Monday, March 12, 2007

Are you a Method Writer?

This post is inspired from a discussion on a yahoo group I'm involved in right now. When speaking of things like "Voice" there can be some VERY big differences of opinion.

Some writers believe that when you write, you expose your soul. It's about naked vulnerability. You aren't just telling a story, you are attempting to create art, because you are expressing a view/message about the world through a well crafted story. For the purpose of this post so there is no confusion, ART is when you SAY SOMETHING through a medium, be it a story, a painting, whatever.

It's not about being preachy/pedantic. Nor is it about writing Mary Sues. But it's very honest, very real. You can bet that this writer got turned on writing the sex scenes, laughed during the funny scenes, and cried during the sad scenes, even though they wrote it.

Perhaps these writers are Method writers. On the group, we were discussing method actors. Some actors like Dustin Hoffman absolutely BECOME the character. Others, just turn it on and off like a switch. The method actor may feel what they are doing is more "real" and the other actor may feel "it's just acting." Likewise, a method writer might believe they are "baring their soul" and "being honest and real" while a non-method writer might believe all writing is "fake."

Neither one is necessarily empirically "right" it's just that actor's/writer's way of approaching their craft. It's also a matter of differing philosophies. But what works for one actor, may not work for another, and so it is with writing.

There are also writers who try to completely separate their ego from the act of writing. (non-method writers) They are telling a good story and that's it. They have no desire to express the deeper parts of themselves. They don't plan to bare their soul, so don't wait for them to. They write the story, and then they clock out. That's their way.

I am a method writer. My characters are not me, but there is a facet/piece of me in them. I can't conceive of drawing from a brain outside of my own for information. (seriously, seeing my characters as speaking to me and telling me what they want told about them is too schizo for me.) I can study other people and I can try to understand their motivations, but everything I experience or do will always happen through the filter of my own perception and how I see the world. So therefore it will all be "me" in some sense, but very hopefully not in the mary sue sense. (Although if we got right down to it, the major problem with the Mary Sue is lack of honesty. Because they are built up as perfect idealism, and that's not real.)

I try to express things as honestly as I see them. I don't hide. I don't shy away from the material, I tell it as honestly as I can and I'm not afraid to show you my soul in the process. Now this isn't meant to imply that I think a "non-method" writer is a hack or is lying. I don't think that.

I DO think that many writers expose parts of themselves without understanding they are doing it. I really don't think you can write from a place of passion and yet have that passion completely separated from who you are as a person unless you're operating under some type of schizophrenic episodes. But I understand that for that type of writer, the "height" of their craft is to stay as much out of it as possible. (and I agree that author intrusion is bad.)

I'm more responsive to a writer who I feel has bared their soul. Their books tend to be elevated in my mind to art, and they stay with me forever. They weren't just telling a stylistically good story, but something that moved me. (Now don't get me wrong, you can bare your soul and either have nothing interesting to say to the world, or have a lack of stylistic talent, but that's another post...probably Wednesday's.)

Likewise I'm more responsive to an actor who is a method actor. More of the actor's self was given. It's the same with writing, more of the writer's self was given.

Writers who come from the other side of the fence see the "baring of the soul" writers as "self-indulgent" and all about their own "ego." But for a method writer it's not about ego, it's about sharing and being brave enough to reveal something very intimate.

Are you a "method writer?" Why or why not? How much of yourself do you reveal through your themes/stories?


Edie said...

I was more a method actor with this last book than any I've written. The good, the bad, the funny. A lot of it happened to me. But even the parts that didn't, I'm still a character actor. When I'm in the character's pov, I try to feel what the character feels.

Liz Kreger said...

I'm with you, Zoe. I much prefer to read something that I know the author has imfused a portion of themselves into it. I try to write that way ... imagine myself in the shoes of the character and immerse some of my own emotions and impulses into her/him.

Karin Tabke said...

Hmm, I think I'm bi. :)
Bottom line for me is I want to tell a good story. and quite honestly I'm not sure what label you would put on my method. I'm also not sure I really care. Labels, rules, guidelines? Pas pour moi. I just write as honestly as I can for each of my characters. That said, I am so much more aware and in tune with my characters now then I was with the last book. I'm a major work in progress. Stay tuned.

Zoe Winters said...

Eh, I've gotten behind and completely distracted lately with the blogging. Edie, cool, me too.

Liz, yep.

Karin, hahaha. maybe you are just bi-curious. (sorry I had a south park moment there. They told Butters he was bi-curious, and then asked if he was confused to confirm it and he goes: "well sure I'm confused" bwahahahahaha)

great stuff karin!