Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Method Writer?

It’s taking me a bit longer than I would have anticipated to create my happies list (you know, the list of all the things that make me happy?)  to go along with my Happy Blog Award. But I want it to be just right. I’ll get it out eventually.

But something really cool has happened in the process of creating this happiness vlog list. First, though, let me just say, I know I said I was over the crankies—and I was feeling better—but in all honesty, the anxiety that I’d been feeling had remained. I still can’t quite put my finger on the cause, but I know that my writing has suffered, my poor CPs have been neglected, and my house has been forgotten; indeed, my home looks rather shaken, like a snow globe in the hands of a giant. And as of today, we are officially out of clean underwear. And yet, just thinking about all the things that make me happy seems to have transformed me—I am suddenly feeling kind of…giddy.

I’ve done nothing to really warrant this joy; actually, it seems inane to feel like I want to hug every (non-smelly) person on the street just to see them smile (or, okay, to see them freak out a little…but geez, minutia, people). So, it’s gotten me thinking about my manic-depressive tendencies over the years (no, I have not been psychologically labeled), and it seems to me that my moods often correspond with my writing. For years, I tried to write these heart-wrenching, literary fiction stories. Sometimes, I still do—it can be rather cathartic, actually. But not once was I able to complete an entire novel like this.  It was not until I abandoned this genre for something a little lighter, a little more in line with the happy ending I myself seek in life that I was able to complete a novel. Now I realize that it was not within my capability to slap sad endings onto those books—endings that were always, for all intents and purposes, appropriate and often essential for those stories—because they were clearly not right for me. Looking back, I see as well how deeply I would sink into myself, into the darkness created by a world of nonexistent characters, until I finally would just set the manuscript aside.

And so it seems  that I am somewhat of a method writer.
Method Writing n :
a writing technique in which authors identify as closely as possible with the characters they create by correlating experiences from their personal lives to the characters/plotlines*

Even now—with YA fantasy (romance nonetheless), I feel my moods swing with the emotional tides of my main characters. It’s as if in order to make the characters and plotlines seem genuine, I have to draw upon my experiences and emotions that most closely relate to those within the story. And let me tell ya, this can really drain a person. And, yeah, it freaks me out quite a bit. I mean, what if I were to create a character like the Joker from The Dark Knight? Am I destined for a fate like that of Heath Ledger? Or OMG, like Sylvia Plath?

I tell myself, not bloody likely. I mean, I hope not. Surely, there are preventative measures I can take, right? Like reminding myself of all the happies in my life—it seems to have done the trick this time around. Perhaps, too, I shall start a new support group for method writers. Our new motto will be (all together now): “My characters will not control me. I control my characters.”** And when in the midst of putting our characters through hell, we will declare ONLY HAPPY SONGS ALLOWED days. So to this end, I present to you a few happy songs that can lift my spirits from the lowest of depths.

Caution: These songs might make your head bop a little—try to control yourself. Seriously. You have enough problems without looking deranged too, you method writer, you.

Now go and make up your own happies list and stick it by your computer. When you start to feel yourself sinking into despair because you’ve just killed off a main character with a spoon, pull out your list, pop in your happies playlist, and revive yourself. And remember: My characters will not control me. I control my characters.

One last word of advice: No matter what, do NOT stick your head in an oven. Not for ANY reason.

*As far as I know, this is not a real term. If you use it in literary circles, you may get laughed at.
**A word of caution to literary fiction writers: avoid method writing—it will be much harder for you as your books tend to be crazy sad. If you choose to go down this path (or if you are genetically predisposed), I recommend tattooing this motto onto the backs of your hands (or, you know, use a pen), so you are constantly reminded of this as you write. And lock your oven door.

P.S. If you did not watch that first video, thank you. But if you did—yes, I realize there’s a typo. But it took an hour to upload. Not gonna change it now.

Need I remind you about the Cosmic Coincidence Contest I’m hosting with Simon Larter? You have until midnight EST January 31, 2010 to submit a flash fiction story to win critiques and books and to be featured on our blogs. Be sure to check out the rules on Simon’s blog and the prizes on my blog. Please submit your story to carolsimoncontest AT gmail Dot com. Can’t wait to hear from you.


