Claiming Your Stage, with Emotional Simplicity

Today we are thrilled to have Spencer M Carney guest posting for us on the subject of brevity in a scene, within writing and acting! Spencer is an actor of both film and stage based in Los Angeles, California. He is also an artist, poet, and writer- a man of many talents! Read on to learn more on an actor’s perspective of crafting stories. 


The thing I think that is most powerful for a writer to do is to instill an emotional reaction from the reader/audience in regards to an experience or image. Sounds simple enough, right? Often writers find micro-behaviors that they have picked up on and string them together, but from my perspective as a solo performer writing memoir, a poet, and as a sketch writer, a piece that focuses on one moment, one singular moment, feeling, or image-that is when I’ve experienced writing to be most powerful.

Though I personally write mostly short-form, one might imagine how this idea translates to long-form via say a short story or chapter/scene within a novel or screenplay.

Often within my poetry I’ll even go as far as to only be able to write the poem within the place that inspired it. This goes for even when I am editing my work. Though this sounds rather, as an actor might say, “method”, there is a particular purpose behind this seeming madness. Each of my poems is drawn from an image out in the world. One image. One feeling or emotion evoked by said image. My job as the poet is to simply put you into the same frame of mind that I was in when I experienced it myself. To allow other unrelated images or feelings into the experience may prove to diminish the singular experience of the entire poem, diminishing the emotion it was attempting to invoke. At the very least, over-complicating and intellectualizing can make one’s writing come off as distant.

Think of your favorite chapters within a novel that you have read. More often than not, they would be describing, for example, an action scene whose sole purpose is to build tension within you before it’s released. Just is the same with a romance scene focusing singularly on the moment that the two lovers (presumably) have their “moment”, the singular moment of their making love. Finally, even think of a good grieving scene, surely a lot has to be running through the character’s head? How could we ever understand? The answer: Strip it down. The universal experience of grieving itself will carry the chapter, very little has to be said at all.

Across the whole craft of writing, isn’t our goal to leave a lasting image in our reader’s minds? Just as in the craft of acting we are hoping to convey the emotions, just so, that our audience is just as at a loss for breath or just as jubilant as we are.

Be specific, work piece by piece, leave your audience with an image that makes them crave more. That leaves them, perhaps, with more questions than answers.


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Spencer M Carney is an actor, musician, and poet currently based in Los Angeles, California. A Kansas City native, Spencer has performed and written a variety of theatrical performances all around the KC Metro area until his studies took him from studying Early English Literature and Composition at the University of Missouri-Columbia to Theatre at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts. When he isn’t writing social media articles to pay the bills, you just might catch a snippet of him on your television, or find him creatively writing in a local coffee shop. His debut book of Poetry is slated to be released in mid-late 2017.

For more about Spencer M Carney follow him on Twitter: @spencermcarney, or go to http://www.spencermcarney.com for a link to his blog, and to learn about his other artistic pursuits!

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