Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Method Acting = Method Writing?

Influence this week: The caramel macchiato I'm drinking is doing wonders for my brain.

Music: I'm almost ashamed to say this aloud. “E.T” by Katy Perry (Please put me out of my misery now.)



One of my favorite ongoing manga series is about a teenager who's a method actress. She is always evolving into a completely different character from her true nature. She changes like a chameleon. While it works great for her jobs, it's hard for her to get her name out into the spotlight because she never looks the same. While writing and acting are two separate jobs, I think they have the same mindsets. This got me to thinking about how I write and wondering how everyone else writes.


I've always been absorbed into my own little world. Since I dislike socializing, I tend to people watch more than participate. The way you lean against the wall. The one arm braced against the wallpaper as you casually sip your coffee. The way your eyes are locked onto the couple across the room. I watch you watch their conversation. The way they interact with one another. The way your eyes seem to catch every little detail.


Characteristics and human expressions are my favorite things to catch in action. The way you wave your hand. The way your face twists up when you taste something sour. The crinkles around your eyes while you laugh. The way your face turns six shades of red when someone whispers in your ear. The intimate smile playing on your lips when you see your significant other across the room. All these nuances play into how I write. I visualize exactly how the character looks in that moment. I write down in detail how it plays out.


Some actors fall into what is described as “method” acting. When they read a part in a script, they become that character. In this actor's world, this character is living and breathing. They are no longer the actor playing the part. They are the part. Certainly, knowing how to do the things described within the script helps make the movie seem authentic and real to the viewer. But the amount of power and emotion you bring to the scenes completely depends on the grasp you have over your character. Even if you've not experienced the same emotional mindset as your character, you still need to draw from deep within yourself to play the part.


As a writer, I need to draw deep within myself to pull out every little emotion from the reader. My job is to make you, the reader, feel you can see this scene as if it played out right in front of you. I need you to believe this story is true. That my characters are real people you could meet on the street, pass, and never know they were anything more than a person you passed on the street. There is a magnetism that draws your eyes to them, but they are oblivious to your attention.


So how does one fall into method writing? I feel that all of us writers fall somewhat into that category. We do our research. We draw from deep within ourselves and pull out buried emotions and feelings. I know I've spent hours with my characters learning them, becoming them. We become so absorbed into our worlds we've created, whether its the world we live in or created by our own brain power, until we see nothing else. Time passes us by in just the blink of an eye. Your fingers fly over the keys as you pound out every move. You see the production in front of you with such clarity it's hard to believe with just a few words mumbled no one else knows what the hell you're talking about.


As a reader do you often find yourself imagining the characters as if they were standing in front of you acting out the book you're reading? Of the authors you read, who do you think makes you visualize the characters the most? Writers do you envision yourself as the characters and become one with your story while you're writing it? If you don't know something you're writing, what's your first course of action to rectify that?


PS. How is everyone's writing going this month?


2nd Chance said...

After spending Mom Day at my Mom's...and getting little to no writing done (I did kill a horse but have been subject to such roasting over it...I have resurrected said horse and let it survive. No gurantee this horse will stay resurrected...I still think it has more of an impact to have it die. But that is where I decide if I want it that dark or not...)

Anyway! So, not a whole lot of writing, but some and I have some great epiphanies in regards to where I want to go!

Do I method write? Well, I know my characters and always believe that I am my characters...so yeah.

Donna said...

My writing is going well this month -- I've got a lot of projects going on at once, so it's keeping me busy.

As a reader, I feel like I'm watching a play being acted out for me, and I love the visual aspect of it. (Which may explain why I don't really like being read to -- it doesn't create that same effect for me.)

As a writer, it's actually the same thing -- I'm watching a play as it unfolds, and I'm participating and writing it down, all at the same time.

Marnee said...

I don't see my characters like this. In fact, the visuals of it don't come to me easily. I need help with the descriptions/movements. But they talk, and I can feel what they feel like. And I can see how they want the things they want.

So, no, but yes?

Anyway. Writing's going great. I'm taking this class (which I will shut up about sometime in the future) and it's really helping me to put together my story plot and fill in my holes, draw the emotional connections. I can't recommend enough.

So, I went back through the things I've written and cut and paste things that are usable (that meet the goals of my story but aren't "right" yet) and I'm sitting at 46K. It'll probably whittle down to just 40K or so by end of month, but I'm working through it and trying to make sure that at least the story plot points are met and the basic emotions for the characters are present.

We'll see. I'm working on it now. I'm just going to keep going and try to connect the dots now and see what I get. Then I can revise the crap out of it.

Anyway, long story short... I'm feeling good. :)

Bosun said...

Forgot to say an author who really paints a picture for me is Nora, which is probably why I hate the movies they make from her books. They NEVER look anything like the story I read. Half the time, they aren't anything like the book she wrote.

Bosun said...

I do not get "inside" my characters which is why it's taken me years to figure out deep POV. But I think I have a handle on it now. I'm not one for throwing in too many details. Even if I only say my hero is tall with broad shoulders and dark hair, the reader will fill in the details. How broad the shoulders are, whether he's husky or slim, how long or short his hair is. The reader fills in all sorts of details without having to be spoonfed everything.

Or that's what I think, anyway. :)

When I read some books, it's like watching a movie. When I read others (like your stuff, Sin) I'm IN the scene hiding in a corner trying not to get shot. I might flinch while reading some books, I'd duck while reading a Sin book.

