As writers, we use our experiences to inform our characters' emotions—even when their experiences are different.
It's just like method acting, I thought one day. After all, how many times have I been in a bad mood after a writing a particularly difficult moment in a character's journey? My writing bleeds into my daily life. In a sense, I become these characters—I take on their emotions. Is that not the same as method acting?
A quick search of the term "method writing" shows that I am not the first to consider this.
Jack Grapes published a book about method writing in 2015. A BBC article asks whether method writing is the "future for novelists." In the article, author Thomas W Hodgkinson describes writing his novel from the inside of a cupboard:
"I was trying to get into the mindset of my main character, who breaks into his ex-girlfriend's house and lives there for months without her knowing. He spends a lot of time lurking in shadows, behind doors, and crouched in cupboards."
In my mind, I considered method writing to involve taking on your character's emotions and allowing your own emotional experiences to drive their reactions. But for Thomas W Hodgkinson, as for many actors, the process of becoming a character is a literal one.
This brings a whole new facet to an idea I had thought fairly straightforward, if not easy. Should writers physically emulate their characters? I'm sure many of us have carried out this process in reverse. Our characters take on aspects of our daily lives, because we understand those things and can write about them. honestly and accurately. For example, one of my characters spends some time backpacking. I backpack, myself, so I am already in her shoes, in that respect.
That same character lives in isolation for many years, with no technology and minimal contact with the outside world. Does that mean I should place myself in the same situation? Would my writing benefit from it?
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