Link of the Week – Body Language

November 15, 2016

642px-olympicclubtimesdemocratheadline-2I have a confession to make. I happen to really enjoy the blog Art of Manliness. There is always some interesting articles and tips.  Last week, an article was posted that I think is useful for everyone, including authors—How To Use Body Language to Create a Dynamite First Impression. For writers, it is often important to use a character’s body language to get actions, reactions, and emotions across to the reader. How someone stands, sits, moves, and the expressions they wear are communicating signals about themselves. This articles explains what the body language is saying from head to toe. Very useful for pen monkeys.

Method Writing – Are YOU Oscar Worthy?

April 25, 2012

Song of the Day: Drive By by Train

I recently discovered I could be a star in Hollywood. Yep. Look out Angelina Jolie, there’s a new super watt actress in town. Well…maybe not. But after reading an article in the March 2012 issue of Romance Writers Report and hearing a presentation given at my local RWA® chapter last month on Method Acting, I thought it was time to write my Oscar acceptance speech.

What is Method Acting you ask? It is a group of techniques used by many actors to create the genuine thoughts and emotions of their characters. These professionals go deep—integrating themselves into the lives of their character rather than simply performing them. There are plenty of books and resources on the subject, so I won’t go into great theatrics here. But I will share how the very same exercises can be awesome tools for writers.

The procedures:

Relaxation – Relax your body to allow the mind to work. Ohmmm…

Sense memory – It’s been pounded into our little writer brains, use all your senses. Recall a similar experience. Utilize it at the most rudimentary level and work to relive stimuli in every detail.

Concentration – Must…stay…focused…must…stay…in the…moment

Magic if  / ‘as if’ – the ‘what ifs’ of a scene meant to make the author believe  the scene and everything in it are real and thus provoke honest reactions

Objects – focal points, real or fantasy, anything that allows the writer to avoid distraction, leading to the unconscious behavior and steady concentration of the writing. I prefer to focus on the ripped body of David Beckham.

Substitution – We can’t allow personal feelings to disrupt or detract from those of a character and expect readers not to notice. Use the power of concentration, grasshopper. Personalize your thoughts with a substitution to overcome the bias.

Animal exercise – We can learn so much from the characteristics of beasts—how they move, their appearance, whether they are dangerous or docile. These traits we can translate into powerful descriptions for human ones. Roooar!

Song and Dance –This exercise is meant to remove the unconscious behaviors and replace them with unbridled conventions. Break out the dancing shoes and the Taio Cruz Dynamite CD.

Private Moment – Let your inner voyeur loose. Overcome personal inhibitions to write about private moments and behaviors.

Speaking out – No, this isn’t a political protest or public outcry. It’s verbally recognizing concentration had been broken and getting back to business.

Moment to Moment – we allow scenes and action to move the story forward as opposed to sticking with our original view of the plot. I don’t know about you, but my characters are constantly surprising me.

Justification – There must be a reason why the characters say and do the things they do for their actions and reactions to be real.  This, of course, is not how we women operate at any given moment without proper doses of chocolate or margaritas, right ladies? But for the sake of the readers…

Affective Memory – Cover me! I’m going in. Going in deep. This exercise conjures up the deepest, and sometimes most painful and frightening, personal experience to capture raw emotions. In all my research on Method Acting, every resource comments on this practice either being a dangerous or pure genius procedure. Many in Hollywood have said Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker in The Dark Knight affected him so intensely, it led to his fatal use of prescription drugs meant to alleviate his demons.

Given Circumstance – understanding all preceding method parts are tied together by the theme/spine, moving beyond the superficial

Shy of singing and dancing like a fool in my office, I was surprised to learn I have been doing my own version of Method Acting techniques in my writing. Each procedure I have utilized at some point—some such as sensory and affective memory, more than others. In order to convey moments of genuine emotion and action/reactions, I have conjured up incidents in my own life that have paralleled similar responses. Let’s face it, I’ve never watched a loved one twirl at the end of a noose, nearly drown, or face the Grim Reaper head on. But I have been traumatized by death, I have been truly so frightened it stole my breath away, and I have stared down the barrel of a gun (which incidentally royally pissed me off). Lucky for me, I have loads of experiences to draw from in which to recreate exactly what my characters are doing and feeling.

How about you? Do you use any or all of these techniques? I’d love to hear from you.

Villains Can’t Be All Bad!!!!

February 2, 2012

By: Stacey Purcell



Villians. We love to hate them.

How do you make a villain truly memorable?

One of my favorite television shows is Criminal Minds. If you haven’t seen it, the show is about a profiling group within the FBI who get sent around the country to help on gruesome cases. There are so many villains running through that series that they all begin to blend together. However, there is one episode that stands out in my mind. It’s because the villain was so well thought out.

The essence of every novel is found within the conflict, two opposing forces set in the same time and space. That conflict is usually found between the protagonist and the villain. How much more fun would it be to create a really villainous villain! Let you imagination soar as to the dastardly things they can do on your pages, but be careful. If you let it run away with you, you’re in danger of creating a cartoon character instead of someone who keeps readers turning the page. They will put the book down in frustration because it has lost the reality edge.

The villain in this particular episode of Criminal Minds was doing some pretty intense stuff. He even captured one of the team and in doing so, we came to understand him a little bit better. His father was so twisted that he turned a sweet young boy into the monster on the show. The writers created sympathy and understanding within the viewers. We never condoned what he was doing, but it made you want to rescue the little boy trapped inside who had been branded by his deranged father. The show put us through an emotional wringer that haunts me still today.

That’s what we want for our novels. How do you do that? James Scott Bell in Conflict and Suspense has some great tips on creating unique and memorable villains:

  1. Create a whole backstory for your villain. Let the reader know that he wasn’t always the psychopath killing machine, the back stabbing office worker, or the corrupt priest. Very few people are born bad to the bone- why did your villain turn out this way?
  2. Just as it happened in Criminal Minds, give them a sympathy factor. When you do this, your audience bonds on some level with the villain. This is some powerful mojo! Create conflict within the reader. Their brain says he’s the bad guy, but their heart says that it’s not all his fault.
  3. This next one can be difficult. Justify your bad guy’s actions. No matter how bad it seems to you, he thinks he’s in the right. Find some way to make it plausible for him to believe that. After all, he does what he does because he thinks he is entitled to his actions or what they will bring.


In my first book, I made my bad guy the result of a heinous grandfather’s torture. He was also terrified of the dark and was a gifted artist. Nine times out of ten, I received great feedback for my villain in contests because I made him seem all too human and my readers could relate to him. In my second book, the villain grows up in abject poverty and then loses his whole family in a massacre where he believes my protagonist has betrayed him. It broke my heart to write the scene where he ends up having to shoot his wife because she is in mortal agony. Hopefully, it will break my reader’s heart as well.

Create them bad, devious, sly, murderous, but create them human and you will have a powerful character that won’t be forgotten.