Monday, August 22, 2016

What I Learned in Acting Class by Chris Delyani, author of You Are Here

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Inside the Book:
You Are Here
Title: You Are Here 
Author: Chris Delyani 
Publisher: iUniverse 
Genre: Romance 
Format: Ebook/Paperback

All Peter Bankston ever wanted to do was paint.

An aspiring painter, Peter scratches out a pauper’s living in San Francisco, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Instead, he finds himself getting involved with not one but two very different men.

Like Peter, getting involved with another man is the last thing on Nick Katsaris’s mind. Smart, handsome, and good-humored, Nick’s done more than just survive—he’s positively thriving in San Francisco. But when he meets Peter, what begins as fun and games quickly turns into a game he can’t control.

Miles Bettencourt’s days are filled with longing. For him, San Francisco is haunted by Stuart, his missing ex-lover. Desperate to win him back, Miles wanders the streets in the hope of running into Stuart again. Instead, he runs into Peter—the one man who might hold the key to what Miles is looking for.

These three gay men soon form one very unlikely love triangle. Sometimes, when people break apart and then come together, they learn that discovering that where you are is the key to knowing who you are.  

What I Learned in Acting Class

The best writing class I ever took was at the Berkeley Rep School of Theater in Berkeley, California. The class I took wasn’t for screenwriting. It was for acting. Beginner’s acting. I’d never acted in my life. And in all my years of going to school, I’d never been so nervous about taking a class in my life.

I signed up for the acting class as a present to myself for my 45th birthday, a couple of years after I’d finished work on my novel You Are Here and had begun work on my latest work, Best Man. I’d always wanted to take an acting class, and I had a vague notion that acting classes would help me with writing scenes in my novels. What I didn’t expect was how thrilling—and terrifying—the experience would be.

I’d grown used to having a private experience as a writer. Of course “the reader” was never far from my mind when I sat down to write before work in the morning. But in acting class, “the reader” had become “the viewer,” and “the viewer” was the teacher, my classmates, several pairs of eyes trained on me in the harsh white lights of the acting space. One of our first exercises was to choose a partner and stare into the partner’s eyes. Thirty seconds of staring and I my heart was pounding as if it would burst. That first class was the longest of my life.

“Play to win,” our teacher had taught us in that first class. That is, when actors are playing roles, they are usually taking a position when they are competing with each other to get what they want. Scene work, we learned, is little more than figuring out what the character you are playing wants, what is standing in the way of what he wants, and what tactics he uses to “win” the scene. As simple as that.

I took that lesson and started applying it to my own scenes, with me, as the writer, playing all the roles. I quickly learned that writing scenes were much more fun when the competition was evenly balanced—in other words, not to let one character “win” too easily against his adversary. I also figured out that scenes in which characters weren’t competing with each other, that there was no conflicting “want” between the two of them, weren’t worth the bother to write.

So if you’re wondering what kind of writing class is right for you, maybe try an acting class instead. If your experience is anything like mine was, you’ll never write a scene the same way again.


Meet the Author:

In 1993, Chris Delyani moved to San Francisco from his native Boston to devote his life to writing fiction—and he’s been at it ever since. His first novel, The Love Thing, was published in 2009. He lives in Oakland, California.