Saturday, July 11, 2015

Why Writers Should Study "Act Natural"

I needed a book to read so I picked up actor Ken Howard's (film The White Shadow et al) a week ago and have been enjoying it immensely lounging in my hammock. Every nice afternoon I unscroll it and lay outside, reading and annotating in pen every book I read. I'm still in the middle of Books of the Century, selections from 100 years of New York Times book reviews, but needed a change. I try to only read books, articles, news and blogs that will stimulate and inform, rather than just thrill like my Jason Bourne past favorites. I'm too old not to be discerning with my limited time.

Anyway, Ken's book has and is enlightening, packed with real life examples of the points he makes, and 100% applicable to writers, despite being a book about speaking in public. Speaking in front of an audience is the number two fear of Americans, so as a would-be writer, hoping to do interviews, teach writing courses, sell my books and be a renaissance man, his words are ringing true on all levels. (The number one fear has become walking alone at night according to Time magazine's July 6 Double issue.) 

If I find the time I'll write a companion book titled Write Natural because Act Natural has hundreds of parallels to good writing, and, mainly, good truth-telling. For Ken's main mantra is to be oneself, in no matter what "role" we inhabit: single, married, father, mother, worker, neighbor, leader, actor etc. And that to me, is the essence of good writing - being truthful about and to oneself. To act believably, is to be yourself, with preparational research as your foundation.

To write what is believable, whether fiction or non, is to write well, and that means words chosen and actions shown must ring true. I have two shelves of writing, grammar and style books, and this will not be placed there when done. It's so good (if not a little wordy), it will remain my close companion in weekly travels while I absorb its wisdoms.

Here's a few examples from the book, with my inserts in parenthesis to show its transferability to writing:

  "I will show you how a master singer (writer) like Sinatra (Rowling) also used his (her) body, head, and his (her) heart to reach an audience." (p.11)

"For when everything works -- when the adrenaline, the words, and the charge from a satisfied audience all come together -- the result is an experience that even the most nonreligious actors (writers) ... can only describe as spiritual." (p. 22)

"The Zone is within the reach of public speakers (writers) as well. (p. 23)

"My aim is to help you develop an easygoing, conversational delivery (style)." (p. 36)

"When you practice (write) alone, do it out loud. Trust me. I know it may seem a little strange at first, but it makes a big difference." (p. 43)

Almost every page of Act Natural has clear, applicable points to aid any person become a better speaker, and any writer to become a better writer (if you read "writer" into his lines).

by Rodney Richards, Authorpreneur, Author of Episodes, A poetic memoir, about experiencing bipolar; and facilitator of numerous writing classes.

Act Natural is available on Amazon for $5.90 new, copyright 2003 Ken Howard, published by Random House

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