A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl

The Theatrics of Writing

October 20, 2020 Megan O'Russell Season 1 Episode 48
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
The Theatrics of Writing
Chapters
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
The Theatrics of Writing
Oct 20, 2020 Season 1 Episode 48
Megan O'Russell

Storytelling―one of the most rewarding ways to communicate and a great way to describe acting and being an author. 

The similarities between theatre and writing a book extend deeper than the act of communicating through stories, and understanding those connections can help an author craft a stronger narrative and a lusher world for readers to explore.

Show Notes Transcript

Storytelling―one of the most rewarding ways to communicate and a great way to describe acting and being an author. 

The similarities between theatre and writing a book extend deeper than the act of communicating through stories, and understanding those connections can help an author craft a stronger narrative and a lusher world for readers to explore.

Megan: [00:00:01] I get to choose who lives, who dies, what they say on their way to death. Do I want to make my audience cry or do I want to be kind to them for once? And that's so liberating.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 48 of A Book and a Dream. Before we dive into today's episode, I did want to make a quick note of the fact that we will now be posting these episodes on Tuesday for the foreseeable future. I am about to dive back into the theater world with a Christmas production and it's a crazy schedule. So to avoid last-minute stress before my day off of Monday, because that's how theaters roll, I'm going to be posting on Tuesday.

 

Megan: [00:00:58] There are some weird similarities between acting and authoring. Most of them come from the fact that they are both storytelling professions. Your goal is to give your audience/readers a story experience that...it could transform them, it could teach them something. It could just bring them some joy. You know, whatever your vibe is with the storytelling, sometimes we do hairspray, sometimes we do Les Mis. You know, it's all there in the spectrum. But they are both storytelling arts. And they have a lot more similarities that go deeper if you're familiar enough with theater to understand.

 

Megan: [00:01:38] So, when you're doing a production, theoretically, you're not doing a One-Man show that you're like, running the lights yourself and doing the sound yourself on stage. I'm sure someone's tried it. They probably went crazy. But if you're doing a standard production, there are a lot of people working on that production with you. So, you have your casting director, your producer, your stage manager, your lighting designer, your set designer, your costume designer, your wig designer, your dressers, your wardrobe people, your builders, your...it goes on and on and on. I missed a lot. You know, theater is actually a really big business. We should all appreciate how many people it takes to put on a show. But anyway, when you're writing, all of those things get funneled into just the author.

 

Megan: [00:02:22] And I didn't really think about how applicable it is until I heard a story from someone that I was actually doing an interview because I'm going to be on their podcast. And they told me that they know one author who loves writing dialogue, but they have to go back and write in the rest of the scene: the descriptions of the people, the places, what they're touching, how they're moving.

 

Megan: [00:02:44] And I thought to myself, well, that's just set design and directing, like, that's just another part of it.

 

Megan: [00:02:52] Why would you...why would you not like that more than the dialogue, because to me, they all fit together so well, because when you are an author, you are the set designer, you are the casting director, you are the producer. So when you're setting a scene in a book, you're really designing the set. So you're choosing your color palette, you're choosing are you using sliders? Is it a turntable theater? Are you going to have roll drops or is it going to be minimalistic? And you have to make some palette choices right away.

 

Megan: [00:03:23] So let's say that you're doing a show where almost everything is gray or dark, muted colors, and it has like this angsty vibe. But then all of a sudden there's something important. And so you see it and it's in red. So when you're writing a book, you choose what you're going to describe in every scene, like is this book really into colors? You're always going to know what colors they're surrounded by. Or maybe it's the smells. Maybe your, your primary character is very into how things smell or they're very wary. So is it any sound sets them off? And so if you're used to giving them all of those things in every scene, then when they notice something out of the ordinary or when that description that's always been subtle about like there's a hum in the air, there's this in the air. Oh, I hear murmurs. Oh, I hear. And then all of a sudden you hear a bang and it's like, oh, they've been waiting for that moment that this character was afraid is going to arrive has come so you can set it up because you are designing the scene in which they live and you design their costumes to when you decide, you know, is this a world where women are still restricted by corsets? Are girls allowed to have pockets? Those things make a big difference.

 

Megan: [00:04:33] And you have to put them in because you're the costume designer, you're also the casting director. You have to decide who's your protagonist, what are their strengths, who do you want to pick from all the people in your head to fill this role in your book? Who's the comedic relief? Who's the love interest? You put all those things down, and then you also get to be the playwright because you have to actually write the thing. And then you're the actors, too, because you have to put all the emotion into it.

 

Megan: [00:04:59] So, it's a lot. It's a lot. You are creating a full production in your head, but all of those artistic elements, even lighting design, kind of go in there to like, is it a dark, gritty feel? Are shadows always there? What do you want them to see? Is it bright light? Is it always, like, harsh, or is it nice and sunshiny and happy? You put all of those things in when you're writing a book.

 

Megan: [00:05:25] Now, if you're an Indie author, it goes even further, because you become the box office, you're handling the transactions, you become the publicity person, you are HR and payroll and everything else. Really the only things that you're outsourcing are like graphic design, because cover art is important, man. Covers sell books. It is so true. Shout out to Sleepy Fox Designs, because I'd be pretty darn screwed without 'em.

 

Megan: [00:05:55] But all of those jobs funnel into one person. And that's what I love so much about being an actor and an author is that I get to do this storytelling, and I love being an author because I do get to make all the decisions myself. I get to set the scene, I get to choose who lives, who dies, what they say on their way to death. Do I want to make my audience cry or do I want to be kind to them for once? And that's so liberating.

 

Megan: [00:06:24] But I love being on stage because I don't have to make all the decisions. I'm not responsible if there's an extra couch in the scene for...I don't know how they got there, but please, someone make it leave. It's not my fault if that happens on stage. OK, so it could be my fault, but theoretically that wouldn't be my fault. That would be like somebody else's fault. And that's great, too, because it's it's very freeing to be able to be on stage and just do one job. You show up, you do what the director told you to do, and you go home. It's great. It's fantastic. You never get to do that as an author because you're alone. You're alone with words.

 

Megan: [00:07:07] And hopefully they come out to a book, and hopefully people read it. But during the whole writing thing, yeah. It's just you. I'm lucky. I have a very indulgent husband who I make read everything. I'm working on a new project. I made him read the first thousand words. Help me decide if I wanted to write it in third person or first person. Check out last week's video/episode.

 

Megan: [00:07:34] But a lot of it's alone.

 

Megan: [00:07:37] So when you go to the theater next time when theaters are open or when you watch a video of theater or whatever it may be, appreciate how many people go into making that story make it to stage. It's so many people and like don't just read the program with the actors, like actually check all the little bylines and then imagine, like the box office people and all those people that you add to it, and appreciate how much work goes into creating that art and putting that art in front of an audience. And next time you pick up a book, realize that one person sat down and put all of that together. They are two beautiful mediums that both tell stories in such a similar way, but with such a different process.

 

Megan: [00:08:26] So appreciate them both. And don't forget to give a little extra love to the theater folks in your life, because it is an enormously difficult time for our industry. And don't forget to give love to the authors in your life, because in this time of isolation, they are alone with the characters in their heads even more than usual. So, you know, make sure they've had some water, slept, you know, basically treat them like a small child or a houseplant.

 

Megan: [00:08:58] That'll work. Until next time, you all stay safe. Bye-bye.