I am a self confessed adrenaline junkie. I love to be physical and literally throw myself into whatever it is I’m doing in the most explosive way. However, it isn’t just for the thrill of it, or the rush, It is for the experience and the mastery of it.
When I was nothing but a wee little lumpkin, I was obsessed with ballet. My mother even gave me the antique nutcracker she bought when she was nothing but a struggling teenager living on her own and supporting herself, because I had always been her Clara (as much as this moment of nostalgia touches my heart – and never loses its fondness – I actually find the nutcracker to be one of the most annoying ballet, but I wont get into that rant, you’re here to seek insight on another topic altogether.)
Not only did I love how pretty it was – from the costumes, to the staging, to the makeup, and movement – I loved its ability to transport and transfix me into its realm, without words. The art of telling a story and conveying emotion – sometimes multiple at a time – without ever directly being told what it was that was happening, that compelled me.
I was never classically trained – we didn’t have the budget for consistent dance classes growing up – but since when has that ever stopped me before? I took it upon myself to study the moments, the movements, and the impact. To practice having that kind of control over my own form, and when I did I began to become naturally in tune to the complex and often time subtle intricacies of how the human body moves and reacts. I awoke an innate awareness over every inch of my person at any given time.
As I grew, my dancing fervor evolved – well I suppose you could say “blended” – into my love for stunt choreography. In particular, fight scenes.
Ballet is all about having complete control over your muscles and movements, so much control that your lines are precise but your motion is fluid. This takes a thorough knowledge of how your body works, how your muscles respond to gravity, what it takes to achieve extension, height, and weightlessness. In stunt work, to stop just short of contact, so that your opponent looks like they are getting hurt without their being any hurt involved, you have to have control of your surroundings, proximity, and the ability to control the power that goes into your movements. And if you are the one taking the beating, you have to understand your body, and its anatomy, intimately enough to react believably. It takes subtly and awareness, control and surrender.
Is this not a perfect allegory for writing?
In both of these physical mediums there is an element of story present, communicated through movement, showing vs telling, what every writer knows they need to master in order to truly transport their audience from words to world.
You have to be able to combine the physical with the story telling. What’s being said with what’s being seen/done and what you need your audience to walk away understanding. Sure, you could be overt, but it falls flat, or worse becomes comical when you intend differently. Sure, you could daze them with the POW! BANG! WAMMY! HIYA! But once the starlight in their eyes clears what’s left to resonate? What do they take away.
A scene can’t just be a scene. It needs to move the story along.
This is where my approach to writing comes in. Just like you need to have the visual and the voice, the description and the point, you have to have the understanding of experience.
A great place to start is with your very own human experiencing body. When was the last time you really stopped and honed in on how your body responds to different actions, emotions, movements, or situations? Gauged the level of feeling, the active nervous response, the tension, and how they all play a part in your emotional response as well?
I’m not saying you need to go and throw yourself off a building, or become the next Misty Copeland or anything, but invoking this kind of active perception mindset can make a difference.
So instead of reading another writing how to book, why not throw yourself into the art of storytelling through physical awareness? Experience what it is to show a story through your body so that your pen can become an extension of all that you learn without words.
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