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Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors
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Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  305 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Proven techniques for creating vivid, believable characters

Want to bring characters to life on the page as vividly as fine actors do on the stage or screen? Getting into Character will give you a whole new way of thinking about your writing. Drawing on the Method acting theory that theater professionals have used for decades, this in-depth guide explains seven characteriz
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 11th 2002 by Wiley (first published March 1st 2002)
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Stefan Emunds
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
All stories are subjective. 100%. A good fiction author doesn't tell a story, he describes how characters react to situations, people, and things. Otherwise, he would describe his reaction to said situations, people, and things ;-) That's why the prime exercise of any fiction author is bringing his/her characters to life. This book tells you how to do that using seven (secret) principles derived from Stansislavsky's techniques of "method acting." The book is to the point, easy to digest, and com ...more
Jan 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Lacking in depth--

When I found this book, I was ecstatic because I had been meaning to study Stanislavsky's Method acting to enrich my fiction. I started reading it with gushing enthusiasm.

What a disappointment.

Granted, the author does offer some interesting advice, but over all, it is thoroughly disappointing for its lack of depth and complete failure to deliver what it promises (e.g. "Through releasing the sensations of your own experiences, emotion memory allows you a surprising glimpse into
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Quick review for a quick read. Oh, this was a good one. Very well organized and appropriate link to how writers can employ actor's techniques in helping them craft their fiction. I was fascinated by the premise of this book, so I took no hesitation in picking it up. The book revolves around describing seven techniques that actors use to convey their performances of character, and Brandilyn Collins expands on these techniques to show how writers can make their characters (and stories) more effect ...more
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, finished
What I liked about "Getting into Character" is that the author breaks down what most books on writing leave vague. Brandilyn Collins provides examples of what she is trying to convey to authors on writing quality. These examples help set in and reconfirm her advice on writing techniques. The topic's provided in this book are unique; Coloring Passions, Inner Rhythm, Restraint and Control and Emotion Memory, these are my favorite topics from the book. Brandilyn Collins was able to hit on the mark ...more
Lee Howell
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have just finished reading this book. Even though I bought it a while ago I wished that I had read it sooner. It gives clear and thoughtful explanations that help you easily understand what a good book should feature when written. It compares the lessons learned from actors and reports how a novelist can use these same lessons learnt successfully as features in their own writing. It shows you easily how you as a writer can train your self to incorporate these ideas by giving you easy technique ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
A must read for novelists!

Thinking that actors are the cousins to writers was an interesting idea. There is so much to learn about writing from examining method acting. What I loved about the book was after she explained the particular secret, she gave different examples, *and* included a follow-up. So even if you missed the point in the example, she drove it home with her commentary afterward.

Best quote: Strong writing requires an intimate knowledge of humanity.

Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Excellent book on characterization. At the start of the chapter for each of the seven "secrets" there are two paragraphs: "Actor's Technique" and "Novelist's Adaption" and that provides a great roadmap for what you will learn in the chapter. Just really good instruction here with exercise and samples to make it all sink in.
Adam Ross
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
A great book that uses acting methods to explore the dimensions of your characters. As one who was a theater minor in college, this really helped me understand my characters.
Debra Daniels-zeller
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
This is a great useful book with lots of exercises and examples that can give your characters more depth. My favorite sections include: subtexting and emotion memory. Each chapter open with an actor's technique and the novelist's adaptation, about using your own experience and accessing memories for story. Lots of great ideas in this little gem of a book.
Carrie Daws
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I learned so much, and still have lots to process, from reading through Brandilyn Collins's book. Her secrets are easy to understand, yet will take a lifetime of writing to perfect. If you want to create better characters, this is a great place to find hints, strategies, and insights.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible. Be ready to focus, think, and highlight or take notes, because this book contains priceless concepts for writers that cannot be found anywhere else. I will be referring to its riches again and again as I hone my craft.
Elle Bee
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Must-Read for Every Aspiring (or Already Aspired) Novelist.

Getting into Character has changed my life… for better and for worse. As I read about each of Brandilyn’s seven secrets, I saw them come to life elsewhere. In the books I was reading in between the secrets from Getting into Character. This provided a fantastic learning experience!

After reading Secret 1 – Personalizing – I couldn’t help but think of (don’t laugh at me!) Katniss from The Hunger Games. I thought about the choices she mad
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
A good book that is useful for a variety of problems, or to read entirely to learn some of major problems in writing and how to fix them before you even start. The opening of the book asks you to identify the problem areas of your writing and then points to which sections will help fix that, which is useful for those who are focused only on what they need right now.

The language and tone of the novel isn't the most inviting. This book reads like a college textbook - it wants to appeal to intellec
Ann Thomas
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-writing
The author, Brandilyn Collins, studied acting, including the Method of acting laid out by Constantin Stanislavsky, which teaches actors to really get inside a character, to take on their inner lives, to become the character. When she became a writer, she automatically used the Method techniques to bring her characters alive. Speaking to other writers, she was surprised that they didn't know about this, which is why she wrote this book.

I was fascinated by the idea, as I really need to work on th
Ann Thomas
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-writing
The author, Brandilyn Collins, studied acting, including the Method of acting laid out by Constantin Stanislavsky, which teaches actors to really get inside a character, to take on their inner lives, to become the character. When she became a writer, she automatically used the Method techniques to bring her characters alive. Speaking to other writers, she was surprised that they didn't know about this, which is why she wrote this book.

