This post is in response to all of the folks who have landed on my page by searching for acting prompts. First of all, a confession: If you’ve never visited my blog before, you need to know that I am a writer, not an actress. However, when I was younger, I bought a book of acting prompts for the sole purpose of using them and applying what I learned to my writing sessions. I have created dozens of creative writing prompts on this site, and I have suggested that many of them can be used as acting prompts as well. Maybe, maybe not. Like I said, I’m not an actress, so I don’t really know what acting prompts are supposed to be like. (The book I owned of acting prompts is long gone, and I don’t remember a single thing from it.) So why don’t you all let me know? Are these any good for acting prompts? Here are the ones that I think might work (borrowed from my prompt disguised series):
If you have a work-in-progress: take on the role of your main character, and have a conversation with a friend or an unsuspecting stranger 😉
Take on the viewpoints and attitudes of your character. It would be best to try to get into some sort of discussion in which you do not agree so that your character can defend his position, thus revealing his personality and motivations more fully.
If you don’t have a WIP, then invent a personality or base one on a character from a movie, TV show, or book. The point is, step outside of yourself and become someone else.
Take a walk, but pretend you are anywhere but where you are or anyone but whom you are. Try to see your town or neighborhood through fresh eyes, as your character would see it. Try to think your character’s thoughts as you go along. You might notice something you never have before, or find a fascinating new twist for your WIP.
Again, if you don’t have a WIP, then imagine yourself to be any person or character you can come up with.
I tried this once on my son when he was young. We were walking, and he became very tired. So I told him to pretend he had to get medicine to someone who was very sick and waiting for him to arrive. It seems silly, but it gave him the courage to keep walking until we got home.
Go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Transportation museum? Antique mall? Local baseball game? Think of something that’s out of character for you. Find some inspiration for a story or put a character from your WIP into the setting you just visited.
If you use this as an acting prompt: while you aren’t actually doing any acting, I think it’s important to go places and do things that might be out of character for you, as it broadens your horizons and allows you to think in ways that might be important to the personality you are trying to portray.
Remember pretending? It’s that fun thing we did when we were kids. See if you can conjure up a little anxiety or fear as you walk. Is someone following you? What about a ferocious bear (if you’re in the woods)? Or imagine that you are on a mission that you must accomplish at all odds. If you don’t find that information you’re looking for, the whole world is going to suffer! Or maybe you are on your way to meet your favorite person, but you aren’t sure they’re going to show up. What kinds of things can you drum through your brain as you take step after step?
Here’s one that I think will be really fun for you. And not only will you be inspiring your muse, but you will also be relieving some guilt at the same time. I’m talking about that guilt that comes along when you’re spending time writing instead of playing with your kids. Are you familiar with it? Well, check this out:
Take a half hour to an hour out of your busy writing schedule to inspire a new character in your story. Only instead of staring at the wall trying to come up with ideas, let your kids do the work. Tell them you want to play a story with them, and ask them how they want it to go, and who they want you to pretend to be. While playing with them, follow all of their leads, no matter how crazy or unbelievable, and just see where their imagination takes you. When nap-time rolls around, spend a few minutes jotting down the ideas that you just gleaned from playing a round of make-believe!
Research something you know absolutely nothing about. (For instance, quantum physics has some interesting theories.) Pick up a magazine that you would never have considered buying, and flip through it for inspiration.
I always thought it would be cool to build a science fiction story off of a Popular Science article, for instance. I also know nothing about horses. I wonder what kind of inspiration I could glean from Equestrian? Or a magazine about outdoor survival? Visit your local library or newsstand, and see where your imagination takes you!
Again, if you use this one as an acting prompt, you can get inside the head of your intended character by reading and learning about the things that interest him.
Go to a thrift shop and purchase an outfit, or borrow something from a friend that’s totally out of character for you. Complete the ensemble with accessories and attitudes that complement what you’re wearing. Now, go hang out in places that would attract your alter ego, and test out your new duds. Do people treat you differently? Do you treat them differently or feel any different? Now find a quiet place to relax and write about your experience. Apply it to a character in one of your stories. Actually, you could begin the whole exercise with a specific protagonist/antagonist in mind. Just remember to stay in character as much as possible throughout your little expedition.
Mute the television. Based on people’s gestures, make up plots and conversations. (My husband and I do this anyways to avoid contrived stressful scenes while watching reality television shows, such as American Chopper.) Then write about the scenario you created.
PS: Be prepared to laugh a lot!
Begin a conversation with the next woman you meet. Be it in line at the grocery store, someone you bump into at the park, etc. Write a story based on what little you learn about her life. Try to remain true to her personality, instead of merely plunking yourself into her situation. If you have a WIP, how would your main character interact with this stranger?
Ok, sorry, but this one involves writing, even if you are using it as an acting prompt.
Watch a documentary or a foreign film that you have absolutely no interest in. Give it at least 20 minutes of your life, and see if you can’t learn something new. If interest picks up, watch the whole thing, and expand your horizons a bit! Alternatively, you could watch a movie dealing with a new topic or one that takes place in a different culture, even if the movie itself is American-made.
Use this in the same way you would numbers 3 and 6.
Explore ways to volunteer in your area; then choose an opportunity, and spend an afternoon helping out somewhere. Not only will it encourage a caring attitude, and facilitate your development into a better citizen, but it may very well spark a story idea or two. How? Well, you’ll be working with new people, many of whom will show up to help for entirely different reasons – community service, involvement in an organization, a former recipient of the service being provided, etc. They all have a story to tell. And if you are lucky enough to meet the people you are ministering to, even better! On top of all that, you’ll be dropped into the middle of new scenery, new dynamic relationships, and new ways of thinking. Give it a try – even if no stories are forthcoming, you’ll be glad you did!
Use this one for the same purpose as 3, 6, and 10.
Feedback? Are these helpful at all? I’m a bit out of my element here.