  1. I, of the clinically short, am envious of your very long legs.

  2. OK a few things. First off that was friggin adorable (and no, I'm not just talking about your butt). Second, when you talked about not being able to write those heart-wrenching literary fiction stories it made me wonder if it's even possible to write something so in tune with one's own moods, fears and wants and still call it fiction? Maybe that's why it's so hard to complete a fiction work involving so much of yourself? Just a random thought.

    Lastly, I'm not sure that anything can be artistically great if the artist doesn't completely immerse themselves in their art. Does it mean Van Gogh has to cut off his ear or Ledger has to make too many pills? Not necessarily. You only hear about method writing/acting/blogging(?) when it goes horribly wrong. Have you ever heard about method anything when it comes to someone getting into the role of someone who is incredibly happy? I don't recall that. It's only called method when there is madness. I think intense people are drawn to darker things for whatever reason. Maybe because people with issues are drawn to art rather than art creating issues for people. Who knows, I'm just glad Marlon Brando and the like found a way to enlighten us all.

  3. I'm with Alexandra!

    My kids think it's hysterical that my facial expressions match the character of whatever I'm reading or writing at the time. I continue to tell them it's normal :)

  4. Bless you, you know the term is "intents and purposes" not "intensive purposes"! That alone makes my little editor self so, so happy! :-)

    I think my moodiness as a writer is tied to whether I think my stuff is coming out as I intend. The days I get so intensely into a scene that I'm weeping as I write, I step away from the desk completely elated. When I write even a lighthearted scene and I can't quite nail the humor or dialogue, I end up feeling either pissy or depressed.

  5. quick question about the contest - did you want the entries as attachments, or pasted in the body of the email?

  6. OMG you have the tiniest butt ever!!! Sooooooo jealous! That video was adorable. And I find I do the same thing...method write...and Im fine with it. But when I step away from the lap top I make sure I step out of the mood too. So I sort of balance it. Great post!

  7. Alexandra, I will be laughing at "clinically short" all day long. Thank you for that! Although I think I'm technically only an inch taller than you. Hahahaha!

    Kelly, thank you! It was fun, but epically embarrassing.

    Christopher, you are brilliant. OMG. You have put into a single paragraph all my threads of thought on the matter. I think you are quite possibly genius. I throw myself into my writing, so it does often feel that what happens to my characters, happens, in some ways--if only symbolically--to me. Alot of my lit fic stories are also semi-autobiographical as well--it's like painting your pain into words. Because of my deviation from lit fic for the sake of happy endings, it seems likely then that I'm not JUST a method writer--rather, I'm a method writer with avoidance issues. Christopher, you have just saved me a mint in therapy.

  8. Jemi, Oh how I hope it's normal. Do they ever hear you act out the lines of dialogue, too? Now how embarrassing would that be? I think all writers are part actor. We sort of have to be, don't we? I can just see your kids now: "Mommy, why are you smiling at the computer like that? Mommy, you're kind of scaring me." Oh, our poor kiddos!!

    Laurel, that's too funny. Though there are serious disadvantages, one of the advantages of having spoken Spanish as a first language is that I've learned English in a different way than most English speakers. But rest assured: when I screw up a phrase (say I refer to your water bottle by saying, "Oh, is that Alpanian water?" I will blame it entirely on my Spanish-as-a-first-language experience. As for the mood swings, I'm with you there, too. A struggle with a chapter/scene can really ruin my day. What to do? I suppose it's really like any other job. Have to learn to leave the work struggles at the office (though easier said than done, since most of us write at home).

  9. Wait--you are!?!?! There's no way. I'm 5'3, that would make you 5'4 and you seriously look a LOT taller than that. I thought you were like.... 5'8. I swear, you look like you'd TOWER over me in all your pictures. Unless you got mixed up by my height and somehow thought I was also tall. :-P

  10. Falen, Yayayayayaya! Does this mean you're entering? Wooo-hoooo! Oh, and within the text, please. I don't generally mind an attachment, especially since we've communicated, but it's tough to know the e-mails coming in. But I really hope you do get one in!! So pumped now!

    Frankie, hahahahaha! I can't believe you didn't think it looked gigantic since that's pretty much what took up the screen the entire time! But thank you. And you're soooo right...I need to learn to leave the moods behind at the computer. Balance is a must (unless you are acting out a scene from Clueless).

  11. Fortunately, I'm not a method writer. Writing angst is cathartic, which is probably why I do it so much. But I did just add another happy to my list: your vid of you dancing around with your daughter. It's awfully cute, and Tiny Tot's squealing bugged the hell out of my co-worker in the next office, so my passive-aggressive sadism was satisfied. Nice.

