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  1. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Inflicting Conditions

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Leaka, Jun 18, 2009.

    I was in acting class with a friend and my teacher talked about how some actors would do things for the roles they played.
    Such as one of the actors decided to gain some weight because he wanted to feel what it was like to feel rundown and out of shape.
    Another actor didn't sleep for 2 days and ran for 2hrs before coming in to do a torture scene because he wanted to feel what it would be like to be tortured.
    So my question is this: How do writers portray certain character personalities without doing the same method?
    Like the mind of an insane person, or even another gender.
    A lot of the time I read books and see an insane person. And even though sometimes well believable you realize how researched it was.
    And even some characters do sound researched[I don't have any examples because I am lazy and don't want to get up] rather then a character.
    Do you think writers would make better characters if they try this method?

    These are more hypothetical questions.

    Also wasn't certain to put this in general or character.
    So I put it in character.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is called The Method, or Method Acting. Most accomplished actors look down on Metod Acting, and prefer an observational approach instead.
    Author Ken Kesey experimented with LSD and other psychoactive drugs (before it was popular - he was on the leading edge of the hippie movement.), ald also arranged to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, electroshock). He then wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
    No. Writers make better writers if they learn to be competent observers. By observing people under extreme conditions, they do not pollute the observer. They are in a better position to show the character rather than try to tell, which makes them better at presenting to a reader who is also in an uncompromised state of mind.

    If your observer is operating under delusion or altered consciousness, what is conveyed to te reader is also distorted.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Method acting like that certainly can produce some pretty amazing results, but its not always the best. For instance, Sean Penn in Milk (won the oscar) was acting with a capital A. He did the method thing, researched that role for months, got to know the people Harvey Milk knew, got to know how he talked, moved, thought. And it won him the oscar. But Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (the favourite for the oscar) acted in a completely different way - rather than making the character a distinct identity, he merged that character with himself so that you can never really tell where he ends and the character begins.

    So how does that relate to writing characters....It obviously depends on who you are writing, what style, etc....writing and acting are completely different disciplines though....the guy who ran for two hours before filming torture didn't have to understand and be able to describe the process or emotions or sensations that accompanied that, he just felt it and let someone else record it. The writer has to experience and understand those things, as well as record them in the best way possible to convey that same thing to the reader (which is far easier in film than in literature, obviously). Certain characters will need research done about them, but the key thing is to alwys remember that they are meant to represent real people, which I would align more with the Mickey Rourke method - research aspects of their character, and then apply that to a real, normal personality, so that you end up with a person who is insane, rather than an insane person, if you get what I mean?
     
  4. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't say I have the answer, but four things came to mind.

    1. The time scale and requirements of the performance are different. An actor has to get all the details of their character down at the same time while an author is free to write something, leave, come back later, and add new details that they forgot or didn't think about the first time around. They have more time to iron out the wrinkles and don't have to concentrate on the details they don't want to. If you don't know exactly what expression a character should have in a book then you just don't have to describe it. An actor doesn't have that luxury, because all the details are visible whether or not they contribute to the performance.

    2. The act of writing is more fully immersed in the mind than acting. The actor is free to take visual and audio cues from the others in the performance while the author has to do the acting for every person. I'm not saying that an actor doesn't think about his performance, but that he's standing halfway between the physical world and the imaginary one while the author is standing firmly in the imaginary. Maybe that, combined with the extended time to get the character down right could answer your question.

    3. Acting is the art of looking inward and changing yourself on demand. Writing is the art of looking inward and changing someone else on demand. It's easier to get the details down when you are able to take a step back.

    4. Do we really know that authors don't do that? It can't be that many actors who take it to extremes like that. If a similar percentage of writers did the same thing it's entirely possible we wouldn't hear about it.
     
  5. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    I think you can write a little more realistically if it's a personal experience, but I don't have the time or the means to become a lawyer just so I can write a book where the MC is a lawyer. So I agree with what has been already said. Writers need to be better observers and then portray what we see to the audience. I tend to think that research or knowing people who are familiar with or have experienced the subject will help more than actually experiencing it yourself.

    On a side note, aren't all actors working off a script, which is a piece of writing? So someone would have imagined the torture scene before the actor needed to bring it alive. And I think the chances are slim (though not impossible) that the writer was tortured when they wrote down the prompts for the way the actor should act in the scene.
     
