Monday, February 25, 2013

Method Acting? How About Method Writing?

In my new position as Director of Non-Conference Events for Pikes Peak Writers, I sailed my maiden voyage this Saturday in terms of putting on an event. All of the feedback I've gotten so far has been positive, so I think it can be considered a success! I do call into question my abilities as an MC, but I'm okay with that.

I've been quite involved in getting this event off the ground and running, and I've slacked in other areas. Namely, my writing. I took care of all the followup work I had last night so I could take Sunday off and just rest. Today...I write.

In the meantime, I write a blog post...

All of the speakers on Saturday were wonderful, but today I'm addressing Robert Liparulo's talk, which was titled "To Know Your Character, BE Your Character."

You've heard of method actors, right? Actors who get deep into their characters in order to be able to play them the best they're able? Well, were you aware there were method writers?

Robert Liparulo is a method writer. He said he spends months on research (the left brained part) before writing a book, but the month before he sits down to write, he becomes his character.

In order to embrace a villain he was working on, he said he theorized that truly bad people don't care how their actions impact others. They don't care if they hurt or inconvenience people. Other people's feelings and opinions really don't exist to them. So he went to a full service gas station (I didn't even know we still had those in this area) and asked for one penny's worth of gas, and for them to check his oil and clean his windshield. The kicker here is that the guy did it!

Then he drove around the block and did it again, just to thoroughly inconvenience the guy.

He did go back later, explain, and give the guy a $20 tip for his trouble, because he's genuinely a nice guy, but he had to fully get himself into the mindset of someone who could care less about what they're doing to someone else. And obviously he can't kill someone or torture them, so he had to find a small way to reach that mindset.

Robert regaled us with tales of the different ways he's gone above and beyond in order to get to know his characters, some shocking, some hysterical, many both.

The point he was making was that by getting to know your character inside and out, you will be able to write that character and always know what they would do in a given situation. You can't get writer's block if you know how your character would react to anything that comes their way. By being in their heads, he can automatically figure what would happen. As he said, you can't back a person into a corner and have them not do something; they will always have a response. You'll know that response if you know your character.

He also pointed out that character bibles aren't necessary if you know your character completely. You don't need to answer all these questions about them to know what to do, because you'll know. You'll just know.

His talk was fantastic. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Robert Liparulo, I recommend it. He didn't speak from a script (either time--this is the second time I've attended an event with him as a speaker), yet he was funny and informative. Just as the MC my mouth went dry and I totally forgot everything I'd thought to say. At least until I warmed up. (No, I didn't just stand up there with my mouth opening and closing, I did say what needed to be said, but I'm pretty sure I sounded like I was about to burst into tears, because my voice got so thin and was shaking, and I kept forgetting to breathe, hahahahahahaha).

Robert will be a speaker at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April, so if you're going, I assure you his workshops will be entirely worth your time. And his YA series is a great series. I haven't read any of his adult novels yet, but I only just discovered his work last April at Mountain of Authors, put on by Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District, so give me time, people!

Would you consider yourself a method writer? What's the most out there thing you've ever done in the name of research?

May you find your Muse.


  1. No, probably not a method writer, although that definitely gives one an advantage. I'm just not sure I'd want to be in Byron's head THAT much.

  2. I'm a method writer. When I wrote my solo novel, I locked myself in my house, ate nothing but ramen, and shut off my phone for a week straight. I finished the novel in a week, and it turned out really well. The character, I should mention, was a reclusive, paranoid, extremely frugal man. And after that week... I was pretty damn miserable, but the novel was done.

  3. It's another way to try to make our characters more real, but I haven't done anything to 'act' like one of my characters.

    Think like them, yes, but I haven't tried to 'be the character'. Hubs would think I'd lost it.

  4. It certainly makes sense! Without a true understanding of each character, understanding that comes from having walked in his shoes, at least for a while,without that, we are not doing a good job.

  5. I'm a method writer. I become the characters good and bad. I'm also a method writer in that I write various ways for my various pen names. I write scholarly nonfiction looking at all my diplomas. I write children's as a grandmother.I write southern fiction as a good ol' country girl in Georgia. I write horror from a medical pov. I write suspense pulling from my diaries.

  6. That's funny because I have often described myself as a method writer. I didn't really know anyone else did too.

  7. I don't know that I am a method writer, but I do 'get into the brain' of the character, seeing how he/she would see events, etc.

    That is as close as I can do.

  8. I don't actually believe that method acting is acting. I mean, if you are the character, then you're not acting. And, I have to say, the actors that really go in for that stuff can get pretty crazy. Day-Lewis had to -quit- acting for 5 years because he couldn't quit being one of his characters. Cohen lives his life as whatever character it is he's being, and I just can't imagine being anywhere around him when he's being one of those characters. And Hoffman... So, yeah, Day-Lewis gave an incredible performance of Lincoln, because, man, he was Lincoln, but that's because he -was- Lincoln, and that's not really acting at that point.

    Maybe, I'll write a post about it from the writing perspective sometime.

  9. I've researched some interesting things, but I don't think I've ever actually acted like one of my characters. I've been with most of my characters for the majority of my life by this point, and have literally grown up with many of them. I know them inside and out, which is a very nice feeling.

  10. Nope, definitely not a method writer, although since most of my characters possess something of me in them I just have to tap into that part. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes not so much.

  11. While I respect other people's approaches to knowing their characters, I know I won't be able to play the part of a villain just to get into the mind of one, that's for sure!

  12. I'm not a method writer, and yet I do feel that I know my characters pretty thoroughly!

  13. I love the idea of getting into your villain's skin and being horrible to people in the name of your craft, sounds like fun :P

    I don't think of myself as a method writer; I'm probably too introverted to do that :)

    Jamie @ Mithril Wisdom

  14. I think of myself as a method writer. I've gone as far as learning skills my characters know to get a feel for what they do. :-)

  15. I'm too nice to do that, ha ha, but it was a good touch with the $20 tip.

  16. I'm not really a method writer, but I do make gestures and facial expressions while I write to make sure they are authentic for my characters. I must look really funny.

  17. Alex, no? I can understand that.

    Bryan, so you made like a college student then? ;-p

    D.G., Liparulo said his friends and family were used to it now, haha! I'm not sure I'm that brave.

    Rosaria, that's true. We need to understand them.

    J.L., oh, that's interesting! Maybe that would help me switch back and forth.

    M.J., you are not alone. ~cue eerie music~

    Susan, I imagine that is close enough for many.

    Andrew, I just did!

    Carrie-Anne, I'm betting you know them plenty well.

    Marcy, that's the way to do it! We all tap into them differently, methinks.

    Cynthia, haha, no I don't think I'd be able to, either!

    Trisha, I'm sure you do! It's just different for everyone.

    Jamie, me, too. Definitely too introverted. Then again, there are those people who can do all kinds of things outside their comfort zones by pretending to be someone else. (Not me)

    Misha, that's great! I intend to go take a gun class so that I can accurately write about shooting a weapon.

    Medeia, lol, you wouldn't believe what a nice guy he is!

    Kelly, ha, me, too! I will sit there and try it out to figure out how to write it and what makes sense for what they're doing at that moment.

  18. I try to get into character if/when I write, but no, I am not a method writer.