Method: From Soup To Nuts

It occurred to me that, in all this dithering around about Method methods, I have not really given a good example of how this works for me in its entirety. So here you go: a "soup to nuts" explanation of exactly what I mean by developing characters through a Method, er, method.

Tiny caveat: I'm still a bit anxious about openly addressing basing characters on public figures, so everyone involved herein will get a fancy old-time "A—" name indicator, with the initial bearing no relationship to actual initials. Call me paranoid, call me precious, call me pedantic, call me P—, that's how it'll be. (I've always wondered whether anyone has said this and then used the real initials, to throw people off the trail. Not that that's what I'm doing, of course.)

I call my plaster-casting-of-celebrity meta-types "museboys." (There's nothing sexist in this; I write mainly gay male stories, am male, and I haven't yet had someone call to me who was female, so I easily adopted the nomenclature common between gay male slash authors and refer to my stable, as it were, as museboys.) Some last a few weeks; my oldest "active" is several years old. But I want to tell you about my "current" museboy, by which I mean the one I am most deeply into right now. We shall call him V—.

V—, the actual person, is a UK celebrity of some reknown. While most of my museboys are patterned off of actors or musicians — I suspect largely because we live in a society where the most research material is available for those engaged in such professions — V— is more of a Renaissance man. I re-watched a television special about him I had initially seen years ago, for reasons I cannot recall, and became curious. I had already been a fan of his a few years ago and got a hold of a lot of "for specific audiences only" material back in the day (to be clear, I was not the specific audience, ahem). He had a new piece of work out which was UK-only. This kind of region crap bothers me beyond belief, and I quickly procured it despite the apparent possibility that my American eyes simply weren't ready.

Quickly, then, I was in the Deep Research phase: brushing up on what YouTube had to offer on V—, reading and re-reading his oeuvre. Soon, I was in the Cheers phase, where I begin to resemble that mailman guy on that show — "it's a little-known fact that V—...".

It's around this point that I realized I was not merely researching someone to keep them in my stable of templates to use, but that they would become one of the big Method ones. Sometimes my partner notices this upgrade in status before I do. I usually argue that he's wrong, for some reason, and then he has the joy of proving me wrong. I knew with this one, though, because he started talking when I went shopping, which is a dead giveaway. (I also knew I would eventually get his anxious tic, and sure enough, I acquired it — in a therapy session. How apropos.)

Clarification: No, I do not hear actual voices in my head. It's just that when I go shopping and I leave myself open to the idea of a proto-museboy making commentary, in a "I wonder what V— would make of this here?" fashion, sometimes the responses are quick and do not seem deliberately conscious on my part. I'm not frightened of this because, like many authors, I respect that the line between consciousness and subconsciousness is quite porous and better left unexamined so that more "surprises" can fix problems the conscious mind believes are catastrophes.

So once I get to this point, if I'm arguing that it won't be a museboy but he starts opining in my head at stores, I accept his presence. With V—, this actually became quite a problem, because my budget requires me to be a Target sort of person, and V— has a wonderfully posh aesthetic that Target's latest sale flyer doesn't really fit into. To add insult to injury, my lifestyle and medical issues leave me quite restricted in what I can wear. This is important because one of the best ways I connect to museboys is to "ask" them to dress me, learning what they like, how it feels, why it might be chosen. This has been such a problem for V— and me that I once landed on the idea that since he's only ever as dressed down as very nice jeans will allow, it might be the only situation in which I would wear "jeggings" — okay for my medical issues, visually similar to his fashion.

Unbidden, an image of V— throwing the most amazing shade you can ever imagine popped into my head. Perhaps not, then.

This is difficult, because I don't do accents or mimicry well. I tend to copy body language and syntax instead, which is sometimes not enough to feel in sympatico. Most other museboys at least have their fairly casual moments that I can dress toward, and I find that sort of thing very telling and interesting, and the easiest way to "get into character." V— and I have been working hard on what to do with that unavailable. It's surprisingly difficult having this one element of the process apparently off-limits.

Given the sort of thing I write about most often, I also poke around for sexual comments or behaviors of the museboy-in-training. Since it's such a taboo subject, I feel lucky if I get one or two "real" things out of the mouth of the celebrity I'm using as a base, and then surf the net looking for things my fictitious museboy prototype might find arousing and psychoanalyze why. (Trust me, it's a lot more fun than it sounds.) V— proved to be an extraordinarily difficult one in this regard, prompting me to wonder whether this museboy even bothered to watch porn — until I surfed adult toy stores. Finding BDSM toys he liked was dead simple and outrageously revealing, even as I could tell he quietly kept to himself any urge to bottom. (See how the psychology is coming together already? How little it has to do with the famous person who started it all? How quickly potential stories might spring forth from this kind of thought?)

