Coming from a screenwriting background, I always write from a very visual place. My books first come to me (and most others I'm sure) as a movie in my head. I'm not in love with prose. In fact, often I feel that my words--feeble as they usually are--get in the way of my story. When I really feel a character or their journey, my goal as a writer is to stand out of their way and let them live.
One of the things that helps me is to act out my characters. Now, no, you won't find me prancing about my Batcave (that's where I write) with a cloak reciting lines to thin air (I don't know why I would have a cloak, it just sounded appropriate). But I really try to picture actors or put myself in the role. Not just in what they think or their background, but I want to define their mannerisms. How they relate to one another and what that visually looks like.
Today I had a blast watching through some audition tapes of the young actors that are going to be in the movie I wrote "Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea" (title subject to change). The film starts shooting in a couple weeks and I'm really excited to see the finished product. I wrote this a few years ago and, since then, filmmakers Rich and Dave Christiano worked on the script, found a director, and have put this whole thing together. Watching the young actors cast in the movie was a real treat. It was even a little emotional, watching them live out my dialogue. Some of them brought things to the roles that I would have never dreamed of. Their nuance, their acting choices--it showed me a new side to my own characters. What was especially neat was watching one young actress in particular read one of the more tender, emotional scenes. I marveled that she was making all the same nuanced mannerisms that I made while writing it! Perhaps I'm just really in tune with my inner teenage girl, but I felt a real kinship to that performance. That was my character, ripped right from my heart, and on the screen staring back at me.
I think watching the actors has helped my writing process even more. It's given me new things to think about in how people act and the various ways that a single line can be delivered and all the new meanings that arise out of each interpretation.
I'll let everyone know when the movie comes out. It's a far cry from my usual projects--you know, no monsters or disembowelment--but I think you'll like it anyway :p We're hoping to see it out early next year.
For the writers, what are some of the ways you've acted out your characters to better understand your writing? For readers, would it bother you to think of your favorite author prancing about in a cloak reciting dialogue to thin air? :p