My hero is a charter boat captain and I was fortunate enough to find a Boating For Dummies book at my local UBS. THAT is going to come in so handy.

Hellion said...

It's a blend, I think. I usually say I "become" the character, no matter who the character is. Hero, heroine, secondary character...but even as I'm "becoming" or acting out the character, I'm also seeing the scene around me and seeing what the character is doing so I can write that down. So it's a bit like watching a movie in 3D, but with feelings.

Hellion said...

*LOL* But that's what I really love about books like Sin's. That you feel like you're really there, that you need to duck...or check your windows and doors to make sure they're really locked! *LOL*

But I write non-dramatic stuff comparatively (you know, where you wouldn't fear for your life), so I suppose no one will ever read my stuff and feel like they were actually there. *LOL*

Scapegoat said...

So far I'd say this hasn't happened for me with my characters - maybe that's one of my problems? Maybe not. I do feel like they are missing something and I'm hoping to get deeper into them in revisions.

Holy hell did I just say revisions? Like I already know I'll actually get there? That the book will actually get written?

YES! (HUGE Smiling going on here). I've finally gotten past my stubborn doubting and fear.

So essentially, THAT is how my writing is going! :)

Bosun said...

*waves black pom-poms for Scape*


It took more work for me, maybe, but right now I'm feeling pretty damn good about my writing. I have more to smile about than to complain about, so to me, that's a win. LOL!

In other words, not necessarily a problem for you.

Marnee said...

Yay Scape! Yay Bo'sun!! :) I'm glad everyone's feeling good!

Scapegoat said...

Thanks ladies. It finally feels good and not like this is the book that will never end.

There are few authors who have ever made me feel like I was watching a movie while reading. I know a few Johanna Lindsey books did that for me, as well as one Victoria Dahl book.

Hmmm...Lisa Kleypas has one or two that did that for me too.

Sin said...


*rifling through the crow's nest* I know I have those pom-poms 'round here somewhere.

*flinging out knives, stars, the occasional hottie, dull ice picks*

Ah-ha! Found them!!

*shakes off killer dust bunnies*

Go pirates and accomplices!! I'm so glad you've found your footing with this story Scape! And way to go, Bo'sun!! Let's all work hard towards our goals!

Sin said...

And my face is burning. Thanks for the compliments, Bo'sun and Hells. I really want to strive for that feeling with every scene I write. It's too bad I haven't quite found my way with authentic "love" scenes. Something inside me is way too cynical and jaded for them to make them seems visually real to me while I'm writing them.

One of my favorite visual writers is Janet Evanovich. I think hers is a carry over from taking improv class. She visualizes the stage and takes the characters on it. While I love KH, she's not nearly as visual to me. I see the characters but it's mostly from my own imagination bringing it to life than her narrative possessing me. I've really never felt the indescribable urge to write fan fiction for KH (though, highly forbidden). And while I did write a fan fiction for the Twilight Series it was only because I knew the scene I played out in my head for the wedding and turning would be nothing like the original author wrote. Other than that, I wasn't really visualed on the Twilight series. Obsessed up to Eclipse, but after that, all the obsession died. The story was complete for me after Eclipse. No need for Breaking Dawn and no need for fan fiction. And for me, the feeling of *needing* to write fan fiction is that feeling of staging and visualization of characters past the original intention. Does anyone else feel that way when they read?

P. Kirby said...

Oh, boy, I so totally method write. Once I get into a writing a story, the characters are always buzzing around in my head. I remember one time, when I was at Costco, in the meat section. All that blood red meat, formally animals, now neat packages of plastic wrapped cuts. And Breas, my vampire, muttered (in my head), "And they say vampires are bloodthirsty."

This month, every time I get ready to write, something comes up. This week, I got the galley for the print version of my novel, so going through that has to take precedence. Not a bad thing, but I'd really rather just write.

Bosun said...

Sin - Nope. Never felt the need to put pen to paper...errr...fingers to keyboard to write more on a story I just read. I have enough of my own characters running around in my head, I don't need someone else's in there too.

Pat - My sister never gets those voices I talk about, but it sounds like yours are way more than voices. They're personalities.

P. Kirby said...

Bo'sun. Um, yeah..."personalities." Totally. Separate. Personalities. Yeah. That's it. :)

Speaking of cinematic writing, John Scalzi has an interesting article about how SF movies can help with writing novels. Linky Nothing new (to me) per say, but as an avid film buff, it's always fun to explore the similarities between visual and written storytelling.

2nd Chance said...

Sorry, I'm so late to the party today... Wow, I don't normally sleep in so late without a good excuse!

Congrats, Scape!

2nd Chance said...

Thanks, Pat...I just read the linky article... Nice, concise and too the point.

Janga said...

I'm really late today. Sorry. Sometimes RL stuff just happens.

I love the term "method writing," Sin. I don't think I actually enter the world of the characters as a participant when I write, but I do think that I depend heavily upon observation, sense memory, and emotional recall--all tools of the method actor--to create my fictional world and the characters who inhabit it.

I think most of my autobuy authors must do that to some degree, consciously or not. I just read Karen White's The Beach Trees (women's fiction), and I could feel the sticky New Orleans heat against my skin, smell the Gulf Coast waters, and see--and begin to understand-- Katrina's signature on the land and people as I read. That's the effect I want to have on my readers.