Want to creative realistic, jump-off-the-page characters that grab your readers by the noggin and worm their way in? Try method writing. I consider it the antecedent of method acting, since writers have been around much longer than their stage-treading counterparts. In fact, there would be no actors without writers coming up with memorable dialogue.
Method writing is simple, but it can be emotionally exhausting. You need to get inside your character’s head and pick apart what makes them, well, them. For me, this sometimes happens organically as I write, but only for characters with whom I strongly identify. Let’s face it, with them I am really writing about me, after all.
What about characters that are stark opposites to your personality? In order to write them authentically, you need to access your shapeshifting powers, slip into their skin and see how it really feels to be them. Here’s how I do it:
This exercise is one that’s a favorite among method acting coaches. For writers, it trains you how to focus on your five senses and how they combine for an overall experience. This focus will help you when writing about a character’s environment or what he or she is feeling sensorially in a given scene. There’s what to do:
To write believable characters that don’t share your own personality style, you have to take their nature back to basics.
Let’s say your character is timid and apprehensive about everything. You are not timid, in fact you’re more of a “bring-it-on” kinda person in real life. How do you write a believably frightened character? Everyone, no matter their personality type, has experienced the basic emotions of fear, happiness, love, anger, hatred, etc. You just need to observe these more closely so you can apply them to your character. For Mr. Timid, do this:
Hopefully, these exercises gave you a taste of method writing. Join me next week when we’ll explore a few more to really help you “get into character” when you need to.
See you on the next page!