    Thanks for the link, though, good lady. Non-method writing FTW!

  12. Alexandra, yep. Only 5'4"! I think it's the camera angle. So, there you go. Lesson is, record all your activities with a camera at a low angle. You'll appear taller. Hahaha! Oddly enough, I thought I was tall growing up. I think it's because my Mom and Sis are both 5'9", so I figured I was tall like them. To this day I struggle because I tend to buy my trousers too long.

  13. Simon, so glad to help you out (I can only imagine what your coworkers thought you were doing in your office). I thought the only thing worthwhile about that video was Tiny Tot's cute little dancing, but I must say, I can't help but smile at the thought that her little squeals freaked some guy out. Does that make me passive-aggressive? Sadistic? Dude, I think so. Well then.

    P.S. Could you please write up a glossary of all your acronyms? I've always been pretty good with languages, but the texting acronyms throw me, m'dear. Don't judge. We all have failings.

  14. Simon, was that by any chance WTF in reverse? Cuz if it was, I'm in awe of your genius. And you're welcome. Did you catch that exact wording? How is it you were writing about putting your characters through hell at the same time as me? Cosmic, I tell you. Although it seems telling that you were like, "Oh, yeah, gotta do it," and I was like, "Oh no! I don't want to do it; it's hurting me!"

  15. I wondered about FTW too, when I first ran across it... "Fot the Whuck?" I don't get it!

    Nah... it's For The Win...


  16. Oh, how cute! And let me tell you, I am so envious! I hatey filming myself (or taking pictures for that matter) so I seriously doubt you'll ever see me in a vlog. But I love it when others do so. Yours made me happy:)

    I've been through a lot of spells lately in which I couldn't write anything, and I think I figured it out. The last two chapters in my WIP have been incredbibly sad, so it's been a sort of avoidance thing with me. And I end up hating myself because I don't write. Seems like an endless, vicious circle, doesn't it?

  17. Okay, first, I had to watch the video of you and tiny tot dancing twice. Not because I'm a creepy stalker (well, maybe I am...but rest assured I'm also super lazy so not likely to move much beyond the range of my computer screen) but because it's so cute that I just couldn't stop smiling!!! Tiny tot singing? Too adorable for words and I cannot believe that you have legs like that at only 5'4". I? crawled out of the shallow end of the gene pool (no lifegaurds there) and at 5'3" have short stubby legs to go with my short stubby fingers. Sigh.

    Anyway, I'm sorry you've been in a funk lately but I'm glad you're finding your way out! I go through that this time of year, every year. Call it cabin fever, call it winter blues, call it a 'I haven't seen the sun in three freaking weeks does the damn thing even still exist' crisis, in any case it sucks!

    Also? I totally get way too immersed in my characters and their lives. I never thought of it as "method writing" but I can see now, that's what it really is. For example, I was writing a scene where my MC wakes up in a very frightening situation. I wanted her reactions to be very realistic so I started thinking "what would I do in that situation?", "How panicked would I be?", "Would I be hyperventilating?". Well, not sure exactly how I'd react in that particular situation but I can tell you that imagining myself in that situation sent me into one of the worst panic attacks of my life. YIKES!!

    So, motto written, oven door closed and secured, happy music cued, list of happies on the way...hopefully to be followed by lots of new words tonight!

    P.S.: In a freaky coincidence, my mother called me this morning and was feeling down so I told her to make a list of her "happies". I swear. I even texted her a list of "happies" (yes, I used that exact term) to get her started. Here I thought I was being so clever coming up with something like that and here you are putting it out on the interwebs! Drat! Foiled again!

  18. OMG! Too cute for words. I am seriously jealous of you now. :-)

  19. frustratingly (to put in mildly) I was unable to view the video clip as I'm on dial-up. Seriously it's 'pulling out hair material'. Bane of my life...

    Anyway... deep breath...I too am a method writer. 100% sadly. I throw myself (literally) into all my characters. Exhausting to say the least.

    You and I are more similar than you could possibly imagine. It appears we share the same demons...need I elaborate...

    Truly wonderful post. As always my friend :)

  20. Simon, I like my interpretation better :)

    Rhonda, haha! You crack me up. It's all about the camera angle, my dear. And, you know, having a little shrimpy on the screen with you makes you look taller, too ;) But, oh my, thank you for you very kind response. And it seems to me we are very much alike. This winter hell has me nearly crawling out of my skin with anxiety. And can I jsut say: OMG! That phone conversation you had is a freaky coincidence. We are on the same sho.

