act. Good on them. Some people can write. Good on them. Some can do math or science or engineering. Good on them. We all have different talents, skills, capabilities. We have to learn to appreciate the ones we have, accept the ones we don’t have, and work together with the ones whose strengths complete our weaknesses. 

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My Apologies

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Wow! It’s been so long since I’ve posted! I’m so sorry. To myself more than anyone. This was supposed to be a way to get me writing every single day, and I’ve missed quite a few. I’ve been super busy (and tired!) the past few days, so forgive the absence of a daily post. I’ll try to get back into the swing of things, starting with doing my writing earlier in the day than I’m used to. I typically wait until it’s late at night and I just don’t have the energy. I promise I’ll do better, starting today. 

I will most definitely have a story up sometime today, I guarantee you! Be on the lookout for something fantastic! I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve that I’ve been working on… 

Validation

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Every writer needs validation from time to time. Hell, every human being needs validation from time to time. It’s part of what let’s us know that we are talented and appreciated, especially in times of doubt or worry when we feel particularly vulnerable to the ways of the world around us. Ways we know will tear us down if we let our guard down for too long, even by just a fraction. 

Sometimes the smallest thing can turn a person’s world upside down, like hearing their characters are relatable or like hearing that people want to continue to read what they’ve written. It sends a burst of joy dancing through my veins, racing through my body from head to toe, starting a party in my mind as I think about what such simple feedback may mean for me. 

It gives me hope and encourages me. It tells me that I am actually not completely terrible at what I do. It helps me to see that I’m not a hopeless case after all. All this from a simple phrase or two. A single “Good job!” can life the weight off a nervous worrier’s shoulders. A simple “I want more!” can change their lives. Or at the very least their perspectives, their courage, their confidence. 

Sometimes, a little encouragement is the best treatment for a case of the doubts, the best medication. So find your resident writer friend and give them a little meaningful feedback. They’ll appreciate it for sure. 

…but please let it be meaningful. 

The Benefits of Roleplay

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For the past two and a half ueats, I have found myself regularly involved in at least one game of Dungeons and Dragons, as I believe I may have mentioned. Tonight, I found myself involved in another roleplay game, which was equally (if not slightly more) enjoyable. It always helps to surround yourself with good friends when role-playing, people you’re comfortable with, but over the years, I have realized how beneficial these types of games can be for actor’s and writers and storytellers of all varieties. 

First, the characters. In roleplay, you must learn to ad lib and adapt. To what your character is like. To what the other characters are like. To what is being said or done or kept secret. This is very important for storytellers to note: the different ways characters react to the situations in their lives, what makes them human, what makes them tick, how they I tract with the others around them. It’s very eye-opening. 

Secondly, the plot. With roleplay games, often times parts of the plot fall on the shoulders of the players to decide. You decide how you react and what your action is, which in turn affects the rest of the story as it unfolds. It’s important to keep an eye on these things, what builds the story, what pieces come together to create this world and this particular story within that world. Having an understanding of what plot points make sense and work best for the story will allow you to unfold the best possible version of your story. 

Thirdly, the experimentation. In roleplay, you get to experiment with different characters to figure out what makes them tick and what separates them from the crowd. Maybe they always wear a blue shirt because in third grade, they won a race while wearing a blue shirt so blue became their lucky color. Or maybe they treat men coldly because their father treated them horribly. Maybe they went off the rails because they witnessed a friend’s death. Or maybe they try to keep optimistic for the sake of others because they don’t believe themselves worthy of the good news. Roleplay opens up a whole new world in which you can let yourself go and experiment with whatever you want. 

As an actor, it’s also beneficial (particularly when done in person) because you assume a character. You aren’t playing yourself, you’re playing someone else like with any role. It also helps with ad lib skull, which can be hard to build. Depending on the character, you may assume an accent, which would help you to practice an accent you don’t naturally have. Honestly, when you think about it, roleplay is pretty much the perfect game for any actor. You’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in imaginary situations and you have to react truthfully the way this character would. It’s the perfect exercise. 

Overall, I obviously enjoy these roleplay games otherwise I would have stopped playing them a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that I can glean something from them. Every day I play, I learn a little bit of something new. Isn’t that how life works best? 

March 24, 2017

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That Vicious Door 

The entire ten minutes it takes for her to walk to the school, her mind focuses on one thing, at the back of her mind: the moment she enters the door of the classroom. She may think about other things–the song she listens to, the story she is writing, the embarrassing run-in she had with the cashier at one of her favorite restaurants–but she knows that the thing which really jump-starts her day is the moment she sets foot in the classroom. Everything can change based on what happens when she swings that door open to reveal the classroom with all its seats and whoever may have already arrived. That decides how the rest of her day unfolds.

