Much has been written about method acting, a compendium of rehearsal and training techniques for actors that promote emotionally expressive performances. Based on the system developed by the Russian actor and director, Konstantin Stanislavski, three teachers at the Group Theatre in New York set the standard of its success. Lee Strasberg emphasized the psychological aspects, Stella Adler the sociological aspects, and Sanford Meisner the behavioral aspects. In each of these techniques, the actor was taught how to submerge his own ego, experiences, and motivations and take on those of the character he played.
Hundreds of America’s best actors were trained in this method, giving credence to its effectiveness in creating heightened performances of authentically-portrayed characters. Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire is an example, but the list of method-trained actors includes distinguished names from Tom Hanks to Sally Field to Scarlett Johansson to Ryan Gosling.What works for actors and directors of movies is also what works for me in the writing of novels. I’m often asked whether I’m an outliner or a pantser. The truth is, I’m neither. I’m somewhere on the spectrum of planners who approach their novels with the characters in mind. Once I have my primary characters firmly in mind—who they are, where they come from, where they are going, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually—I’m ready to start writing. The characters compel me to submerge my own self and to slip into their skins. Once I can do that, the characters take over in my mind, and they are the ones who write the story.
As a method writer, I can (and do) write about characters who are super-rich or super-poor. I can write from the point of view of different genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, and occupations. I can take on the persona of a kick-boxing champion, a renowned artist, a nun, or a trophy wife, without ever having been any of these.
All that is required of me is solid research, a vivid imagination, and large doses of concentration and focus.
Method writing affects everything from word choice to style. If a character curses, espouses a controversial political belief, behaves impulsively, or even commits murder, I am not to blame (though this is a major stretch for me as a writer). Most of my characters have something of me in them, but usually, they are different from me in innumerable significant and insignificant ways. Yet, by the end of the manuscript I have lived inside of each of them long enough to understand exactly how they feel and why they do the things they do.
The intention is that this intimacy with the characters will transfer to the reader, leaving a memorable impression. Literature is at its best, for me, when that happens.
What literary characters can you think of that may have been created by method writing?
author, Saralyn Richard was born with a pen in her hand and ink in her
veins. A former educator, she loves connecting with readers. Her humor- and
romance-tinged mysteries and children's book pull back the curtain on people in
settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high
Visit Saralyn at http://saralynrichard.com, on her Amazon page at https://www.amazon.com/Saralyn-Richar..., or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Palmcirclepres