Utilizing The Meisner Technique in Crafting the College Dialogues

When I was faced with the decision as to how to spend my summer in 2010 after my freshman year at Boston College, I decided I wanted to do something a little different. As I say in Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues, those four years are best spent outside one’s comfort zone. On the recommendation of a friend, I enrolled at the Ted Bardy Acting Studio in New York City.sanford2

The Ted Bardy Acting Studio is world renowned for its curriculum, The Meisner Technique, named for its architect, Sanford Meisner, who was part of the legendary Group Theatre back in the 1930s, which also included Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Repetition, a core pillar of The Meisner Technique, ended up drastically transforming the way I approached writing.

It’s a bizarre and practically unexplainable concept, so here is a video of repetition in action with Sanford Meisner himself, courtesy of Contemporary Arts Media:

Repetition is simple in nature and yet painfully difficult at the same time. It requires the participants to be fully active in the exercise, but not in a way that artificially steers the course of the “conversation.” Laughter is common and perhaps crucial to understand the concept.

One bit of advice offered by Ted Bardy and fellow teacher Glen Vincent in practically every class was to avoid using “tit for tat,” in repetition. I found this bit of advice to be crucial in writing my dialogue. People and characters need to respond to what’s been said to them. They don’t need to spit it back in the other person’s face.

That’s the inherent difficulty in writing fictional conversation. Unlike practicing repetition, scripted dialogue is created with specific purpose. The dialogues in FCD and FMCD are thematic in nature as the characters are there to discuss a specific topic. The flow of conversation needs to serve the purpose of the dialogue, but it needs to be real. When characters speak to each other, they need to process what’s been said.

Writing and acting are obviously very different, but they share one important similarity. Both mediums set out to make the inorganic real. When an actor is performing, it is their job to extract genuine emotion out of a scripted scenario. When I set out to write a dialogue, I need to take my characters on a purpose driven journey that resonates with the readers.

FCD & FMCD are unusual books because they’re all dialogue. I found that what I’d learned from Meisner Technique played perfectly into Socratic Method as I could implement repetition in my efforts to create authentic contemporary Socratic Dialogue. The characters constantly question each other but they aren’t merely working to advance the subject matter. Repetition helped me to avoid something that came across as stale and inorganic, even if you may not commonly find students walking around casually conversing in Socratic Dialogue.

Which is why I recommend that all artists dabble in forms outside of their comfort zones. I haven’t done many auditions since my time at the Ted Bardy Acting Studio. If that doesn’t change, I’ll still be forever grateful for the lessons I learned. Creating emotion requires immersion. To achieve immersion, you need depth and that’s only possible if you push your limits. I’m of the belief that creating art must at least be a little scary. Whether or not I was successful with that is up to you, the reader.

The ebook versions of Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues are still just .99 cents for a few more days. Pick up your copy today!

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Author Don’ts: The Author Photo Selfie

These days, anyone can be an author. You can type gibberish into a document and upload it to Amazon and voila, you’re an author. Which isn’t to belittle those of us who actually put effort into our work, but rather to provide an accurate view of the playing field. Some authors put no effort into their bios/product descriptions, leaving blatant typos/errors for all potential customers to see.12118933_10153258251404091_1352673674225516874_n

The first step toward building a fanbase is to look professional. You’re someone who has set out to convince people to pay money to read your work. It’s important to show that you take pride in that opportunity.

Making an Amazon author profile is important, but also incredibly easy. The whole process can take five minutes if you want it to. The question is, should you want it to?

No.

Of course not. It’s easy to spot the lazy ones. So don’t be one of them.

So where does the selfie come in?

People like selfies. The selfie stick will likely grow to be a billion dollar industry. Chances are, your phone or computers has some selfies on it. When you’re making an author profile, which requires a picture, it can be awfully tempting to put a selfie up there.

And really, why not?

The answer is simple. Professionalism. You know, the thing that shows you’re serious about providing a quality product that people should pay hard earned money for.

Many authors work on shoestring budgets and simply don’t have the money to hire a photographer for headshots. You don’t need to hire a professional to look professional. All you need is an Instagram filter and another human being.

I mean that. If taking an author photo was harder than asking someone to take your picture, I wouldn’t write this article. I get that it’s harder to ask someone for something than doing it yourself, but is that really an excuse?

Am I overthinking this? You may think so. You might have a selfie as your author photo. But consider this.

Would you have a selfie as your LinkedIn picture? If the answer is yes, then fine. Leave the selfie.

Your author picture isn’t really for you. It’s of you. It’s for your readers. In many ways, it’s the first connection you make with your audience. Regardless of what you choose to do, be aware of that.