Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Head Is Getting Crowded

I’m a method writer. I discovered this just last week while pouring over a fascinating article on how to perform a blood sacrifice in voodoo. The author of the article did go on to offer to perform the sacrifice for you using only the finest black ram or white ewe (depends on what kind of help you need, you see) – for a fee which read somewhat like the price list at a sea food restaurant –Market Price Only! – which I took to have something to do with what kind of help you were hoping for. Love is cheap, revenge will cost you. I’m reading along, really intrigued, when I realized that I’m like Christian Bale. The only reason he had that major fit was because he was still in character!

Once I begin to work on a character and a story I inhabit that story so fully that it borders on compulsion. In my last manuscript my heroine was a neo-burlesque dancer and after inhabiting her world I am perfectly comfortable discussing the four methods of pastie adherence and removal and have done so with my neighbor the transvestite more than once. Right now I’m writing about a florist who casts spells on her creations to help people. I took my kids to the park to play and had a really embarrassing moment when one of the dads standing around watching the toddlers bash each other with the swings walked up and presented me with a page that had fallen out of the book I was reading. He held it up and then read it out loud at the volume only a man can achieve “Witchcraft in Yorkshire. Hmmm. Is this yours?”

I think method actors must make their families nuts. You just never know who is coming home for dinner. Will it be Christian Bale or Batman? Similarly, I must drive my family nuts. I get so deep into my characters that at times I forget they are not actually people I know. My daughter asked me just the other day if she would ever get to meet ShaSha – my neo-burlesque heroine. “Um, honey, no. Mommy just made her up. She’s like an invisible friend!” My husband actually came home one day to find me crying because I’d burned down a historic theatre. I’m sobbing away, “but where will ShaSha put on her show?” My husband’s rote answer to these things is to pour me a glass of wine.

Is all this deep work healthy? I don’t know. I like to think it gives my characters a very vivid ring that makes them seem real. One of my dear friends always reads my first drafts. When she got done with one of them she actually found herself staring up at the buildings on a particular block of Peachtree Street wondering which one was the hero’s office building.

If I come out of my current story able to make elaborate floral arrangements and change people’s lives for the better I’ll let you know. I’m going to draw the line at practicing voodoo. Unless I come across a spell for selling a book. Then all bets are off!


Sandy Elzie said...


Great blog! I'm hooked. I want to know where the florist shop is and I want some flowers!

The best part was that I could picture you...sobbing as your husband hands you the wine...don't you just love men who understand us...or maybe they don't, but they love us anyway? :~)

I think you may have the answer for all of us to make our characters jump off the page. "Get into character". (Ana, your husband is going to LOVE it if you decide this is a method you can use)

Can't wait for this book to come out so I can find out how much trouble she can get into while casting spells and messing in other people's business. (I recall in Bewitched that sometimes the magic backfired)

Oh, and like you said, if you can figure out how to voodoo a book selling spell, you won't need to write'll be rich just helping the rest of us!


Anna Steffl said...

Invisible friends doing the hehehe. Work doesn't get any sweeter, does it?

As for healthy, at least you are setting your imagination to work on the positive. No wonder romance writers seem to be the most sane authors in the fold.

Marilyn Baron said...

Great post. Getting into character does make them jump off the page and that's the objective.

I remember working on an earlier book I'd written (my first actually) and I would go to sleep dreaming about the characters and wake up at intervals throughout the night thinking of dialogue and writing their thoughts down on a piece of paper. It was as if they were writing the book.

Maybe I should try to channel my current characters. It might help bring them to life.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Just promise us you'll steer clear of writing deeply melancholy/suicidal characters! Hey, at least you know your characters really well. I think that is something a lot of authors have to work really hard to achieve.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Wonderfully written, Michelle, just as ShaSha's story is! You've inspired me to be more method. And I really like your husband's solution to writer's angst.

Cyrano said...

