Writers are just Actors Playing all the Roles

I come from a theater background – sort of.

One of my distant relatives was a super famous comedian for his time. An uncle was an Oscar-winning art director. When I was little his wife stared at me running around the living room buck naked singing and twirling and showing off and said, “That girl is going into theater.”

This was before I turned shy. And because I turned SO SHY, it became a family story about how wrong that aunt was.

Aunts are not always right? Who knew?

Still, I spent a lot of my time singing and dancing and acting (badly) when I was growing up and then in college I spent a lot of my time directing and acting (badly) while I was getting my political science degree.

I’ve always talked about how using the basics of improv helps writers get over things like writer’s block, etc., and at Vermont College, I focused my graduation presentation on using those tools to help kids write. 

Authors and Acting and Improv

Lately though, I’ve been thinking more about how authors are really using all the roles of theater when they create novels. We have to be actors because we have to live inside the characters and make them three-dimensional representations of people. We have to be directors because we put the story together and tell the characters where to go, and determine the viewpoint that we’re seeing the character. We have to be set designers as we create setting. We’re stage crew bringing props in and out. We’re producers because we’re putting the whole production together. We’re writers because… Well, we’re writing. 

But right now, I just want to focus on how authors are really actors playing every single role in the story. That’s a lot of effort, honestly. 

Method Authors 

Method acting is when you immerse yourself in the role; you become someone other than yourself. Do writers do this? Sometimes, but not often. Usually we spend a lot of time researching things our characters like but not becoming the characters and/or pretending to be them. I wonder why.

Living In Another World

Actors live in the world of the moment, of the world that they are acting in. Novelists need to do this too. We have to immerse ourselves in the world that we’ve created, to envision the details, see the events, feel the feels. The best novels use concrete details to show character and place. To find concrete details, we have to see concrete details. We have to build worlds piece by piece and symbol by symbol until they are believable. 

Back Story 

When I was training in theater with Paul Kuritz and Pope,L, and Marty Andrecki, they all focused on the back story of the roles we played.

To understand the character in the moment, we had to understand the moments that came before, what brought our character to this place to react this specific way in the play.

And we didn’t need to know just the history of the character, but the history of the world and the cultural implications that influenced that character. Authors sometimes do this, too, but I think some of us could do it more. 

Study Real People 

To understand nuance and tics and behavior, actors often study real people and model a character on that person, or at least model a behavior of a character on that person. Writers often do that, too. 

Acting and writing require empathy. You have to move outside yourself and envision how someone else will react, feel, think, instigate. That’s important when trying to create a world of civility and positive change. 

Random Exercise That’s Supposed To Be Helpful

A lot of the time at school visits, I talk about the weirdest places I’ve gotten ideas and how some of those ideas are so bizarre that a sane human would just thrust them out of their mind. I talk about how you have to ‘say yes’ to your ideas no matter how weird they are, no matter how much we doubt them. 

I talk about how the idea for the NEED series came from seeing a strange smelling man on my way into a fair. He had a tail wrapped in fabric. He had silver eyes. Enough said, right? While other people might have thought he was a random guy doing cosplay, my brain jumped to “human-sized pixie about to cause an apocalypse.” Since, I didn’t reject that idea and wrote about it, I ended up getting a book series that was an international bestselling. 

So, what I do is have kids stand up with me and one of them has to say ‘no,’ to everything we throw out. So it goes like, 

“Hey, let’s write a story about human-sized pixies?”

“No.”

“And they have to save the world?”

“No.”

“Gerbils who fall in love?”

“No.”

“People who climb a mountain and find a rainbow unicorn?”

“No.”

And it goes on like this for a minute and when I stop them, I ask, “So what happened?”

Usually, everyone says, “Nothing. Nothing happened.”

I ask if we got a story. And the answer is always, “No. We laughed, but we did not get a story.”

Writers do this to ourselves all the time. Actually, people do this all the time. We reject ideas for being too weird, too overdone, too normal, too abnormal, too anything. The secret is to go with the idea, to say yes and see what happens. That’s how stories are made. 


Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

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HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

Image

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You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 
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Banish Your Inner Cop

BAR HARBOR – “I think we need to have this party on a cruise ship,” says Kae Cooney, eyes large as she lean towards a young, blonde boy. She’s a grown-up from Brewer.

Yes, and we need to invite the ghost of Elvis Presley,” says Corbin Bailey, who has just come back from his first baseball practice of the season and is bouncing on his toes, full of energy..

Yes, and we need to have peanut butter and banana sandwiches because that’s his favorite,” Amy Roeder says, nodding. She’s a grown-up, too.

