(by Mike Abrams. Posted 2000)
Have you ever become someone else while telling? I donít mean you acted like someone else or even tried to sound like someone else, I mean have you actually tried to become that other person?
Creating a character requires you change something about yourself to convince your audience you are "acting" like someone else for a little while, such as your voice or clothing. The hope is that they will be able to picture that other person and suspend belief that you are there. Letís take this one step further. What if you were to change your clothing, voice, mannerisms, and the way you move? Letís even change your physical appearance. Now then, weíll do all of that and not let the audience see you at all. What I mean is, start the entire evening already made up as that other character. This is what I call Full Body Characterization.
This is not a new concept at all, but a new name for a really good way to invite an audience fully into your story. I enjoy telling stories this way. I suppose some people would say it is not storytelling at all, but rather acting. Yes, to some degree it is, but in acting one of your goals is to create a fourth wall between you and the audience. I am talking about becoming a character that lives, breathes and interacts with the audience.
I recently had the opportunity to become a homeless man for a one hour performance. I wrote about this previously in "the Village Post" so I wonít go back through the details. I will however point out that this type of storytelling is very powerful for the audience since it is much easier to suspend belief in you when they have not seen you. When you can completely and fully become a character, literally breathe live into someone who does not exist, you are creating an environment that can take the audience in places they have not been.
How many audience members do you suppose ever really get to spend time with a homeless man without feeling incredibly uncomfortable? Now stretch that and put the homeless man in charge of them, of their evening. You can create an incredible experience for your audience by fully inviting them to accept your character and forget about you.
Some very famous people have used this same performing tool to create impressive characters like Mark Twain, Harry S. Truman, and Walt Whitman. When done properly, these characters take over and bring us to amazing places in performance.
Experiment with Full Body Characterization for yourself. Invite some friends over and become someone else for a change. Get their feedback and then practice again. This is a very powerful tool to have in your storytelling toolbox.
C. 2000 Mike Abrams is Past President and Co-founder of Storyteller.Net. He is a storyteller, father, husband and web site developer.