1. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    'Method' Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JeffS65, Jan 16, 2011.

    Anyone else do this? You know, like Method Acting (Strasberg, Brando etc). Placing yourself in to the place and emotion(s) of the character you are writing. Further, do you look at the motivation and think of a backstory for the character as you write them, even if that backstory may not be fully evident throughout the piece?

    I'm sure a number of folks would say yes.

    I was thinking that if I can't really get the context of the person I'm writing (ie - 'What's my motivation?') then I can't write a convincing person. If I do dialogue between characters; I need to hear their voice. I need to know what makes them tick. Are they a kind of crabby person?

    All that, to me, drives what makes a deep character.

    DO you guys dig in that deep and get inside the head of a character?

    If I don't, I think they read like cardboard.
     
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  2. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't do method 'acting" or things of that nature, but I do frequently have conversations with my characters.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use a pen name - and I become her when I write I think it is her that writes my books lol helps me distinguish between Mum and writer.

    It depends what I am writing my fantasy is first person present tense I am writing about the inside of their heads.

    In my others then they are in mine as it is third person.
     
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  4. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I find that I have to let my characters 'live' in my head for a while. I don't think you can get into their head - you haven't developed it yet!

    One of the best things I read about character development was that you should keep a record of each character. Fill out a card for each one with date of birth, colour of hair, eyes, height, likes, dislikes etc.

    I thought it was a waste of time, but I gave it a go. And I still do that. I don't really find myself referring to the cards after I've written them, but the act of writing them out, of thinking about the basics of the people I'm writing about helps to formulate them in my mind. You may never mention that your character has blue eyes, but at least you'll know she does and that will help build up a picture of her for you.

    No so important to do if you've only got a couple of characters, but if you're writing a novel with several, it's easy to forget the smallest detail that you can be sure your reader won't!
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I get in the heads of my MCs, but don't consider it to be any type of special method...I mean, it's a crucial part of writing isn't it?

    I've never had much luck with the eye color/weight/bday/etc character profiles. Better development comes with psychological profiling, motivations, fears/hot-button-points (these could be used to create threatening obstacles), goals, reasoning methods, thought processes etc.
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes and yes. It happens automatically when a character starts to become clearly defined and come alive for me. Doesn't happen with all characters, though - I have to find them interesting.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, a lot of the time if I can't carry a character around with me day and night I'll lose hope. My favourite novel that I've worked on had a character who I never really got into. I loved the side characters, the plot, the setting, everything, and I hyped them up loads to get over the fact she was a limp lettuce character. Now I'm re-writing from the point of view of a character who has such a strong life outside the story I find him beating up the main characters of OTHER stories I write if I don't give him enough attention. :p (You think I'm joking, but one time I tried to balance my two biggest projects at the same time, and, walking home from school one day (this was way back) I had a vivid image of one character landing a punch on the other, and I got a 3-month spell of writer's block instantly for both novels. :/ Be very careful that your characters gel both within one story, and among others. :p)

    As I'm writing I get very involved - I don't have to try at all. I've screamed in fury at my mum when trying to answer a "Dinner's ready" with a "Be down in a second!" because I was writing an angry scene... Had to go and apologise - it's about the only time in my life I've raised my voice... :p
     
  8. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    This would be a good place to insert the obligatory method acting anecdote: When shooting a scene for Marathon Man in which his character hadn't slept for days, famed method actor Dustin Hoffman showed up to the set looking like death warmed over. He told his co star Sir Lawrence Olivier, an acting legend in his own right, that his character hasn't slept or bathed in days so neither has he, to which Olivier replied, "Try acting, dear boy. It's much easier."
     
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  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL I love that one Forkfoot one of my favourite quotes could never remember the actors involved
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes, i believe i do. I have been living with these characters since i was a teen (now im 36) so i know them really well, i know what they would feel in most occasions and so on, but i did find that making some sort of character checklist about their motivations and strong/weak points etc made them more real when i write the story down, it adds dimension to what im writing. And i do imagine scenes in my head all the time where i take on one or both parts to understand that they would feel in such a situation. Its almost like they are 2 of my closest friends and sometimes im hanging out more with them than my real friends, at least when im writing the most intensively. This might sound sad but yes, thats the way it is. And i like their company, really ;) that was the first reason i started writing when i was a kid, and it got stronger in my teens; to create an alternative world than the one i was living in, a place i could escape to, and friends i would have liked to have in my real life/people i would like to be.
     
  11. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I would hope people do this. I mean, maybe not acting out voices or putting on wigs and pretending or anything, but certainly working to get inside the characters head and really understand who they are and what they're about.

    I know successful writers who not only do this, but would claim it's absolutely necessary.

    And there are different ways. I'm a thinker, so ruminate on my characters for months or sometimes even years before I start writing, even if it's 'just' a short story. When I'm in a grocery store line, I'm wondering what a certain character would be thinking or feeling were it him/her in line. Or just seeming to space off, and I'm really thinking about my character.

    Some people are writer-outers, and write-write-write figuring out their character by writing out tons and tons of situations and information and background on the character.

    One way or another I think most successful writers end up getting to know their characters far more than the average reader would suspect, and far more than is evident on the page. It could be argued that to make one moment believable, we as the writers need to understand the entire history the character is carrying with them, even if isn't explained on the page.

    But I'm guessing most writers don't sit down to dinner with their families 'in character' heh. Most of us manage to keep the method acting in our imaginations to not raise too many eyebrows in public. :p
     
  12. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    One way or another I think most successful writers end up getting to know their characters far more than the average reader would suspect, and far more than is evident on the page. It could be argued that to make one moment believable, we as the writers need to understand the entire history the character is carrying with them, even if isn't explained on the page.


    I think that's true. How else would we know how they would react to any given situation? How could we construct dialogue involving someone we know little about?

    The more we know about or characters, the better we are able to portray them.

    We have to live with them for a while to know them.
     
  13. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    It totally seems like a sensible thing to do. I generally just write poetry and surrealish prose, so I just write from wherever I happen to be emotionally at the time. If I had to carry a specific plotline all the way across an entire novel, though, this would be impossible, so I'd want to put myself in the emotional state of the various scenes as I write them. Our writing is so heavily influenced by our emotions or lack thereof, you know?
     
  14. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh absolutely, I method 'write' as well as Brando method 'acted' - I wish.

    I think you raise a great point though. It's something I should think more consciously about and strive towards. I'm not entirely sure if 'method' writing is second nature. You can get caught up in the technical aspects of writing when you really need to sit back, close your eyes, and imagine being your character in the conflict situation.
     
  15. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Oh Yes. I even bought a face mask so I looked like my MC. Half way through my novel now, and now its easy to slip into 'character' as I write.
     
  16. barlettaborn
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    barlettaborn New Member

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    If finances permit it I try to visit the locations of my character to imagine how it felt to live there. For historical novel I take time out to visit museums to see artefacts that would have been used, visit the parts of the city they would have lived.
    Not quite 'method' writing. Most people would call it good research but it helps give the character an identity in my opinion.
     

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