Three seconds later, Roeder starts laughing. Others join in. A person walks down a hallway, peers in and smiles.

The scene inside the MDI YWCA gym isn’t an exercise in fantasy party creation for kids and adults, but a workshop to build anti-bullying and pro-listening and communication skills called, “Yes, and…”

Yes, and . . .

“We’re all working together in ‘Yes, And’ exercise to make a beautiful, fun story,” Roeder says and to do that they need to listen and respect each other’s ideas. 

For the first two minutes of shyness before the workshop starts, students and parents lurk in the corner of the gym. But Roeder and Cooney are not just workshop leaders, they’re also comedians, improv professionals who quickly meld the group together. Two minutes later the gym is full of laughter as participants share stories as they sit in a circle on the shiny, wooden floor. 

Improvisation and anti-bullying workshops might not seem like a natural fit, but for Roeder and Cooney it’s a perfect match. The women know all about dealing with difficult situations both on stage and in person and the skills of theater are perfect for helping confidence in the face of bullying. The theater techniques of improv help participants take their own confidence and power. 

Respect, Listening and Improv

Respect and listening are two of the core components of active listening and civility. Saying, ‘yes, and’ can help people learn to protect their boundaries, but also allow others to feel heard.

Respect.

Listening.

Being Heard.

They are words of civility, kindness and empathy. They are the opposite of being a bully.

Locally, the Ellsworth American’s Kate Cough reported that two parents of Ellsworth Middle School students told the school board just this March that “you have a bullying problem in your schools.” In another unrelated incident, an Ellsworth student was arrested on charges of solicitation to commit murder, a charge which was in relation to another student’s suicide. MDI High School has also had issues with civility last year.

According to a study from Yale University, those who have been bullied are somewhere between 2 to 9 times more likely to think about killing themselves than those who are not bullied. Internalizing other people’s negative thoughts about you has incredible negative conseuqeunces. One method to deal with that is to internalize kindness, empathy, and love for your self and your integrity.

 “It is my firm belief that we all as humans can do this naturally but we talk ourselves out of it,” Roeder said. 

Banish the Inner Cop

But it’s the inner critic or cop that makes us doubt who we are and also lets others bullying voices into our minds.

“We all walk around in our society with a cop in our head,” Roeder said. “You know who we’re not really good at being kind to? Ourselves.”

To be kind to ourselves, we have to allow ourselves to make mistakes, allow ourselves to have feelings, imperfections, to find the goofy in the occasional flaw, but to also listen and respect and love ourselves the way we want others to behave as well.

The problems with bullying and civility aren’t just in Ellsworth, they are across the country. Building peace and kindness, is part of Rotary International’s mission on both the local and international level.

Improvisation helps people get rid of a lot of those negative feelings and things that they waste a lot of time and energy on, Roeder explained. 

The Saturday workshops were held by the Bar Harbor (MDI) Rotary Club, thanks to support from the Rotary District 7790, Bar Harbor Kids Book Festival, and a grant from Rotary District 7790. The goal is to promote civility, active listening skills, and empathy in both adults and children. 

Resources for parents, kids, and adults who are looking to know more about bullying, listening skills and other things, can visit the Bar Harbor Rotary website and find those resources as well as a video about the event.  All of which will be uploaded soon.


Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

Image

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_0393-2.jpeg

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 




What I Used To Be

I used to be a newspaper reporter and editor for small award-winning local papers.

Sometimes I miss it.

Sometimes I don’t.

Thursday afternoon five workers (reporters, editors, sales) at the Capital, an Annapolis newspaper, were killed.

People are violently killed each day. In newsrooms. In homes. On streets. In wars. In schools. In places of religious worship.

Everywhere.

And that’s the thing.

It’s everywhere.

I Used To Be A Reporter and Editor

When I was a reporter and an editor, I made barely a living wage, but I did it because I loved learning about the people in my community and I loved sharing their stories. I didn’t do it for the money. There was no fame unless you count Maine Press Awards.

Spoiler alert: Those shouldn’t count.

There was just a passion to make sure that people knew what their local government was doing, what they could do, what was happening.

As a member of the press, I often felt powerless because I had to report on things that needed to change, but I couldn’t be an active agent/instigator/or participant in that change.

I still feel powerless even though I’m not confined by my job anymore.

Once the publisher and executive editor of the second paper I worked for called editorial staff into a meeting because someone we wrote about in the police beat was threatening the paper. The police were made aware, but our downstairs office was vulnerable with big opening windows, meant to reflect the transparency of our work and our openness to staff.