I was fascinated by the idea, as I really need to work on the
Oz Barton
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Hard to believe no one's thought to explore this concept in a whole book before: translating the techniques of method acting into fiction writing. Likewise, each chapter presents ideas that are obvious in retrospect (and, yes, a few that are just plain obvious, including a couple that seemed, to me, redundant — but that just goes with the territory of books about writing).

The writing is simple and clear; the examples many and varied. She deconstructs with great restraint, only pulling out the hi
Connie Cockrell
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I saw this book mentioned on a blog over a year ago, sorry blogger, I don't remember which one, and added it to my Christmas wish list. Last December, hubby got it for me.

Getting Into Character, Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors seems, from the title, like a short read. Just seven secrets? Sure, I can read that in a day. Uh, not so much. The deceptively simple title covers an in-depth look at how Stanislavsky's techniques for method actors can be used by writers to create deeper, m
Sue Coletta
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I finished this book in one sitting. I could not get enough, drinking the knowledge, hungry for more, and more, as she revealed tricks and secrets, techniques and acronyms, drawing me in, making me crave it, need it. I had to discover everything she knew! Brandilyn Collins is one amazing writer. Whether you are an aspiring writer or a multi-published author I'm betting this book has something in it you have not discovered yet. And, oh, my God, is it amazing! I will never look at characters, subt ...more
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had heard a great deal about the merits of this book and when I finally got to it, I wished I had picked it up ages ago. It is a clear and concise look at how to take characters deeper. Understand their motivations, their thought process, how to make body language, dialogue and past history play into making them a true three dimensional character.

Within this book I found information that I found invaluable to take my characters to the next level, for them to become real and jump off the pages
A.J. Bauers
Given my own theater/performing background, this book really drew me in with its premise. What could be better than mixing two of my great loves -- writing and acting? And while I did enjoy the seven secrets Brandilyn breaks down, this book served as more of a refresher from my theater classes based on Stanislavsky's method. Fortunately, the book was still engaging enough for me to flip through the pages easily.

This book would help provide a gateway into accessing your character's mind for auth
Caprice Hokstad
Eh. I had high expectations. This didn't meet them. It's supposedly 7 "secrets". The first 4 are pretty good. The last three are not really secret at all and the example texts got really tedious, IMO. I also cannot figure out how a major publisher allowed so many misspellings of the word "led". It was spelled like the metal "lead" but the context clearly called for the word "led" not "lead". It was quite a few times, not just once. It became very distracting. The book was okay, but I wasn't impr ...more
Jun 18, 2011 rated it liked it
The whole relating it to acting thing didn't really connect with me, but there were some points I highlighted on my kindle such as:

"Past participles (past-tense verbs ending in "ing") are best used in quiet, easy-rhythm scenes. When action or suspense begins, use regular past-tense verbs." (p. 147/location 2125)

"Complex sentences often make the reader wade through words before reaching the subject and main verb ...In action or suspense sequences, the main verb is the most important word of the s
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fiction writers
Recommended to Rosemary by: saw it on Goodreads
Getting Into Character is an excellent resource for all fiction writers. Brandilyn Collins adapts her knowledge of Method acting to the art of creating multi-faceted characters in novels and stories. As a writer of both novels and plays, I've long enjoyed mixing the techniques of playwriting with novel writing and have looked to actors' performances for ways to describe characters' actions and the physical expressions of their inner lives. Collins's books adds a new richness to my appreciation o ...more
Jordan McCollum
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gift from Jaime!

Good advice. Some of it is similar to things you can read in other places (I've read probably a third? of the books she lists in the appendix as further reading on some of her topics), and some of it I could use more examples or explanation (inner rhythm, perhaps personalizing). But all together, good advice.

Not totally sure if it will change the way I plan, but probably the way I revise.
Margaret Metz
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I think I related a little better to this book because I played at acting in high school and did a little more in my local theater and church. I don't claim to be a real actor, but some of the advice was familiar to me already.

What I loved most of all were the examples given. Some of the writing books tell you what you should do but never show you how to do it or what it looks like.

This is an excellent tool for writers and one I plan to refer to often.
Randy Tramp
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Reading only a couple pages a day, I would let the material sink in, then apply it to my work in progress. I found myself thinking differently after studying the principals in this book.

Collins made it personal, citing several examples from her own work. That proves very valuable, as I would get that book and look for what she taught in, "Getting into Character."

I highly recommend this book to any author, no matter how long you've written.
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting approach to developing characters. As with any book of this sort, some parts seemed more relevant to my needs than others. I thought some of the example were overly long and would maybe have been more effective if I knew that books. I enjoyed the examples I knew, but found some of those to be long too. If you are a writer who struggles with portraying the inner lives of your characters, this book might give you some new insights.
Cathy Bryant
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The sub-title for this book is: "Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors." Author Brandilyn Collins adapts the Method acting techniques of famed acting coach, Stanislavsky, for novelists to use in creating characters.

This book is such a unique and fresh way to approach characterization, and is a must-read for any serious writer.

(Read a more in-depth review at
Pauline Youd
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Before turning to writing, Brandilyn Collins was a long-time student of drama, including Stanislavsky's writings on Method acting. In Getting into Character she draws on the Method acting theory to explain seven characterization techniques, and adapts them for the novelist's use. She presents 7 acting "secrets" to make your characters come alive using samples from classic and contemporary novels. I found this book useful and will probably reread it often.
Amanda G. Stevens
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Five stars because this is the book that first taught me how to analyze and mold my own life experience in fiction writing, especially character emotions. In one chapter, Collins makes the case that any writer who's chased a buzzing fly around a room can use that coldblooded determination to write a murderer. The skills here are important stepping stones for mastering deep point of view.
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Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®--fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith.

Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is a sought-after teacher and speaker a
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