Theatrical Copywriting: Getting Into Character
You ever feel like all the time you spent in school doesn’t help you in your career? Well, I spent my college career in a costume, on a stage. Sure, I had classes spent in a room reading and analyzing plays and their language but I never felt like my college experience was normal, to say the least. And I certainly couldn’t wrap my head around how my background and skills came into play in our world — the marketing world. I just knew that they did. It wasn’t something I was able to easily articulate so I was stuck in a box, knowing that I was capable of so much more than I could explain, yet feeling like a fraud at every turn. Until suddenly, one day...it all clicked for me. As a creative copywriter, I apply my theatre skills every day, both practically and creatively, and they help me fulfill my job and feel fulfilled in my work. And while I really want to go into all of the skills I’ve learned, I also want an opening to make more content in the future. So, I’m only going to focus on one: getting into character. How I did it as an actor versus as a copywriter.
Getting Into Character
To be able to write for a brand, especially if you’re a copywriter who balances more than one brand, you need to be able to find and easily get into character. But you can’t do that until you know the brand/character. To begin, you start with research. For a character I would typically:
- Read the script and then read it again
- Mark up any and all punctuation my character has
- Circle powerful words that stick out
- Make note if they are repetitive with their word choice
- Know who my character is talking to and when
- Fill in the blanks
By fill in the blanks I mean create the backstory to the character. Who were they before the page and who are they going to be after? What things trigger their emotions and do they have a handle on their reactions? Then you and the character become one. You can think, act, and react as them while peppering in the actor behind the mask. Your character becomes second nature and you can start to create as them.
For example: If you’re playing Hamlet, a classic and basic example, you need to study that text. Hamlet talks, a LOT, but there is a reason behind everything he says. It’s your job as the actor to analyze line by line and word by word until you understand the reasoning behind everything Hamlet does. Soak in as much information as you can until you’re able to take him off the page, put him in a Denny’s, and stay in iambic pentameter.
Fun fact: typically Hamlet is played by a younger, arguably in-shape male, but if you read closely during the dueling scene you’ll find Gertrude talks about Hamlet being out of shape and breath, implying that he might not be as athletic as one might think. (Hamlet 5.2.202)From here it’s easy sailing as you slip in and out of your own world and into your character’s. Now let’s compare this to the process of copywriting!!! For a new brand I would typically:
- Collect any and all assets available
- Read and reread through them all
- Make note of the language used
- Make note of punctuation and emojis
- Learn what language/words to avoid
- See how brand tone is used across channels
- Fill in the blanks
Just like you fill in the blanks for your character, you continue the story with a brand. It’s your job to slip on the mask and become the voice of a brand, which sounds really intimidating now that I type it out. But it’s true, you become the brand. You have to know it better than anyone else because it has to be a part of you, at least if you want a bit of fire, flare, and passion there. Brand work IS character work– give your brand a story, or help push the story further. Know who you’re talking to so you can know your tone.
For example: You’re a community manager for a brand you’re not yet familiar with. It’s up to you to understand how to act on a situational basis. It’s not enough for you to know that the brand is upbeat and kind, but what language is used where? You’re also responsible for crafting reactions based on your consumer’s emotions. Some situations can be planned for, while others cannot. The importance of knowing your character allows you to improvise and stay on brand. Learn the voice, become the brand, create. While it may have taken me months to make the connection, I hope that this article will make it easy for you on the first go. Plus, this is just the beginning of the usefulness! Wait until I dive into Shakespeare’s punctuation and how it helped me become a better writer! But if you just can’t wait for more, check out my social media series on growing your brand on TikTok, IGTV, and GIPHY.