  6. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I think Method Acting for writing can help, but it is not necessary. Acting is more dependent on the visual and auditory senses, so it is important that the actor gets as close to whatever he's trying to portray. The writer, on the other hand, only has to worry mainly about the words - there's no one watching the writer right there on the spot, so he doesn't need to worry about looking like a phony as much as an actor. For the actor, one little mistake could ruin the entire suspension of disbelief, while the writer's words can be more broadly interpreted.
     
  7. SingToMeMuse
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    SingToMeMuse Member

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    I don't know that I would physically put myself through an ordeal to connect with my characters but I find that exposing myself to things related to them helps me a lot. Like with a WWII novel I have in the works I will frequently listen to 40's music to get myself in the flow or I watch classic films from the era to get a feel for the culture, lifestyles, and dress of the day were etc. One of my character's connects with someone from her past while visiting the graveside of a deceased loved one so I went to my grandparent's grave and I found that actually being in a cemetery before my own loved ones REALLY made my character speak to me.
    For me at least, I think it's essential to seek out ties in real life that can help me understand my characters more.
     
  8. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I just want to say thanks to Cogito for such astute posts. I know that I've been here all of two days, but I've already learned some very important things.

    I realized that I'm able to "project" into my characters because of my extensive observations of people. Just last night I was writing and one of my characters suddenly broke down. It was an emotional overload due to a fight. The thing is, I didn't consciously plan for her to break down, it's just what felt right. It's like my subconscious made the observation "Hey, she needs to deal with the trauma she just experienced".

    Observations create expectations - something that the human brain is exceedingly good at.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can only ditto what our wise cog had to say on the subject...

    [how'dja get so smart, kid?]
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stanislovski as a whole is not great, but the techniques have been adapted and incorporated into modern methods. I think it does help. I think it can help with writing, too, but going to such extremes is a little much. An actor I know of only bit into a really hot pepper before each take during a torture scene. Helped it get sweaty enough for the scene, too. No reason for us to do any worse, or put our health at risk.
     
  11. nativesodlier
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    nativesodlier Member

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    I feel that method acting could only benefit a piece. It would help you see things maybe you wouldn't have noticed before, and put you better in the mind of the person you are trying to portray. maybe at least goto the location. (insane character, goto a secure ward) ask to sit in one of the rooms. (probably would have to have yourself admitted but hey.) I spent the night and full day in a psych ward. there was literally NOTHING to do. white walls, small beds. not a single thing on the walls or doors. i almost went insane looking for something to do. The only thing of interest was this lady trying to do a strip tease for the security guard..... I ended up spending a few hours listening to a guy ramble on about how his deceased mother was trying to communicate with him through newspapers. I feel that i would write a stronger, more coherent piece with that experience.

    Just my opinion.

    (Note: This was not the "long term hold" ward or whatever you will call it. it was where they keep you for a day or two before deciding where to place you in the facility.)
     
  12. edens garden
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    edens garden Senior Member

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    "Experience has taught me that interest begets expectation, and expectation beget disappointment, so the key to avoiding disappointment is to avoid interest. A equals B equals C Equals A, or whatever."
    -George, Dead Like Me

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

    On topic now.

    I think that any writing taken from experience usually seems truer, but punishing yourself to falsely create that experience will make your writing read the same way; false.
     
  13. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    @edens - we're talking about two different types of expectation. The quote you mention talks about abstract wanting. Rather, the expectation I meant to talk about was just simple observations about the world around us. For instance, if a person is always late, then you expect that person to always be late. If a person is usually bubbly and happy, then you expect that person to usually be happy and bubbly. It is when things are out of what we expect that we notice them.

    Think about your car, you expect it to start with a specific sound, even though you don't think about it ever. If that sound changes, or if it takes too long, your brain rings a tiny alarm bell alerting you to a potentially serious change. That's what I meant by expectations.

    Anyways, about experience versus imagination - consider The Hunt for the Red October - one of my professors had actually served as a nuclear engineer aboard a submarine during the late cold-war era. While they were ashore, the movie was released, and they were invited to screen it the night before. My professor said that at many points in the movie all of the sailors burst out into laughter at how very wrong some of the "facts" were portrayed. He said that all the non-sailors were confused because those parts didn't seem to be particularly funny.

    Despite the fact that Tom Clancy has probably never set foot aboard a nuclear submarine doesn't mean that he cannot write a convincing novel worthy of screen adaptation. You don't have to convince the experts, you just have pretend well enough for the masses.
     
  14. edens garden
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    edens garden Senior Member

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    Seta- It was just a quote from a TV show that your wording made me think it. The quote itself was off topic. Sorry for any confusion.
     

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