3 Acting Techniques to Create Novels from the Heart by Joe Cosentino
Author Joe Cosentino joins us today to discuss three acting techniques (emotional recall, sense memory, and improvisation) to write novels of the heart.
Readers often say my stories make them laugh, cry, feel romantic, and even sometimes break their hearts. I also often hear that my descriptions of exotic locations make the reader feel as if having gone on a trip (saving a great deal of money on airfare and hotels), and that my descriptions of savory foods make people salivate by just reading them. How do I accomplish this? Here’s my secret.
When I was a college theatre major, I learned an acting technique called emotional recall. The actor closes their eyes (without falling asleep), takes some deep breaths, and remembers back to an especially emotional time in their past. When the emotional memory is especially strong, the actor opens their eyes and uses that emotion to play a current scene. I employed that acting technique numerous times as an actor in film, television, and theatre working opposite stars like Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Jason Robards, Charles Keating, and Holland Taylor. You can check out my role as a young punk (I was actually a straight A student) in the second half of an ABC-TV movie, My Mother Was Never a Kid, that someone posted on YouTube. In the scene, I (as the character Ted Davis) am taking two girls out for a joyride in my hotrod. While filming, I remembered back to a seaside vacation with my family when I felt giddy and carefree, and then I used that emotion in the scene. Since the girls in the movie went out with me for the sole reason of stealing the science test (Ted’s mother was the science teacher), I recalled a time in college when I felt used by others for their own personal gain. Again, I incorporated that emotion into the scene. When I played Carl Hutchins’ snitch on ABC-TV’s Another World, I recalled snitching on my sister to my parents. That emotional memory led me to play the character with youthful exuberance and slyness.
Another acting technique is called sense memory. The actor closes their eyes and remembers an especially pungent smell, mouthwatering taste, sharp sound, stunning vision, and memorable touch. Then the actor uses those sense memories in their acting. For example, when I acted in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my lines included comments about the starry sky, sweet-smelling flowers, and someone’s soft touch. Since I was performing inside a musty theatre on a stage full of plastic flowers, I used the emotional memory of visiting a beautiful park to make the experience real for me and for the audience.
A third acting technique is improvisation, where there is no script, and the actors make up the lines as they go along. The major rule for improvisation is to never say no. Instead, the actor builds on the story cues given from the other actor. For example, if an actor says, “I’ve had a secret crush on you for years.” The other actor shouldn’t reply, “No you haven’t.” A better answer might be, “I’ve known your secret since day one. And guess what? I’ve always had a crush on you too.” The first actor might respond, “Ah, but we were kids then.” A good reply for actor two might be, “But we’re not kids now. What do you want to do about it?” I used this technique when acting in an experimental Off-Off Broadway play. Doing improvisation, I became adept at thinking on my feet, responding quickly, and creating some amazing characters and stories. As my mother says, “You could always make up a good story.”
One day while between acting jobs, or between many acting jobs (smile), I realized I could use the same technique to write plays and later novels. So, in my first novella, I remembered back to an all-encompassing high school crush. I also recalled the emotions of seeing the object of my unrequited affections at our high school ten-year reunion. (Oddly enough, all the troublemakers in high school had become police officers or politicians.) I then used sense memory to relive the sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells at that event. Suddenly, an idea took shape before my eyes. Characters were born. A plot and theme emerged. Remembering back to my improvisation training as an actor, I began to hear the characters’ voices in my head saying witty, touching, tantalizing, and captivating dialogue. I raced to my computer and my first novella was born. When I had poured my heart and soul into my story (and done some editing), I emailed it to a publisher. Then I did the happy dance when it was accepted for publication. I still receive messages from readers noting how that novella changed their lives forever.
After that, I went on to write many more novellas, novels, and series using the same three acting techniques. I challenge you to do the same. As the Bard once wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” So why not put the stage to the page?
The First Noel - Bobby and Paolo’s Holiday Stories Book 3 (a short e-book novella)
Buy Now - $3.99
Each Christmas has marked a milestone in Bobby and Paolo’s love story. But will this year be their last noel?
It’s no surprise Bobby isn’t feeling much holiday spirit—not when he suspects his husband, Paolo, might be interested in his new business associate, the incredibly handsome Noel. On top of that, Bobby’s father is hanging up his Santa suit at the department store due to health issues; and worst of all, Geoffrey’s birth mother, funded by antigay extremists, is threatening their family. She’s trying to take away Bobby and Paolo’s adopted son, but she’ll have to face their supportive friends, family, and pastor before she can tear Geoffrey from the only real home he’s ever known.
With so many challenges in their path, the December grooms will need an extra helping of holiday magic this year. Rumor has it Santa’s on his way to spread some holiday cheer.
The Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories (paperback anthology)
published by Dreamspinner Press
Buy Now - $14.99
Includes: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, and The First Noel
The holidays are a magical time for everyone, but they hold special meaning for young lawyer Bobby McGrath and fashion designer Paolo Mascobello. Their whirlwind romance begins one December on the Isle of Capri, where they meet and fall in love, and each holiday season adds a new building block to their life together. Celebrate with Bobby, Paolo, and their colorful friends and family as they marry and start a family. Happily ever after doesn’t always come easy, but with love and the spirit of the season, miracles can happen and Christmas wishes can come true.
Joe Cosentino has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, Charles Keating, and Jason Robards. As a bestselling author, Joe was voted 1st Place Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author, and 2nd Place Favorite LGBT Romance Author by the readers of Divine Magazine. He has also won many Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions. For Dreamspinner Press, Joe wrote the heralded In My Heart series: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star; the popular Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, and The First Noel; and the raucous The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland. That was followed by Holiday Tales from Fairyland, Tales from Fairyland Book 2. His famous Nicky and Noah mystery series includes Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, and Drama Fraternity. The scorching Cozzi Cove series (NineStar Press) are Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, which were followed by Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings. Finally, Joe’s mainstream Jana Lane mysteries (The Wild Rose Press) are Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, and Rag Doll. Releasing next year are more Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, and Drama Runway. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and he is happily married. He loves to hear from readers at:
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com