Today I have a guest post to promote StoneKing by Donna Migliaccio!
This guest post takes form as a short story.
Lesson from an Old Book
I received something splendid in today’s mail. It was a package from my aunt, who is a retired schoolteacher living in Tennessee. In the package was a 1904 edition of Oliver Goldsmith’s classic play, SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER.
My aunt told me she has had the book for some years, and always intended me to have it. Given that I’m a professional stage actress as well as an author, she thought I’d find it of interest. And I certainly do. It’s a lovely little book – while somewhat battered, its embossed cover with a pattern of irises is still bright – but what’s most fascinating about it are the notations written on the flyleaf and throughout the script. They were written in 1905, in pencil, by one Mary Myers, a junior at Columbia College of Expression (now Columbia College Chicago), in preparation for a production of the play at her school.
One entry reads: In stage work never make a move without motive. Another states: First words of the play must be very distinct. And finally, written large: Make your points.
As I flipped through the little book, it occurred to me that these little reminders apply not just to acting, but to writing as well. Take motive, for example. One of the things I always question when I’m starting to write a scene is whether there’s a good reason for the characters to do what they do. In acting, it’s called “intent.” Actors should always enter a scene knowing what desire or need compels their character to be present. Even if that motive isn’t implicitly stated or even important to the scene, that kind of knowledge fleshes out the actor’s characterization. It’s the same with writing. The more meat I can put on the bones of a character as I’m creating it, the more real that character becomes to me, which makes their actions and dialogue so much easier to write.
First words of the play must be very distinct. I think Miss Myers was addressing the need for an actor to speak loudly and clearly, but again, the same thing holds true for writing. The first few sentences of a book are valuable real estate indeed; it’s how you establish both your narrative voice and the world of your story. Clarity is key. Your first few sentences are the bait by which you hope to hook a reader. Offer up something mushy and muddy, and your reader-fish might just swim off without taking a bite.
Make your points. In acting, it’s important to know how to lay emphasis: when to stress a word, deepen a gesture, finesse a glance. Even a moment of silence can speak volumes. The most valuable piece of direction I ever got was “dry it up.” The director meant to simplify what I was doing, so I wasn’t blurring an essential moment with a lot of unnecessary movement or too rococo a line reading. In writing it’s the same, except that your tools aren’t your voice or body, but the words you put on the page. It’s important to view your writing with a critical eye, and to pare it back so that the essential points don’t get lost in a barrage of words.
So, I’m grateful to my aunt for the gift of that little book, and to the long-ago young actress who so studiously noted down what she was told as she worked on the play. It’s given me not just the pleasure of a little piece of history, but some words to remember the next time I step on stage…or sit down in front of my computer to write.
StoneKing by Donna Migliaccio
February 20, 2018
The Gemeta Stone Book 3
Fiery Seas Publishing, LLC
They call him StoneKing: the lord of four countries, the vanquisher of the Wichelord Daazna, the man who will restore his people to prosperity and peace.
But there is no peace for Kristan Gemeta. Already weighed down by the cares of his new realm, Kristan carries a secret burden – the knowledge that Daazna is not dead. He isolates himself in his ruined castle in Fandrall, where he struggles to control the destructive Tabi’a power that may be his only hope of defeating the Wichelord once and for all.
And there’s trouble elsewhere in his realm. His Reaches are squabbling in Dyer, Melissa and Nigel are experiencing heartache in Norwinn, and Heather’s command in Hogia is in jeopardy. Unaware of this turmoil, Kristan receives an unexpected gift – one that forces him, his knights, an inexperienced squire and a crafty young shape-shifter into a hazardous winter journey.
About the Author:
Donna Migliaccio is a professional stage actress with credits that include Broadway, National Tours and prominent regional theatres. She is based in the Washington, DC Metro area, where she co-founded Tony award-winning Signature Theatre and is in demand as an entertainer, teacher and public speaker. Her award-winning short story, “Yaa & The Coffins,” was featured in Thinkerbeat’s 2015 anthology The Art of Losing.
I hope you all enjoyed this guest post!
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Until next time,