Repeat: Method Writing

All the best columnists do it. I’ve been blogging since 2002 so there are a lot of Oldies but Goodies. Perhaps current readers (all 5 of you) weren’t around back then. Even if you were, it’s something to fill up this space.

The below originally appeared November 1, 2002

Winona Ryder is on trial for shoplifting.. It has been said that part of her defense is she was doing research for a role as a shoplifter. The concept of the Method Actor is well-known. The actor who “becomes” the character in order to best portray the character.

It’s not much different for many writers. We have to portray our characters with words, and in order to do this, we need to know how our characters would think, feel, and act in the given situation.

This doesn’t mean if we are going to write about a character who murders someone, we need to go out and murder someone too. But….there is a question of where to draw the line…I am sure there are authors out there who might wonder what goes on inside the mind of a shoplifter. And how else are we going to find out?

Oh sure, we could interview a shoplifter, but that’s no fun. We all need excuses sometimes to do things we wouldn’t normally go do….

For example, I’m writing a book right now involving some 15 and 16 year olds, and I haven’t been that age for a few years. Okay, more than a few. The last time I was 16, today’s 16 year olds weren’t born yet. So I have been watching a lot of the WB lineup lately. It’s mostly 20-something year olds pretending to be teens, but still, it’s a start. I’m learning the lingo, refreshing my memory on how high school kids talk.

But that’s just the first step. I discovered recently that there was an “issue” that was creeping up on me. Watching the TV shows, and reading some young adult fiction, I am beginning to remember what it felt like to be a teenage boy. But not all of my characters are teenage boys. I have no recollection of what it feels like to be a teenage girl. I don’t know how to put on a bra. I don’t know how one gets measured for one. I don’t know what it feels like to wear panties. I do know a little about makeup as I did a little acting in High School, but I realize what the male actor puts on his face doesn’t really compare.

So I am beginning to wonder if I should adopt the “Method Writing” approach. Take a trip to Victoria’s Secret and ask to try some stuff on. In some of my strangest moments, I’ve thought about doing it before, but never had a reason. Here’s my excuse, will I take it?

I may have to go to a different city though….If I do this where I live, there’s no telling who will walk in…

(Oh, Hi there Mom, How are you today?) At least it would be something I could definitely write about….

Note: The news link at the top of the entry STILL WORKS. CNN deserves credit for maintaining its archives.