Friday, January 14, 2011

Method Writing

by Jude McGee

We've all heard of the style of acting taught by the Russian director Konstantin Stanislavsky and the Actor’s Studio -- the kind that famously made monsters out of mild-mannered actors, who became demons and maniacs to play them on the stage.

Well, there is something to that for writers -- at least for this writer. I recently discovered Method Writing. I was stuck, couldn’t get to the next point, and wallowed in the attendant slump. For some reason, I got it into my head to slam around the house as if I were the soon-to-be murderer that I was writing about. I imagined myself in a frenzy of jealousy and betrayal because of a weasel-cheat who was doing me wrong.

I’m not saying this is good for the crockery -- and one lovely gravy boat may have taken one for the team -- but I managed to work up a head of steam in which I found words. Good words. Words that I immediately put into the story. They were fiery words that packed some wallop.

I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes I just fall out of my character. She stops whispering to me, or taking me over. That’s when I call upon Method Writing.

I get myself angry, crazy, to a pitch, thinking about revenge, or the horrific acts that would delight me -- and make me a murderer. I start to write all the mean and nasty thoughts that follow and voila! Soon, I have found my flow again.

But lord help my poor sweet husband who interrupts in the middle of the Method Rage!

If you try this to recapture the life of a character, you may find yourself way out there in a cathartic frenzy of emotions that were lying in wait for just such a moment of power. You’ll feel good, cleansed. You’ll probably have to edit it down. And take a shower. And apologize to innocent bystanders. But it’s all part of Method Writing.

Jude McGee's short story, "Death is Golden," can be found in the anthology Murder in LA-LA Land. Photo courtesy of Amanda Kennedy.


Erin Hart said...

Great post -- I knew I couldn't be the only one doing this! Sorry to hear about the gravy boat...

Sarah Glenn said...

Right now, listening to Nine Inch Nails seems to put me into the proper mindset. I will try to avoid writing someone who breaks crockery.

Anonymous said...

I haven't yet gotten to the point of working myself up into a frenzy to write, but I do often find myself in a frenzy when I go back & revise. I get so caught up in the characters & their drama that it just happens naturally.

Nice post.


Rochelle Staab said...

I can just see you stomping through the house, Jude. Great tip - I'll give it a try the next time a character goes into hiding.

Ellis Vidler said...

Whatever works! I'm all for it and will try your method--probably this afternoon since my character seems to be napping.

Anonymous said...

So, it's not just me? I hadn't given it a name but I like yours. I even take it a step further. . . I flip my voice recorder to the "on" position and then later transcribe what happened.

Great post!