Method Writing – Part 2

Method writing is about how a writer approaches writing rather than what they write, and they can do this by getting closer to the characters - they can step into their shoes and spend time being their main characters. It’s the fun of role play, in order to make them multidimensional, real and emotional.

Sometimes it’s better to fully integrate into this side of building each character. Writers can then understand the physical, emotional and sociological structure that makes up the psyche of their characters.

Method writing/role play can encapsulate the following:-

  • Realism

  • Emotion

  • Props

  • In-depth research

  • Improvisation/role play

  • Sensory/ perception.

Realism in writing means bringing life to your story and your characters that is realistic and believable. That means adding extra dimensions – giving them fears, goals, flaws and foibles, emotions, problems and dilemmas – everything that real people have.

Emotion is important in writing. Method actors try to employ what’s known as ‘affective memory’ or ‘emotional recall’ when eliciting emotion. This means remembering key moments in the past, however painful, to convey a character’s emotion or state of mind, so key emotional scenes could invite you to recall emotive memories and feel the sensations that your character is going through in order to translate that to your scenes. 

Props are useful, too. This strategy is very similar to that used by actors. You can use and play with props that can help you add extra dimension and additional layers to characters, with simple things like wearing glasses, moving around with a walking stick, maybe a blindfold to feel what it’s like to have a character who is blind, or ear protectors to muffle sound to mimic deafness. The list is endless and the experimentation can be interesting and enlightening. Being your main character for a day or so can be eye-opening.

In-depth research is essential not only for getting the general facts and background right, but also to provide accuracy with characters, too. That means doing more than surf the internet for information, or making notes from a book – it could mean speaking to ordinary people, different authorities, organisations or leading experts.

Improvise with your story and characters. If you become your character for the day, try to find out how they would act and react to people and situations. What would they say?  What would they do? What behavioural traits do they show? This kind of exercise allows you to step into your character’s shoes to try to gain a better understanding of who they really are. From this you gain a valuable motivational insight. You can discover what really drives your character.

Sensory stimulus relies on all the senses to aid the writer. That includes memory recall, smell, touch, taste, observation and even perceptions of the world around us. Acuity with your characters and your writing makes for a deeper, definitive story.

‘Method’ writing only works if writers are prepared to infuse themselves and lay bare their personality within the character and essence of the story by using every available tool. Essentially, a method writer is prepared to travel along an unknown road with his or her characters.

It means to go beyond what is ordinary and come up with the extraordinary.


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