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Method Writing


Zombie

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1 hour ago, Zombie said:

We’ve all heard about “method acting”, but what about method writing?

Meaning you try to immerse yourself completely in the character(s) and / or the narrator in order get into their mindset (behaviours, emotions, speech patterns etc) which you want to be different from yours, as the writer, in order to create an authentic and interestingly varied “cast”.

Is this something any of you have tried, or do regularly?

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35379361

Btw I can’t post this in Writer’s Circle because I’m not a writer so it has to go here...

 

 

 

 

Interesting question, Zombie. Here's my two cents. I believe I have done this from the beginning. As much as the characters are inside my head, I do my best to get in theirs. I not only want, but need to understand the people I'm writing about. Whether it makes it fully onto the page, there is always a backstory I explore in my mind. I need to understand why they act the way they do, or their motives and reasons for being how they are. I would suspect that is the way of a lot of writers. It's easy for a reader to see the opposite, when an author is struggling to pin down their characters, because a character usually acts 'out of character,' leaving us scratching our heads and saying WTF. That said, some characters are totally or partially unpredictable, but I feel as long a readers understand that about them, it can be okay in moderation. I always keep in mind characters are a part of a reader's life for a time, and they want to feel they really know them.

You mention speech patterns and I think that is intrinsic to how I write. I hear my character's voices clearly, and I hear their little speech idiosyncrasies. Never has it been as important as in my latest story, Sidewinder, set in the Old West. I must be a method writer, because I find myself using the western dialect and sayings of my characters in my everyday thinking and speaking. :)  Cheers!

   

Edited by Headstall
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That is precisely how I do things actually. Sometimes, if I'm having a particularly hard time with some dialogue, I'll even get up from my computer and act out the conversation out loud as the characters, letting myself use mannerisms they might employ or postures they might take, changing up the wording and the tone until I find something that feels right. I'll not be winning any awards for my performances, but its enough to get the creative juices flowing at the very least.

I also like to make small vignettes outside of my stories for my personal use that I use to explore the personality of a character I haven't quite fleshed out enough yet. This could be stuff like having an interview with the character or having them respond to a situation that would be out of the ordinary to them to feel out how they would react to it. That way, when I'm actually writing the story I can just let the characters do what comes naturally to them instead of prescribing what they do for them artificially. 

Learning about how improvisation works helps a lot when you try your hand at this kind of writing. 

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This is character led writing. You get inside the heads of your characters and let them speak, then the story follows. I don't do that. I plot the story (more or less) and the characters play their roles. That doesn't mean they aren't real or have nothing to say, but they don't lead the story. They react to what happens to them, the situations which arise. Although the characters can influence what happens with their actions, the reader follows the story (plot) and not the characters. Of course, there are always the protagonists, there in the story, all the way through, but the story is only a little part of their lives. It is about something that happened to them or which involved them. I need to know what the plot is to write the story, it's the frame which encloses the book.

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8 hours ago, Talo Segura said:

This is character led writing.

I don’t think so. As much as my characters are in my head and I am in theirs, I am the one who makes them dance.

Not  that I think there's anything wrong  with 'character led writing', "to each their own" . The protagonists are creations of the author's mind not by some foreign entity after all. 

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What comes first, The egg or the chicken? The MC or the plot? Gary's correct when he says they go hand in hand. Particularly with my stories leaning on real events and places, sometimes the plot comes first. Say a football game I want to highlight for whatever reasons. The characters fall in line, experience the event, and provide dialogue appropriate to the story. Other times, it's the character who leads. In my current story, the MC starts as a teen but his maturing has led me to create situations where he can display his changing persona.

More and more, I just write and hope readers enjoy what I produce. Screw the methodology and what anyone else says is right. Luckily, @Mann Ramblings keeps me in line. :P
 

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21 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

More and more, I just write and hope readers enjoy what I produce. Screw the methodology and what anyone else says is right.

Yeah, I agree with that sentiment, but I do still enjoy discussing writing, how people approach it. You can learn a lot just listening to people.

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These are very good points on the concept of character and method writing :)

When I get into the head space of a character, I need to frame a character by reference, i.e. if my character is supposed to be contemplative and existential, then I read a book for reference like Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture to create the mentality. That's 2nd hand sourcing instead of direct interaction.

Additionally, sometimes you can use real world locations within your own life as a branching point for stories and characters. Even different neighborhoods within a large city have different cultures, speech patterns, and mentalities. A setting can drive motivations for the character/plot as well, but in this case, you are closer to the setting than a reference.

A character and plot may never fit into easy categories. I kind of feel like @Carlos Hazday sometimes as I write stories and leave them unfinished or unpublished, since I worry about readers thought

Quote

"More and more, I just write and hope readers enjoy what I produce. Screw the methodology and what anyone else says is right."

 

That's my two cents

Edited by W_L
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I will have to disagree on the sentiment of disregarding methodology and other authors opinions on how to go about writing. While I certainly understand the spirit of the statement, it does leave out an important thing to remember; Any and all things you learn can be used to enhance the way you tell your story. You may not use everything you've learned from other people on every story, but having that methodology at your disposal could be the very thing to help bust you through the dreaded writers block when it comes knocking.

You do not know everything about writing, lord knows I don't with how I use spell check as life support. It is important to be able to admit that to yourself and see what other people might be able to offer you,. Chances are they might just have that nugget of information or that special way they handle problems that could shoot your writing to the next level. 

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4 hours ago, Headstall said:

Just to be clear, as much as I immerse myself in the characters and bring them to life in my head, I pay as much or more attention to the plot. With writing, we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. :P  What I'm saying is one doesn't preclude the other. 

I don't think one can preclude the other.  Plot is characters doing stuff.  

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Coming from a Jungian perspective, we are a product of countless hours of clashing from our sub-personalities. It's highly likely that our own characters are some of those sub-personalities, so you're pretty much them already. The challenge is writing a character that is a repressed sub-personality because the others were able to dominate that one. But that's the fun part in writing. Drawing out that part of you that have been ignored and repressed for a very long time. Food for thought, maybe?

Edited by Solus Magus
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