Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday Review—Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins

A review by Lynn H. Blackburn

I’m going to tell y’all something that I don’t make a habit of sharing. I wouldn’t even tell you, except, well, you’re writers.

So, I’m hoping you’ll get this.


I stand in front of my mirror and act out my scenes.

Does anyone else do this? Anyone?

Here’s the thing . . . If you can’t fathom acting out your scenes, then you probably won’t love the advice from Brandilyn Collins in her book, Getting Into Character…Seven Secrets aNovelist Can Learn from Actors.

I’ll confess, she does not specifically recommend my method, but she does recommend talking to yourself, er, your characters. Out loud.

All you nonfiction writers . . . go ahead and grab a paper bag. I know you’re about to hyperventilate.

In Getting Into Character, Brandilyn Collins takes seven approaches “method” actors use to develop their characters and adapts those approaches for novelists. There are chapters delving into the following secrets:
  1. Personalizing
  2. Action Objectives
  3. Subtexting
  4. Coloring Passions
  5. Inner Rhythm
  6. Restraint and Control
  7. Emotion Memory

Each chapter begins with the method actor’s technique, followed by the novelist’s adaptation. After exploring each secret in detail, she concludes each chapter with study samples—text from books you’ve probably read that highlight each technique and her own breakdown of how the author incorporated the methods into each scene.

I’ve read a lot—A LOT—of books on writing. Most of the time, the material presented isn’t all that new to me. It may be presented in a fresh way or with a new approach that I find useful, but the basic information is similar.

Not so with Getting Into Character. This book was full of ideas that were new to me and I can’t wait to put them into action.

So, how about you? Ever acted out a scene? Talked to a character? Want to give it a shot?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She blogs about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Word Weavers, Greenville. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.


  1. Well I didn't go so far as grabbing a paper bag but I did catch myself holding my breath a minute. Have to admit. Now I' m curious. And just when I promise myself I won't read another writing book for awhile.

  2. Actually, I act out scenes too, and once cut my knuckles, smacking them on a glass table. I've done that and more. The funniest one was when I wanted to describe a grimace, so I stood in the bathroom, making faces in the mirror, and ... you guessed it. The hubs walked in. He still teases me over that one. Poor guy didn't realize what he was getting into when he married me. ;o)

  3. I definitely act out scenes! Especially when they're action scenes that can be complicated to describe. I usually confine myself to my room for those, though... :D

  4. I actually loosely tied my hands behind my back and tried to get them in front just to see if it could be done. It can. But not by me. :-) But no, I've never stood in front of a mirror to act out a scene.

  5. My wife hates it when I make her play the murder victim. What did she think "for worse" meant? Actually, I've never tried it. I have Brandilyn's book, but I am the world's laziest character developer (is it okay to admit that among my writing peers?). Every year I come up with an "improvement goal." In 2013 it was story structure. Now...I am the master (quiet Edie). Next year it will be character development. However, I may be in need of victims. Any volunteers?