There's nothing better than a glass of wine...or two, to take the edge off. And there's also nothing better than reading a book and losing yourself completely in the characters, wanting to be their friends, their lovers, wanting to inhabit their bodies and souls. To me, "method writers" write the best books. I'd much rather know the character, feel their hopes, dreams, emotions with intensity than trade that for setting. Don't get me wrong, an excellently written novel must have both, but a mediocre setting can always be redeemed and even forgiven with brilliantly penned characterization. That's my opinion for what it's worth.
I just finished reading a novel called Seduce me at sunrise by Lisa Kleypas. The characters in this wonderful historical are fabulously written. I hated the story to end and in fact forced myself to read a chapter a day instead of breezing through it because I couldn't bear to leave the hero and heroine. The setting was very well done, but it was Win and Kev that swept me off my feet. Characters like that are why I read. I only hope one day someone out there will feel the same about my work.
Wonderful post.
Have a lovely afternoon,

J Perry Stone said...

Man, I wish I were a method writer. If so, I think I'd mow through the process at a quicker pace than I am now.

Being a method writer, Michelle, how does that affect your productivity? Have you ever written a book you weren't ... methoding?

Michelle said...

Thanks for the nice comments everyone! I think that glass of wine thing is really the trick. :) I have never written a book I didn't method, J. I'm beginning my third manuscript just now. I really want whomever I put out there in the world to be a very fully conceived person. I like John Gardner's famous set of standards for being a novelist, the first of which is "Create a vivid and continuous dream." I just don't want to do it if it's not vivid. Right now I'm playing with an omniscent narrator and that is a great deal of fun!

Sandra Leigh said...

"I am perfectly comfortable discussing the four methods of pastie adherence and removal and have done so with my neighbor the transvestite more than once."

I love it. Great post. Mind you, I nearly choked on my coffee! ;>)

Ana Aragón said...

Great post, Michelle. I can see you talking with your transvestite friend about pasties, too!

And, Sandie...what makes you think I'm not already a method writer? Tee-hee-hee...

Seriously, I would consider myself a half-baked method writer. I have to feel what my characters are feeling, and many times I'll talk out the dialogue over and over until I hear it coming from my characters.

Of course, since I write erotic romance and hot sex scenes, I probably shouldn't admit to being a whole-baked method writer!

Thanks for the post, Michelle. And I'd love to meet ShaSha!


Tami Brothers said...

Funny, funny. I love the "love is cheap, revenge will cost you" line. Too true....

There were several lines I could find myself quoting from this post. You did a great job of creating a visual. I'd love to see some of your writing. I can only imagine (I too would love to meet ShaSha... Hope we get to someday...).

If you do find that voodoo spell for selling books, count me in as a customer!!!

Tami Brothers

Nicki Salcedo said...

Michelle, you've brought up an interesting point. I see why you call yourself a method writer. People who plot write interesting stories. People who method write create interesting characters. In many of my favorite books, I couldn't tell you the "plot" but I could tell you details about the characters that I found endearing.

Keep writing stories about people you love (invisible or not) and your readers will fall in love with them, too.

Cinthia Hamer said...

Michelle, after reading your blog, I've come to the conclusion that I really COULD see myself becoming a method writer--a fact which scares the hell out of me. My family probably suffers enough for my art, so I think I'll spare them that.

I tend to be a plotser. Hybrid pantser and plotter. I have a whole story in my brain and a cast of thousands begging for the leads. I can visualize the beginning and the end and I write it all out--just don't ask me what comes between Chapter One and The End.

I depend on my CP to hoist up my sagging middles. She'll ask questions, then ask more questions, then she'll scream at me "Write it down then, damn it!" LOL!

J Perry Stone said...

OMG, Cindy! You do know the definition of the word, 'PLOTZ' don't you?

It's Yiddish for: "To burst"

I know I could tie that into your creative method, but after plotzing my way through the stomach flu yesterday, I don't wanna.

eaflagg said...

Great blog! The "embarrassing" moment with the dad in the park sounds like an opportunity for an interesting conversation. Or story, perhaps an idea for a future romance between a budding authoress and some delicious male specimen. Just be glad it was the witchcraft in yorkshire research and not the history of pasties! ;)

Mary Marvella said...

Excellent blog and I sooo understand what you're saying. I'd prefer to be inside my characters than outside watching them.