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. (more…)