For those who have worked in theatre or the screen – no matter what job you took – you would have come across Method Acting. My books are still in shipment so I can’t provide a direct quote but from what I learned, there were two distinct forms of Method Acting: An actor can recall past experiences to connect with their role; or they can physically place themselves in similar situations so they may experience what their character will ultimately feel. A few days ago the BBC wrote this article: Could ‘method writing’ be the future for novelists? They also included an interview with author Thomas W Hodgkinson, which is only available for a few more days: Method Writing.
The author Thomas W Hodgkinson thinks so.
“I wrote the bulk of my new novel, Memoirs of a Stalker, whilst lying flat on my back in one of the cupboards in my home. There wasn’t even room for a laptop, so I had to write it on my mobile phone,” he says.
“I was trying to get into the mindset of my main character, who breaks into his ex-girlfriend’s house and lives there for months without her knowing. He spends a lot of time lurking in shadows, behind doors, and crouched in cupboards.”
Hodgkinson has recently launched his The Act of Writing workshop (which I will be haunting).
The interview suggests that actors originally gained the idea from writers and upon reading the article, I believe that to be true. While working on my fantasy novel, I stumbled a lot. My characters existed in a make-believe reality of Earth, with their own history and societies. How could I write about these people if I could not understand them?
Family Trees, Maps and History Books:
Over the months, I have created family trees for the most important characters, drawn maps of the main kingdom and am now writing a brief history of the kingdoms involved. Although time consuming, both through planning and research, the maps and history painted a clearer picture of how these societies evolved and functioned, and what type of psychology ran through the locals. I realised that some of my characters couldn’t possible react the way they did, or how some scenes would have turned out. Thankfully, Scrivener had my back; with all it’s note taking applications I was able to scribble where things needed tweaking and added extra scenes into chapter-folders. It’s always best to finish writing the entire book before going back to edit. There will always be new ideas to add and as most authors will tell you, the end and beginning are connected, so when you finish writing, the beginning may very well need to change to suit the end, or vice versa.
James Joyce and William Faulkner are among the many authors who have drawn maps or family trees to help them create their fictional realm.
While discussing dialogue with my colleagues, I shared my own techniques:
- The Meeting: I would start out by pretending to meet my characters in a local setting. I would introduce myself and ask them about themselves. Sometimes I would come as a local and other times I would appear as an alien to their world. How would they react to me? This exercise clues me in on their perceived personalities.
- The Silent Observer: By sitting in their ‘natural habitats,’ I would watch my character as they navigate their everyday life. How frustrated are they when they need to clean? Will they socialise a lot or are they loners. What are their hobbies if they are not immersed in my plot-twists?
- The Interview: When I really need answers, I will sit my character down and ask them straight out what I need to know. What do you think of your co-star? Are you really in love with s0-and-so? What are your career choices once this adventure is over? How’s that dungeon life treating you? etc, etc.
Method Acting works for some actors and it doesn’t for others. Method Writing will fall under the same treatment – ‘to each his own.’ But I believe there is no harm in trying. I have a good friend who discovered joy in acting when she attended a free class. I discovered my love of painting because I braved a friend’s invite to paint with others. Without a little jump into the unknown, we may never know what hidden treasures lie in wait for us.