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Balancing Left-Brain and Right-Brain in Storytelling
Artistry sometimes lies in the balance between raw feeling and meticulous detail
This is part of my “Art of Noticing” series, in which I learn, find, or discover the things around me that usually go unnoticed and turn them into an endless source of creative inspiration.
Today, I learned that TV acting is a feat of multitasking, especially where continuity is involved. It made me realize that even in balancing emotionality and “feeling” with precision is one task of any creator.
I was talking recently with two of the actors on the TV show Reginald The Vampire for an episode of the Reginald companion podcast which, once the Hollywood strike ends, I hope to actually finish and publish one of these days.
In our discussion, I learned some really interesting things about the balance of creative vs. technical acting required for TV and film. In addition to getting in the flow and coming in touch with emotions (the creative, right-brained part of acting), they also have to pay tons of attention to left-brain detail: continuity and the careful “matching” that has to happen between different shots in a scene, for instance. Every gesture and every position of a prop has to be consistent from take to take.
It made me realize that even in the most “in the story’s flow” scenes, there's a layer of technical precision that's essential … and actors have to somehow manage both.
This applies to me, too. When I write a book, I'm not just pouring out emotion and other “creative stuff.” Beneath all of that, there's a structure: a backbone of logic and consistency that holds the narrative together, as well as at least passing adherence to the Hero’s Journey, which is my go-to structure. Emotion might be what draws an audience in, but it's the precision and attention to detail that keep the world believable and relatable.
For us as creators, this duality of passion and precision is a lesson in the importance of balance. It's easy to get swept away by the raw flow of a story, but without the structural integrity of continuity and detail to give it bones and sense, even the most pretty tale can quickly fall apart.
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Here's how this "noticing" can benefit my stories and art:
1. Embracing Both Heart and Craft
It’s smart to recognize that while the feeling and “cool flow” of a story (or, really, any art) is vital, it's equally crucial to ensure the logical, detailed framework supports it. Whether it's ensuring character consistency in a novel or the meticulous details in a painting, both elements are pivotal. I can’t count the number of times that a good movie has been ruined for me because the writer or director made some dumb gaffe in the “rules of a good story” that audiences subconsciously expect.
2. Adding Layers to Characters and Scenes
Much like an actor balances emotion with the technical demands of acting on a set and filming out of order, it makes sense for writers like me, and maybe you, to create characters who are not only driven by feelings but also have routines, habits, and quirks that remain consistent. This duality can make them more believable and relatable as real human beings.
It’s just a reminder, really: In most cases, the best and most impactful art usually manages to intertwine raw emotion and all that good stuff with the precision of craft … leading to a richer audience experience.
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