Method Writing: How It Began For Me

Back in the day, I wrote "MacGyver grants" — proposals whisked out of the ether based on a 30-page request for proposals, a vague idea of what the company wanted to use the money for, and 2 or 3 workdays to make it work. Because I am perverse enough to have loved that, I now do things like offer up blog post subjects for public vote without really thinking about what I might write on said subjects. Hopefully, that explains the rambling nature of what follows.

Thanks to all who voted. I'll be addressing everything on the list eventually, as everything got at least one vote — except for "how Method writing impacts my porn habits," which received two comments instead of votes. (That one will get written as well, if only because I am amused by the comments.)

The highest number of votes came in for a description of the first time I did the Method writing thing, which I have since realized is not quite so clear-cut as that. It seems the best way to tackle this is a chronological exploration of how I slowly came to be the slavering Method beast before you. Ready? (I'm not sure I am.)

I have always been a deep research fiend. A friend one said that the best way to find out everything about a fandom is to get me into said fandom, as I will unearth everything. She's not wrong, and that trend began early, or as early as it could in a small town where Internet came late and trawling the library's backlog of Rolling Stone was the most reliable way to find out about a band's history.

The first glimmers of Method, I think, came during my deep research into The Police when I was around 15 or 16. Two important things happened here which had not occurred with my previous subjects: I consciously styled myself after them, and I wrote original characters based on them. I vividly remember going bowling in lounge pants I'd bought because they struck me as something Sting would wear, and letting out a decidedly Sting-y "arrroo!" when I hit a strike. The stories I wrote were not for publication, just a series of humor pieces I wrote for my mom on holidays, but they were not fan fiction. Sure, the veneer was thin — they were "The Music Dudes" and there was no question who they were — but I was certainly beginning to synthesize mounds of research into character templates, and getting there by using myself as a kind of paper doll.

U2 came next. I discovered them just post-ZOOROPA, and it isn't lost on me that this is when Bono explored stage personae and had two distinct ones in addition to "himself." This may have influenced me, at least inasmuch as I saw "acting" outside of the acting profession modelled. Again I styled myself mildly to their aesthetic, and again I used the sense of personality I got from their music, performance, and interviews to create characters who were not them but drew heavily from what of themselves they showed the media.

At some point after that, I learned about fanfiction, where there were other people who had "meta versions" of a character/person in their heads who might make commentary about things at any time at all. Given this sudden slack in my bridle, Method really took over. I'd go shopping with fellow slash writers and we'd share the things that meta-whoever was saying in our head about this shirt or that candy. It all started fitting together very nicely (and became a bit of a budget headache as I realized my meta people wanted things).

I remain astounded to this day that the people who hung around me then, and those who hang around me now without knowing that I'm Method, seem not to notice how far I go. I have wardrobes for quite a few "museboys," and take on personalities from painfully introverted to fuck-the-world to politely philosophical. Accents always rub off on me a bit, and my syntax changes drastically from one museboy to another. (Aside from my trademark overuse of em-dashes and parentheses, the style of this very blog post would have been entirely different, and perhaps a third as long, if I'd been hip-deep in some other museboy than the one I'm focused on these days.) How this hasn't made at least a friend or two raise an eyebrow, I've no idea. Perhaps they do so in private.

I feel a need to clarify that I do not believe I have actual slivers of other people or other people's characters in my head. Method writing isn't multiple personalities, a lack of control, or feeling like I have some special connection with a celebrity. I once blithely mentioned that a particular celebrity man-of-all-trades I'd deep-researched would probably use a particular and quite unusual line to describe love, and later found that he indeed had. I freaked right on out. That is not the goal.

Coming back to the (alleged) subject of this post: to be honest, I don't remember exactly what the first time was. I'm not sure it's possible to pin down the beginning, since, for me, Method writing consists of deep research, styling myself after the subject (taking them for a test run, as it were, learning what it feels like from the inside — and yes, this involves playing the equally enjoyable and frustrating game of "what porn would they watch?"), and developing a basic template of the person's general disposition to then tweak into as many characters as I like in as many variations as I please. Sometimes, these templates become the beginning of a story; sometimes, when a story stalls, remembering where the character comes from gives me the idea for some extra bit of business or personal detail that makes them pop just that little bit more off the page.

I do quite vividly remember the first time I was able to make out with someone while I was "in character" when the other party was completely aware and accepting of what was happening. But that's quite a different sort of first.