This article was contributed by Kenneth Waldman.
Konstantin Stanislavsky was a famous Russian stage actor and director, whose influence substantially changed the face of theatre performance.
During the yearly years of the Moscow Art Theatre, he developed a guiding system aimed at achieving deep, disciplined, and meaningful acting performances. The Stanislavsky System is very complex, but the main goal is clear: achieving naturalistic performance on stage.
Stanislavsky instructed actors to rely on feelings they had experienced in their own lives in order to convey authentic, relatable emotions on stage. The method was complemented with exercises that motivated the actors to explore their own emotions and connect them with the character they were supposed to play. The system resulted in naturalism that changed the way plays were being performed.
How Writers Can Implement a Method for Actors
The Stanislavsky System is well-known among actors and directors. However, not many people outside that circle are aware of it. The same principles can be applied to many other professions, especially the creative ones. Let’s talk about writers: they can rely on this System when they want to convey realistic human behavior and characteristics through the characters they create.
The main factor that guided the development of Stanislavsky’s Method was his belief that an actor should approach the character as directly as possible and then see if he/she can bring it to life. That’s exactly what writers should do!
The System is quite complex, but we can bring it to simplicity for the sake of more clarity: writers should base the characters they create upon their personal experiences and emotions. We feel and think different things; we are conflicting individuals that encompass several different characters into a single personality. When the writer extracts these separate personalities, he can create believable literary characters that everyone will relate to.
Stanislavsky’s Guidelines Will Help You Write Better
If you find yourself in a writer’s block, you should first rely one of the pillars of this method: the ‘magic if’. Stanislavsky believed that although the truth that occurred in plays was somewhat different from real life, the actors could make it believable by conveying the truthful emotions of the character.
The main question you should ask yourself is: “what would I do if I was in the same situation?”
This simple starting point will give the story a direction, since it will enable you to expand the story beyond the limits of imagination. Even if you are writing a science fiction novel, your readers should still believe in it. You can add a touch of realism if you answer the main questions based on the Stanislavsky Method:
Who am I?
This is the first question that will get you out of the block. If you already have the main idea and you know what you want to achieve with the project, think about three aspects of the characters: physical, psychological, and sociological. Write down the characteristics you come down to, and you’ll have the bone structure of the leading personalities in your novel.
Where am I?
The scene is very important. Think about the current position of the character, and you’ll make it more realistic.
What do I want?
Everyone has a goal. If the reader doesn’t realize the character’s motives, he won’t understand where hi actions are coming from.
Why do I want it?
Think about the underlying reasons for the character’s goals in life. Childhood memories, recent trauma, jealousy, chronic dissatisfaction with life… think of anything that would give more depth to his journey.
The time is an important part of the setting. Just as a play conveys a certain era through costumes, behavior and other details – your writing should also reflect the time when the events occurred.
What obstacles do I have and how can I achieve them?
Put yourself in the character’s shoes. Think about your own goals and obstacles that prevented you from realizing them easily. Try to make the literary journey a bit rocky, just like real life is.
How can I achieve the goals?
It’s time to describe some actions. What would you do if you had the same goals and obstacles?
Motivation, Observation, and Emotional Memory
These are the main principles Stanislavsky’s System is based upon. You can easily translate them into your writing practice.
Stanislavsky wanted his actors to explore all actions of their roles. Why did the character say a particular thing? Why did he laugh on that particular line? Actors study the text thoroughly before they can bring the characters to life. If you don’t give enough foundation as a writer, there won’t be enough life in your story to begin with.
The creator of this method was an exceptional analyzer of human behavior. In order to create believable stories and characters, you have to observe other people. See how they act in different situations and encourage them to get express their opinions just so you can analyze them.
Stanislavsky’s advice to actors was to base the play upon their personal memories. You should also infuse impressions of your own experience into the story. That’s a certain way to connect with the readers and awaken their interest. Your readers don’t want to see a story about someone else’s struggle. They want to feel the emotions of the characters, so every time someone mentions the book, the vivid emotional memory will be awakened.
When you put yourself in the character’s mindset and express intense feelings, you can navigate the reader’s emotional struggle throughout the book.
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Author: Kenneth Waldman, a freelance writer and content creator at essay writing service blog EssayMama.com. Get in touch with him on Linkedin.