Updated: Mar 3, 2020
"I refuse to cooperate!"
"You listen to me."
"I don't like your storyline."
Do your characters say any of these things to you?
No- You are awesome! Share the secret with us.
No, but I have a nagging doubt- Welcome to the group of Tortured Writers.
Hell, yes- We are the Tortured Writers.
Let's move on to the main topic. We are discussing Method Writing this month in our favorite Facebook group.
Now the question is, do you use method writing?
Method writing is where the writer identifies with the character and finds an authentic voice that holds throughout the story. The writer becomes their MC in all possible ways (except murdering someone in real life).
Consciously or not, we tend to use a part of our lives in our stories. Some writers are better at it than the others.
Writers, like me try, to blur the lines to an extent where even we can't figure out the difference.
And some writers follow the strict fiction rule. They do not like any part of their personal lives to be reflected in their writings. They may pick up a random character from the street for the story, but the line between real life and fiction does not blur.
No matter which category you belong to, understanding the character is one great way to improve the authenticity and quality of the work.
So, how is it done? Again, each writer uses a different technique. The common ones would be to enact or mouth the dialogues, dress like the MC, imitate the MC and so on.
What if those options don’t work? We have to use our grey cells another way.
If you were to ask me how I do it, I'd just say think.
Yes, think about the character, about the incidents, about the everything related to the MC. I don't focus much on the physical descriptions initially unless it plays a significant role in the story. My aim is to understand the when, why and how.
I find thinking during the bath, while cooking, or at night helps me align my thoughts better. I try to become my character in mind. Most of the times it is easy because we share some traits. My characters are opinionated, stubborn and a tad crazy. They usually believe in the same values as I do (my heroines, I mean) and that makes the entire process of understanding how their mind works very easy.
But it’s not always possible to create characters similar to us. In those cases, what do we do?
One way is to write down a detailed sketch of the character.List all the likes, dislikes, traits, and quirks. Reread the list until you find a common link between yourself and the character. There will be at least 0.1% similarity. Find that and focus on it.
Become ruthless in dissecting the character. Put your darling under the microscope. Strip the layers one by one (it's like peeling an onion).
Then take a step back and stop being a writer. Yes, stop thinking like a writer. Now, it's time to think like the character. Step into their sneakers or stilettos. Tune your mind to their actions. Know why the MC hates cats, has spring allergies, loves to burn food, learned kickboxing, etc.
It is a time-consuming process that needs patience (don't we already have loads of that?). Bit by bit, let the character take over and let their emotions flow through your mind.
You can either write at that stage or store all the information in that mega storage (brain) and write it later on. But make sure you do it soon. Staying in a character's form for too long can get risky. ;)
The more defined answers you can get for your whys, the further the character will come alive on paper. Keep thinking (except when driving) and have a firm grip on your character's mind.
You will know when your character is ready. Trust your gut feeling.
Allow the words to flow freely on paper. Do not edit while writing.
Take a day or two off and then start editing. Be a writer when you edit. Be the character when you reread to make sure you did the character justice.
The trick is to keep jumping from one POV to another (in your mind) to get the best result.
If you try out this process, tell us about it. We'd love to know if you saw a change in your writing.
About the Author: Srivalli Rekha is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer. She got a degree in MBA and MA English Literature and chose to become a writer and a poet instead of a corporate professional.