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“And now, as the metaphorical curtain is about to go up on my own book, I sit in the audience, alternately anxious and elated, waiting to see how these actors will transform my words through their own personal experiences.” – Molly Ringwald

Insight often comes from surprising places. That is perhaps the joy of living; we never know what we’ll find or where we’ll find it.

Yesterday, I discovered a very interesting column by Molly Ringwald (of Breakfast Club fame) who penned a column for the Times entitled “Act Like a Writer”. Ringwald presents an interesting comparison between her work as an actress and her work as an author. Preparation for any role was achieved by a thorough invention of a back story, providing her with all the necessary information about the character up to the time an audience sees her onstage or onscreen. She expressed amazement that more actors didn’t write! I know actors, and I know not all of them spend a lot of time creating elaborate back stories. There is an old-school philosophy of “say-your-lines-and-get-off-the-stage.”


“Our job, as the cast, was to find the humanity in the stereotypes that we had been assigned, to show that we were all suffering in our own way and searching for our way out. In the end, that way out is through connection, another lesson I’ve carried through my life and in what I have chosen to explore in fiction.” -Molly Ringwald

She explains that she knows just how the words should sound and feel, suggesting that she has probably made some words sound better, and some worse. She then makes an interesting observation regarding collaboration for the writer: namely that the collaborators are the writer and the reader. The reader, in effect, becomes an actor, and we have no idea how the words will be interpreted. Some writers, she notes, revel in the ambiguity.

The thought occurs to me that the writing is not as much about grammar and punctuation as words. Their connections. Their placement or arrangement. Something must suggest “Come on in; the water’s fine.” The sense of our experiences or imagination are infused inside the choices of words and arrangements we make, at it’s most basic level. I have read the work of unpublished authors, who penned concisely, correctly, grammatically precise, yet fell short of living. The magic ingredient required to make us ready is just that – magic. The choice of words and connections that pull us in, inside the the sound and feeling of words. 

“..waiting to see how these actors will transform my words through their own personal experiences,” say Ringwald. I’m thinking I should be sure of the words sound and feeling in my head first. If there are no magical connections for me, what hope could I have of suggesting to someone “Come on in; the water’s fine!”

When writing mentors suggest that brevity is important, this is why! Simple arrangements of words with connections are the engine of storytelling.