Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Write Method : Penny Dolan

Last week, I came across a new expression, and now I’m pondering just what it's like to be around a writer and their writing?

Alan Bleasdale, interviewed on Front Row, said something like “If you’re a Method Writer like me, you need to take care. While I was writing “Boys From The Black Stuff”, I was Yosser Hughes. People had to hide away from me.”

Of course, I’ve heard about Stanislavski and Method Acting, where the actor becomes his or her character both on and off set. The image that comes to mind is Marlon Brando, pouting moodily and gloriously in his tight white t-shirt.

But I’d never got around to the idea of Method Writing, which I feel means the writer living through their characters. What effect do the various characters – as experienced during the writing - have on the writer? Especially when it takes much much longer to write a book than to read a book? Much more facing the page.

I suspect each of my characters - the good, the bad and those in between - draws on something inside me: I write people I might possibly, in other circumstances and with other choices, have become or been. Their emotions sit in me as I write.

For example, I currently have two characters in a quandary. They are snappy because they are uncertain what’s going to happen, and that’s how I have become. Sometimes, I can even feel my face working as I write. At times I've caught my lips pursing with Aunt-like disapproval or curling into a villainous sneer.

And when I write a larger-than-life character, my shoulders seem to broaden as if I am able to carry heavy weights. Aha! I should bound rather than plod about the house. Worse, whenever any dear hero is in a sad and difficult place, I carry their dejected, painful mood until that part of their drama is over. I can be in a quiet gloom for days.

So do horror writers, when writing, live with a continual fear of something about to happen? Are they alive to tremblings of thunder & lightning? Or are they drawn to unexplicably solitary walks down dark streets?

Do writers of pink, fluffy books for girls spend hours selecting which novelty-topped pen to use? Do they anguish over shoes or spots on the face or OMG boys, while they face that sparkle-covered manuscript?

And even - read on if you dare - do writers of those jokey books “with big boy appeal” sit there, crisp-munching and slurping from tins. with noses running, as they guffaw and fart loudly? Please, please, while working from a shed or attic.

Clearly, there are things about children’s writers it may be better not to know.

How much a Method Writer are you?

www.pennydolan.com

10 comments:

Jan Markley said...

Interesting question. I think you have to see the world through your character's eyes. Maybe that's another way of expressing Method writing.

michelle lovric said...

Really interesting post. I definitely try to occupy my character's skins when they are doing something I wouldn't normally do myself, like riding a thaumaturgic tea towel or acquiring a spell tattoo or being dragged under water by a colossal squid. Otherwise I wouldn't know how to write it.

zornhau said...

So I could write Historical and Fantasy adventure, I took up sword fighting. Thought I'd do a year of it. A decade later, I have a sword scar, a battered suit of armour, a bucket of swords in the corner of my study, and a regular class to teach.

Nicky said...

I'm still channeling the wolf for rewrites - makes me a little more difficult to live with, but as none of my characters are particularly pleasant or domesticated I'm always hard work.

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

Interesting post, Penny. I had never thought of method writing as such. @Michelle - this made me laugh. When writing, I think I'm careful not to get too involved with characters who have "Issues", because I don't want to relive the negativity over the period of time it would take to finish a manuscript. The limit to where I will perhaps go is a teenager with a mild case of kleptomania. And of course children who are orphans, although that's circumstantial. Although I don't mind editing or proofreading problematic characters. And I did manage to recently read Suskind's Perfume without acquiring any paraphilias. But yes, there probably are other method writers out there.

Leslie Wilson said...

Fascinating and thought-provoking.

Linda Strachan said...

I think I probably do inhabit my characters' skins and emotions when I'm writing - which is why I enjoy the chance to dip back into writing happy-go-lucky Hamish McHaggis stories for little 'uns after spending time living inside those dark and troublesome teenage lives.

Stroppy Author said...

Definitely do. Hence all the corpses in the corner of the room. Ooops....

Penny Dolan said...

Enjoyed all your observations, esp the wolves, the corpses and the many scarred Zornhau! And the need to know the limits of the crimes and problems you give your characters, Sarah. Or Linda's pleasure of turning to Hamish after times of dark writing.

But a spell tattoo? Are you sure you're joking? Might it not be invisible anyway, Michelle? Am not convinced. And will you be constructing a thaumaturgic Royal Wedding tea-towel?

Leila said...

I definitely scare myself when I'm writing a scary bit. And I sort of 'mime out' conversations as I write.