Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Method Writing

The other day, one of my friends asked me a very interesting question:
"Given that you are an extravert, do you find writing (being alone for long periods of time) tiring?"
I'd never really thought about it in those terms before, so I thought about it, and what I realised is this: I'm a method writer.

You've probably heard of method acting, where actors try (by whatever method - there isn't just one 'method') to get into the mindset and emotions of their character instead of 'just pretending'.

This is how I approach writing.

It wasn't really a conscious decision, but I don't think I could do it any other way - how can I show my readers how my character feels, if I don't feel it? For that matter, how can I know how a character will act, except by feeling the way that he feels about a given situation?

It can certainly be a challenge when I'm writing about really unpleasant experiences, and end up reliving whatever is the closest I've experienced (e.g. I've never been tortured, but I have felt in danger of my life, and I don't much enjoy the memory of that!).

One interesting consequence of the way I write is that I often have to go through scenes from multiple perspectives, to make sure every character is acting according to how he's feeling at that time, and then merge them into one finished product.

I usually use music to get myself in the right mood for a given scene (from a given perspective), often playing the same track on endless repeat if it really captures the essence of what I'm trying to portray.

So to answer the original question, I feel lonely if my character is lonely, but if I'm writing about busy, social scenes then it's like being there myself.

Does this ring bells for any other writers?
How do you feel when you're writing?


Corinne said...

I'm totally a 'method writer' too - I've taken a Burlesque class, walked into a Scottish loch and traced the steps a character would take from their 'home' to their 'work' all in the name of method writing. I'm a big fan of emotional-research for the things that you can't physically go out and do - I always have a music playlist for whatever I'm working on and about reaching those odd emotions that some how are intune with what you're writing about. Obviously I think this is exactly as it should be but I noticed when I was writing a play earlier this year which featured a character was bipolar that I did get my head in a very weird place and had to step back!

Bagman and Butler said...

Absolutely. Although I don't write fiction much anymore. The problem I've discovered is that practicing awareness of how different characters in a scene are feeling carries over into real life so whenever I'm in the midst of emotional confrontation, I end up agreeing with everybody. Which really never helps anybody. So I just get frustrated.

Anonymous said...

Yes--I experience whatever my characters experience and feel along with them. But I'm an introvert, so I don't think it has to do with i/e personality types.

Kitty Moore said...

That is a very interesting approach - I might try it!

gaelikaa said...

You have to be alone to get your thoughts in order. You have to get into the skin of your character to write how you character is feeling. A lot of our experiences come out in our writing no doubt. But there is some innate skill or talent involved. Otherwise how could Emily Bronte have written as she did, living all her life in a quiet parsonage in a small village?

Dauntless Diva said...

I LOVE to write alone. In fact, I can ONLY write in solitude (disregarding my puppies, of course, who are my constant companions).

If my fiance is present, I can only write if he's snoring on the pillow beside me or working on some house project in the background.

As much as I am a multi-tasking genius, I crave/need alone-time in which to create...

Christina said...

From your interests Id say you sound very 'geekish' - my comments are not meant to be putdowns!
Lots of my ideas to write a post on my blog comes either from what Ive experienced in life and/or newsy articles Ive read online!

In fact some blogger had made degratory comments on one of my posts that so irritated me, that I took a 2 month reprieve! Until my 'free speech' is taken away by my Government, I will continue to have an opinion and for all those not liking it, may the splinters always point upwards as you slide down the banister called LIFE!

Kevin Musgrove said...

I will only admit to pulling all the faces. (-;

Tina Hunter said...

Good Luck with NaNoWriMo this year.

I think I need more encouragement than you, but I'm sure we'll both get there.


Livia said...

Yeah, I was just thinking about "method writing" a few days ago. I think it's really helpful for wirting realisitc characters. And the more I can get into my characters, the easier the words come.

Deidra said...

Your characters keep you company! And aren't they the most fun, interesting company anyway? :)

julie70 said...

Great idea to try to understand the different points of view, also I think we finally all write, every scene, mostly from one of the persons view.

As for unpleasant scenes, when I feel to near them or even more, they are still unresolved issues in me about them, I still cannot write them at all. I am still waiting to understand, to accept some things that happened to me, a long time ago. "What was it good for?" I try to discover.

Perhaps, one time, you can write about what happened, and try to make sense from them, or "resolve" it somehow, for the reader or listener.

I did succeed to write "unpleasant scenes" using my fantasy and only the victims point of view for long time, and exaggerating, going very far into the fiction, lot lot farther than I felt or what happened to me. And later, taking on, someone else point of view, but not the vilain's.

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