As she approaches the door, she starts to wonder. Who is in there? Have any of her friends arrived yet? Is the professor already in there? How much time does she have before class starts? Her mind wanders, hitting on all the questions she can think of which revolve around that one pivotal moment of her day.

She just barely hesitates. No one would notice; no one typically does. Her hand grasping the handle, she pulls the door open to reveal the room and her mind goes blank. Searching, searching, searching, her eyes land on the row of seats where she and her friends normally reside. Where a few of her friends already do reside. With a small breath and an even smaller nod, she steps foot into the classroom and claims one of the seats, hoping that a friend will take the seat beside her. Otherwise, she will become the outsider among her own people.

She sets her bag down at her feet, her hands resting in her lap as she waits for her friends to notice her and greet her. One of them does, turning in their seat. She lifts a hand in greeting and says, “Hey, guys,” her words directed at everyone else in the group, not only the one who greeted her first.

And she leaves it at that. No “How are you?” No “How’s your day been?” No “What have you been up to?” Just a simple “Hey, guys” and nothing else. They didn’t ask her first, so why should she ask them? She would just be intruding. If they wanted to speak further, they would have asked her first.

Right?

Or so she thinks. That’s how she’s always thought, always to her recollection. More often than not, it results in her being pushed aside in favor of someone else, because she doesn’t engage them, so why ought they to engage her? She has herself trapped in a vicious, vicious cycle, one that she can’t seem to find a way out of, and it’s killing her. She wants to reach out. She wants to connect with them. But she simply can’t bring herself to overcome her fear, to push herself outside of her comfort zone, and be the one to start the conversation.

Because if they don’t want to talk to her, she can’t be worth that much.

…can she?

***
Prompt: Describe how you walk in the door.

The Writerly Excuse

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Over the past couple years, I have gotten heavily involved in playing Dungeons and Dragons. Currently, I am part of three different groups, two of which play online. For obvious reasons, this involves writing, which, to some extent, makes playing the game easier for me. It gives me a little bit more time to think about what I want to do or say, rather than needing to come up with something almost instantaneously.

My written roleplay skills have obviously shone through.

Last night, in one of my two online games, we spent the entire session mourning a fallen companion and deciding how to bury him. With all the characters originating from different worlds, this became slightly problematic, because we had to find a way to combine the different funeral rites in order to please us all. It became especially difficult since we didn’t know how our fallen companion’s people handled deaths.

This gave me the opportunity to get more creative with things. While everyone else debated whether or not we should burn him or bury him, I found myself on Wikipedia looking up different forms of burial, in order to create something that would seem both realistic and unique. I didn’t want to be just another “burn him!” or “bury him!” voice. And so I created a new ritual for my character’s people and her world. The deceased’s loved ones would take tufts of his hair and weave it into necklaces that they wore as a reminder and as a (perhaps superstitious) form of protection. They would also offer a sacrifice to the gods of whatever it was that killed the deceased, whether that be the pack of wolves that mauled him, the disease that attacked his body, or simply old age that took him in his sleep.

These rituals of course went hand in hand with spoken words, as such things typically do. As I typed out my words and submitted it to the rest of the group to see, I received feedback. I had apparently made one of my fellow players cry. And before I could get to a response, our Dungeon Master, the man in charge of running the game, quickly typed out: She’s a writer.

Which, admittedly, was exactly the response that I had been meaning to give.

Funny how that works. When someone’s words touch or move or disturb someone, the first place we go is their profession. Often times, the person works in some field that requires the mincing of words, the stringing of words together to form just the right response. And that becomes our response, our excuse, to why their words had such an effect.

I call it “the writerly excuse.”

Introduction

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Hello!

My name is Annie Buchheit. I am many things, one of which is, as I affectionately call myself, a “writer in training.” Which is just my way of saying that I’m still learning my craft and honing in my abilities.

That being said, it is for such a purpose that I have started a blog such as this. The goal is for me to spend a short period of time every day writing, the results of which I will post here. Obviously, that means my stories will be rough and tumble and most will not be my best work.

But that isn’t the point.

This little exercise will give me practice and help me to find my personal voice as a writer. If I can bring some semblance of entertainment, then I have done my job well. Feel free to leave me comments and let me know your thoughts on my work.

Thanks and God bless!

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