On Method Writing

A number of weeks ago, I came across an article from BBC reporter Steven McIntosh titled Could ‘Method Writing’ be the Future for Novelists? The article, like many articles about writing, made me reflect on my own practice and I realized that I am, in a sense, a method writer.

Before we can begin to understand what method writing is, we need to mention method acting. Focusing on the popular Strasburg Method, the quick description of a method actor is that they physically and mentally live or have lived in a way that mirrors the character they are portraying to some degree.  Think of it as collecting experiences to draw from. This is thought to help the actor understand their character more deeply and thus provide a more accurate, compelling portrayal.

A light  version of these methods could include learning an instrument or taking up fencing. Some actors take it to the extreme and never break character for the entirety of the shoot. Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for doing this with pretty much every character he plays. Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York was especially hard to be around. He learned to throw knives, gut carcasses, and got into real fights in parking lots.

Now, let me be clear. If I ever write a story about being stranded in the desert, I will not be drinking my own pee in order to understand the experience. Nor have I become an opium addict for my current WIP (spoiler alert?). I am no Daniel Day-Lewis but I will say that many of the lighter concepts behind method acting have worked their way into my writing without my knowledge. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that much of it has been there from the start. Continue reading

My Kind of Weird. Kathe Koja’s THE CIPHER

I am a weirdo. I always have been. Some of it is on the surface but most is down deep. That’s how it is for everyone because everyone is weird in their own way. In lots of ways really. A key to happiness in my life has been to seek out weird things that are my kind of weird. The Voynich Manuscript is definitely my kind of weird. Porcelain dolls with their creepy little murderer eyes are definitely not. Finding our kind of weird is an important part of growing up I think.

I love weird fiction. I don’t just mean the genre. I love any fiction with elements that push the boundaries of what is normal or even possible. Star Trek TNG was a fine show but when the Borg showed up in those cyborg BDSM outfits, things got weird in the best of ways. Some of the most deep and insightful episodes revolved around them. The X-Files, Unsolved Mysteries, hell, Nova, and National Geographic specials were the main staples of my childhood evenings. All focused on topics that were interesting, little known, and above all bizarre.

So what is it about the bizarre? I’ve talked a bit about escapism before (here) and for me, the dark, creepy corners are where I choose to escape. Why? Because my life is neither dark nor creepy. It can’t be an escape if you don’t go someplace different. People who only ready happy, uplifting fiction make me wonder…

Anyway, on to THE CIPHER. This book is an oldy(sort of) but a very very goody.  Published in 1991, it is the first novel of author Kathe Koja. I just finished the book and I have to say, I have no idea what to think. I love when that happens.

The narration style is wild and chaotic yet suffused with an art that is both gritty and elegant. The loser Gen-X characters are hateful, awful people.  If they were real you would despise them yet she forces you to care about them and you do and you’re glad to. The brand of horror is  at times, in your face gore then, at once, existential and ethereal. As is the case for the characters within, this book makes its readers work to make sense of it all. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever did and that is where my recommendation of this book becomes pointed.

Do you like questions? If yes, continue, if no, you’ll hate this book. If a question is left unanswered, will you lose your mind? If no, continue, if yes, you’ll hate his book. If questions are the point, rather than answers, are you okay with that? If yes, read the book. If not… you get the idea.

I love questions. I love questions for the way they explode with more questions like some mushroom sending its legion-like offspring off to populate the world. I love weird things because they force questions. Why? Who? How? Even, huh? Questions take us places and THE CIPHER raises enough to send the reader on a wild ride.