You may have heard that acting and writing have some things in common. They’re both creative. They both require imagination. And both are hard to make a living doing. In this post, working actress and writer Joelene Wolfe shares how you can do both better.
What attracted you to pursue acting?
Since I was three years old I wanted to be two things: a kangaroo and an actor. It was so long ago I don’t really remember why I wanted to be either. I’m assuming the hopping and built-in pouch seemed pretty cool. Unfortunately, the marsupial thing didn’t work out. But as far as acting goes, I do remember loving to perform for my family. I would dress up and recite TV commercials and songs or just act silly. I was a character – naturally.
What was the hardest role you ever played?
I recently played the wife of a violent husband who wound up being a murderer in Six Degrees of Murder on the Investigation Discovery Network. It was difficult because not only was my best friend murdered but my husband did it. So, there was a lot of emotion involved.
I was a character - naturally.- Joelene Wolfe Click To Tweet
How does playing a role help a writer create better characters?
That’s a great question. I actually know writers, directors, and casting directors who have taken acting classes for that exact reason. In addition to being an actor, I am also a writer. I recently wrote a pilot and co-wrote a short film. They both were great experiences because I realized the learning actually goes both ways:
1) In writing the scripts, being an actor helped me better understand how to build out a character. I was very sensitive to what the character would think and how they would react. I saw it through their eyes. Writers have to not only build a great story line but also factor in a character’s intentions and feelings.
2) In acting out scripts, I am more sensitive and truly respect the writer’s choices.
So I do think playing a role or taking a basic acting class can help writers see things from a more grounded perspective.
What questions should a writer ask to get into a character’s head?
One basic but vital question is what was your character doing the moment before? Directly before the event you are writing about, what exactly was your character doing? That might seem odd to a writer – but to an actor, it is a very basic element that shapes why they do what they do.
There are an infinite number of things that could have happened but each one would significantly change what happens next and how the character responds.
What body language techniques can a writer use to build the confidence to take risks?
I don’t have a body language technique in mind per se, but I would recommend taking an acting or improv class. Many non-actors take classes to get out of their comfort zone. This is the best antidote for a lack of confidence.
How can a writer use conflict and cliffhangers to keep readers hooked?
A fun way to keep a reader hooked is to develop a story where the reader knows something that the main character does not. The reader feels a sense of knowing. It can feel like a dirty little secret with a sense of relief once the character finds out.
Many non-actors take classes to get out of their comfort zone. Click To Tweet
How can acting techniques help a writer understand his target reader?
The most useful technique overall for me is the art of listening. This is a cornerstone of the Meisner Acting method. Put simply, it removes any anticipation of what another actor will say or do until they do it. Then the reaction is pure and natural. It seems so simple but when practiced it makes a world of difference.
The same can be said for a writer and his target reader – listen to them. Get their feedback and engage with them. When all else fails, just ask.
As a producer, what advice can you give writers about how to plan a blog post, a story, or a book?
By nature, I am a dreamer. I am not only a day dreamer but I have always had many dreams every night. Some of my craziest and best ideas come to me in my dreams, in the shower, or completely out of thin air. If I don’t write it down, I will forget it. So, no matter how crazy the idea or dream may be, I write it down for future inspiration. I typically keep notes in my phone and when I am looking for ideas, I look at my list. So my advice is to capture your ideas because these may make amazing stories.
The other advice is to make a content calendar and stick to it. Populate it with what you want to accomplish; 1 weekly blog post, 1 chapter, an outline – whatever. One of my favorite quotes is “A goal without a plan is just a wish” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
What makes a performance entertaining? How can writers use that to add spice to their work?
This is a very subjective question and will be different for everyone you ask. For me, things are entertaining when:
- I can relate to the characters and their situations.
- I can live vicariously through the characters because they have something I lack or want.
- They make me feel a major shift in emotion – laugh, cry, pride. etc.
- The story is so captivating that I get so sucked in, I lose all track of time and reality.
By nature, I am a dreamer. Click To Tweet
What are you working on now?
I just wrapped a TV show for the ID Network where I played a murder victim’s daughter. I am working on a couple ongoing web series. Our short film, Mama Drama, is in the editing phase and I am always auditioning. In addition to acting, I am also the founder of Happiness Depends. It is a site dedicated to helping others pursue their happiness one step at a time.
Joelene is a mom, wife, marketer, and the creator of Happiness Depends. After many years of following someone else’s dream, she took the big leap to finally follow her dream of acting. And now she is helping others take the 1st step toward their happiness at HappinessDepends.com. You can also check out her acting reel and site at JoeleneWolfe.com.
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