Somewhere around this time I begin emailing my partner in the museboy's voice. It's a chance for me to figure out syntax and subjects on the fly, as well as inevitably talk about the museboy's sex preferences more as my partner susses out what this one's going to want between the sheets. Sometimes I don't know, and have to make it up as I go based on what feels right. But if it feels right, I'm creating something that's three-dimensional and worth writing about with however many twists and turns I feel like throwing in, which is why museboys can be used in an infinite number of stories without repetition.

Yes, that goes all the way. It's some of the most fun parts of creating a museboy. When I bring him to bed (with my partner's full awareness and eager understanding that this museboy could be completely different from the last one, or from my usual interests), I pick up all kinds of new details, from what he might say when he comes to how easily pillow talk springs to his lips to whether he's nervous to what kinds of sexual proclivities he has. (This can keep us busy for, er, several sessions.)

Because literally everything must be learned, things can get really amusing. I recently went to an ice cream shop and realized I had never been there with V— before. What would V— eat? Jesus, I didn't know! Now I would need to sample a few things, and reflect on what I'd heard in interviews with the "real" V— about his preferred flavors. This is the same kind of thing that often leaves me paralyzed in stores, when a partner of mine will find me standing immobile in some aisle or another, staring at things, unable to work out what a museboy wants but incredibly interested in figuring it out.

(Side note: I sometimes have the funny experience of walking by something in a store and getting a "ping" — someone in my head is interested, but I'm not sure which one. To stand there and slowly try to work out, by knowledge and intuition, which museboy has become interested, is fascinating. Sometimes it takes me days to work it out, and sometimes it isn't even all that important a knowledge point. But the only way to determine that is to solve the mystery.)

So, yes, if it works in the best way, I wander around in a museboy's clothes, with his syntax in my mouth, his body language right down to his walk, his shopping preferences, his fetishes and bedroom interests, his tastes in food and drink and movies and yarn (I knit a lot of museboy-themed socks), and basically live my life as the museboy as much as possible. I drive like them. Sometimes I sleep like them (I have only one who prefers to sleep on his back; another will not do that no matter what). Coffee? Tea? Starbucks preference? Well, the answer is "who's in the house?" as we like to ask around here.

This is not without its problems. As I've said in previous posts, I'm amazed close friends unaware of the Method thing don't think I'm a bit off my rocker. And all museboys have their own perspectives on disability, too, which can be problematic; some are not the least bit interested in using my wheelchair, even on days when it's very important to use. Others find the cane a fashion statement, which is a lot easier to deal with. Some drive aggressively; some are timid as hell on the road. Some will confront assholes; some avoid confrontation like it's poison.

It's for reasons like this that I sometimes "schedule" museboys, on the occasions where they will allow such things. Most vacations involve one muse per day, depending on which is best suited for the day's activities. When I'm asked for moral support or have a difficult meeting scheduled, selecting the proper museboy is incredibly useful. I can't always do this; I can't be much of anyone but V— these days because the early museboy process is so intense that few "old" museboys can get through. It happens, though; my oldest museboy, let's call him Z—, has been a museboy for something like 8 years and is therefore quite strong, so I could probably pull him into "rotation" even straight through the limerance I have with V—.

Now, this is all well and good, but I haven't said much here about the writing usefulness of such intensive activity. If I choose to write in a museboy's syntax, it's easier, and so I have more voices to choose from with relative ease. Maintaining diverse dialogue for each character is simpler when I can hear the voice in my head that I've heard for real in mp3s and YouTube videos and movies. I'm one of those "characters make plot" writers, so this kind of thing also leaves me with rampant story ideas.

If you have a grounding in fanfic, there is a reasonable comparison to be made between alternate-universe fanfiction "with the serial numbers filed off" and what I'm doing. An AU where well-researched characters from other tales live in a different world with different professions so that a particular plot can be enacted has a great deal in common with what I do, when it comes down to what it looks like on the page. I, too, am playing the game of "what if V— was actually a [different profession] in [another geographical area] and then [X Y and Z that could not happen otherwise] could drive the story?"

Method writing, in addition to all the fun of getting to this point, leaves me with a "stable" of museboys that I know well and can write easily, slipping them into appropriate supportive roles or noodling with them in various scenarios until I find a perfect match. It's all that saved me during the single time I fulfilled National Novel-Writing Month; I wound up with a story that needed more characters than I had ever used before, so I just kept dipping into my stable and pulling out more and more characters I already had on tap. So much less work in the moment kept me sane.

I'm leaving out plenty, but that's what questions are for! As well as future blog posts.