    Shannon, oh my word, seriously, method writing--so not worth being jealous over. More trouble than it's worth...oh, you meant my mad video production skillz?? Well, that's another matter altogether--and I can totally help you with that. All you do is lower the camera a little bit, and Bam! Head gets cut off. And then make sure that you lose all sight of the camera, so you do nothing but flash your hiney in front of it. It's really very easy. You'll be making videos like me in no time ;)

    Wendy, trust're not missing out on a lot, except tiny tot was kinda cute cuz she was singing along to the music. But how cool to find out that we have yet another characteristic in common. Dude, what did I say?? Bloggy sisters separated at birth...most definitely. (and thank you for being so darn sweet. <3 <3 <3)

  21. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG I am in LOVE with you and tot :-) Best. Video. EVER. I can't stop watching it!!! Oh and when you and A and me get together--we are SO doing a dance party VLOG :-)

    hearts a MILLION C xxxxxxxooooooo

  22. Sara, thank you!!! And OMG, we are so doing a dance VLOG!! Hahahaha!!! Maybe this time I can actually show my head! Ha! It will be a blast. <3 <3 <3 Have a kickin time on your vacay!

  23. Total method writer here. But it works for me. A huge part of the reason I got an agent was because my book brought her to tears. How'd I do that? I thought back to high school and wrote down how it felt to be the least-liked girl in the lunch room. Okay... I wasn't the least liked. More like the most forgotten. I'm so glad that changed as soon as I got out of high school!

  24. You're the first person to ever call me a genius without rolling your eyes and saying "yea, you're a real genius". Therapy bill is in the mail.

  25. Bethany, that's actually really good news! Makes me feel like method writing might be worth it. But what a sad story about growing up. I suppose some (a lot) of my own sad experiences definitely serve their purpose as well when I'm writing, but still...awwww....

    Christopher, you crack me up. Please be sure to sign that therapy bill. Then I will frame it and put it over my fireplace.

  26. Sweet Caroline...bum bum bum--lol! That's a song btw! Love the post, yes I too feel that I get in my characters head too much, at times they even come to me into my dreams! But I usually love it...

    I, too, am a HUGE lover of HIM! And a lot of other stuff, I think we might be destined writing buddies! =D Now I have to add you to my twitter! =D

  27. That "clinically short" was a great way to begin these comments!

    Super post.

    I'm all about control!

  28. Sara, OMG, I think you are absolutely write ;) I saw it the moment I first encountered your blog. Writing buddies, fo' sho. And I love that you know that song (Neil Diamond, right?) I think that one and "When Last I Spoke to Carol" by Morrissey (which is crazy depressing) are the only two songs with my name in it. Ah well, such is life. Him rocks! Looking forward to getting to know you ;)

    Jennie, I know, right?! Haha! Alexandra cracks me up. And thank you! You are definitely in luck if you can maintain some control over your characters. Mine run rampant and then make me feel lousy all the time.

  29. I can totally relate to the list of happiness. I got The Happy Award too, but I have yet to post about it because my posts are so long as it is, that would make it even longer, um duh. Now I'm just rambling. Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower!

    (Project: World Domination is only 6.5 billion minions away from complete)

  30. Thank you for the happies. I think this is a hard time of year for everyone. Hang in there!

  31. Jonathon, long posts rock. At least I hope they do. Since that's all I write. Good luck with world domination. You're off to a good start.

    Suzette, thank you! Everything seems to come in phases--up and down and up for a while...always with the emotional swings of my characters. Kind of pathetic, but I've accepted it, I think. Thank you for your comment! Much appreciated.

  32. Finally got to view your video clip. Took me 2 hours 35 minutes and 17 seconds.... numerous chunks of my hair, a few tears and a lot of sweat!

    It was so worth it!! Too cute for words :)

  33. Wendy!!!!! I can't believe it! You crazy, super adorable person, you. You crack me up. I can't believe you did that. But how very cool. I'm touched. And so glad you enjoyed it at least. Would have sucked if you'd gone through all that and ended up thinkin, "Huh. Well that bit the big one." Haha! Thank you, sweetie.

  34. Note to Carolina, I will never ever following in your dancing footsteps... ever. LOL! :)


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