One of my editors said to me after, “We will all die if someone comes in here with a gun.”

I said, “I know.”

“What can we do?” he asked.

“Just continue until we can’t,” I suggested. “I mean, what else can we do?”

I didn’t really believe it would happen. Not really. The meanest thing I had to deal with as a reporter was people insulting my intelligence because I had ‘pigtails.’

Note: They were braids.

I didn’t live in fear. The worst thing I had to deal with were town managers making sexual comments and random people asking me out on dates and a boss #metooing me into another position.

Yes, I did make that a verb, a hashtag verb.

I Used To Be Innocent

I thought people could understand that everyone was human and that once they had that magical understanding – poof! – their hate would stop.

I forgot about greed as a motivation.

I forgot that people ignore facts that don’t support their belief systems.

I was naive.

When politicians and hate-media vilify the press, reporters, journalists, photographers, they are vilifying and dehumanizing people – real people – often your neighbors.

Let me tell you about the reporters I know, working right now. 

There’s a woman who sings to a friend’s dog on back porches during parties, quietly bonding with him when everyone else has left him.

There’s a man who plays drums in a 80s cover band. I found a body with him once.

There’s a woman who falls in love with every stud she interviews, but never ever does anything. She likes chocolate and her family.

There’s a woman who wants to be a traditionally published author much more than she wants to be a reporter, a woman who dreams.

There’s another man who walks his golden through the neighborhoods of Bar Harbor, greeting everyone he sees with care and kindness.

They are not anyone’s enemy. Just like children aren’t. Just like black men driving aren’t. Just like a wife isn’t.

But I don’t know how to make people understand that.

I Used To Be Someone Who Believed in Safety

I thought that my closet was safe, my mom, big dogs, my bed surrounded by stuffed animals. I was lucky that way because for a long time I believed that home was always a good place, a place to run to. Not everyone had that. Not everyone gets that. And then I thought work was that place… until it wasn’t.

What does it mean to live in a world where nothing is safe? Where going to school, going to church/temple/mosque, going to eat, standing on a corner, sleeping in a bedroom, walking down a street, doesn’t feel safe?

It feels like this. It feels like denial and shock if you have been living privileged and lucky.

But what it really feels like?

Is wrong.

So many times in the last ten years I’ve pitched book ideas only to hear, “That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t still happen.”

People were shocked by #metoo, shocked by the systemic racism that causes people to die, shocked by the continuation of white supremacy groups, by the mysogyny, by anti-LGBTQA crimes, by human trafficking, and hate.

That shock is a lovely luxury, but we can’t be shocked anymore.

I Used To Be Someone Who Thought I Could Save The World. Alone.

I had a savior complex. I know better now.

 

When people tell us their stories, don’t laugh. Listen. Be honored that they trust you enough to share themselves with you – and that includes the sad, scared, angry parts, too.

Women shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their homes. Children shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their schools and homes. People shouldn’t be afraid of police, of nightclubs, of  snipers and bombs and sometimes even cars.  People shouldn’t be afraid to post their opinion on the internet because it could mean stalking and trolls. People shouldn’t be afraid to worship or protest or eat at a restaurant or board a plane or go to work or practice for a softball game or drive a car while black, or stand outside their home while in the Tohono O’ogham Nation.

But people are afraid. Or they are shocked.

Exposing the hate that happens? That’s a first step. But it’s only one step and this fight, the rectifying of our society isn’t going to happen in a straight line. There has to be multiple work on multiple fronts and one of those fronts is inside of ourselves.

Here’s a Huffington Post article that shows just how real the anti-press hate is. It is uncensored and explicit.

 

 

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

 

So, you want to be a bad writer, come sit down.

Bad writers, gather around. I see that you’re already glaring at each other and/or looking at your phone in an attempt to avoid human contact.

Beautiful.

You’re off to such a terrific start.

Welcome to the five-stop HOW TO BE A BAD WRITER program. Yes, we have placed you in your natural environment, a coffee shop, because we couldn’t all fit on a bed or couch. I’m sorry if you aren’t comfy enough. Ready?

Let’s begin.

Easy Ways To Be A Bad Writer

Care Only About You

That’s right. Your readers don’t matter. Writing isn’t actual communication between the writer and reader. It’s just you. You are all that matters.

No empathy allowed.

Assume Everyone Thinks The Same Way You Do and Has The Same Experiences

That’s right. Every single character in your book and in the world in an ISTP on the Myers-Briggs personality scale just like you are. They react to things the same way you do. Mm-hm. So, if you reference a dooryard, they are just going to get it. If you never get harassed by the police because you are a white, wealthy guy, that’s how it always is. Mm…

Do not have empathy, bad writers! Again. No empathy allowed.

Expect Everyone to Give You Everything You Want.

The first time anyone reads your rough draft that you finished last night, they are going to give you:

  1. A book contract
  2. A movie contract
  3. A hug
  4. Unlimited praise and fan-mail
  5. A jet
  6. A fully paid worldwide publicity tour.

Bad writer, you deserve this. You shouldn’t have to revise. Revising is for wimps and good writers and people with empathy. To hell with that and them.

Rant at Every Opportunity.

Someone gives you a bad review? Who is this cretin? Does he not recognize genius? Immediately rant and escalate the situation and call your minions down upon he who dared to suggest your ending was not resonating enough and that you should learn the difference between your and you’re.

Unleash the Kraken. The Kraken has no empathy and no chill, either.

Blow Everyone Off

Social media is communication? Whatever. Not for you. Social media is just where you blast everyone with your book promotions and self-indulgent I AM AWESOME posts. Never say thank you. Never communicate back. You’re an author not a communicator, right?

Right.

Secret Superheroes

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page on my website carriejonesbooks.blog.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

 

Write! Submit! Support! Begins Again in July!

 

It’s not easy to create a thriving writing career in the children’s industry, but what if you didn’t have to do it alone? Write. Submit. Support is a six-month program designed by author and Writing Barn Founder Bethany Hegedus. Classes are led by top creatives in the children’s industry field; they’ll give you the tips and tools you need to take both your manuscripts and your developing career to the next level. Think of it as an MFA in craft with a certificate in discovering (or recovering) your writer joy! – Writing Barn 

More about the class I specifically teach? It is right here.

Here is what current students are saying:

Carrie is all strengths. Seriously. She’s compassionate, funny, zesty, zany, insightful, honest, nurturing, sharp, and…Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives. But really, I couldn’t praise Carrie enough as a mentor. I’ve long respected her writing, but being talented at something doesn’t automatically mean you will be a great mentor. Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching. Aside from the specific feedback she offers, she also writes letters in response to the process letter and analyses. These letters have been so impactful for me as I writer that I plan to print them and hang them up. Creepy? Maybe. But they are so inspiring. And that, in the most long-winded way possible, is how I would summarize Carrie as a mentor—inspiring.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

 

I Totally Forgot to Title This Post, but let’s call it Giving Tuesday even when you think you suck and you aren’t doing anything at all that’s helpful in this world

1. One of my blogging friends was feeling sad yesterday even though he is published because, basically, he’s worried about being a mediocre writer.

2. It is easy to worry about this.

3. There’s that essential sense of horror when you’re a writer (in such a subjective field) about never being good enough, never making a difference, never being on a NYT bestseller list or being nominated for a National Book Award, or any award, or never getting published, or never having people notice your book exists.

4. That’s not what writing is all about. (Note: I forget this a lot.)

Spartacus: Believe me, she forgets this ALL THE TIME.

5. One of my friends who is not a writer wrote me this in an email a long time ago when I was worrying about not doing enough good in the world because I am just a writer (He does good all the time). He wrote this:

“You never know what kind of positive effect you are having in someone’s life as an author. Even if it is just that someone can escape for an hour from their life, that may be the best part of their day. Think of the kid who doesn’t like their home life or maybe their school life or maybe both. When they pick up a book by Carrie E. Jones, they get to escape the realities of their life and lose themselves in somebody else’s for a while. How cool is that?”

If you are a published writer and having a bad day you can just substitute your name in there because it’s true for everyone.

If you are unpublished writer and having a bad day you can do the same thing because you are writing, you are creating, you are escaping and thinking and plotting and feeling and that is a positive for you – FOR YOU! AND YOU MATTER! – and hopefully for other people too some day.

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There’s been a lot of articles about how reading builds empathy. And in this world? Empathy is important. Acting kindly, not making jokes about political opponents, not disrespecting other people, other cultures, other genders, other ways of being? That happens when empathy happens.

So, if you are a writer or an artist or a reader or just a person who cares, who feels like you aren’t doing enough in this world, like you don’t have any money to give on #givingtuesday, it’s okay. Give your thoughts. Give your time. Give your kindness. Don’t pull yourself down because you feel like you aren’t making a difference. Just keep going, keep doing, keep surviving, keep shouting/singing/whispering/loving/keening your story out there into the world. Try to treat people with love. You’ve got this. Thank you for being made of star dust and empathy. Thank you for being you.

Writing News: You can still get the ebook version of Time Stoppers on sale until tomorrow? The link to it is here.

My book.