25 February 2008

Can Writing Be Like Method Acting?

Bets wrote an interesting post last week about pitfalls of the first person POV. While I agree first person POV has pitfalls, I think it can also hold the key to better writing. Why? The criticism many beginning writers face is that the reader does not feel "in the head" of the POV character.  I have found that the best cure to this writing problem is to get into the head of your protagonist the same way a method actor "becomes" the character he or she is playing. A method actor playing Hamlet, for example, does not wonder "how would Hamlet react" and then try to portray that reaction on stage; instead, the actor "becomes" Hamlet and lets the reactions come naturally. Similarly, the author needs to become his POV character, and then put on the page how that character reacts to and feels about the events of the plot. 

I find that it is easier to do "method writing" using first person POV rather than third person. It is easier to get into a character's head when it is the "I" being portrayed rather than the "he" or "she." Even when I write in third person, I try to think in first person and then translate the thought from first person to third. I was not able to do this type of translation until I did quite a bit of first person POV storytelling. 

So, while it is important not to "cheat" in first person POV as suggested by Bets, it is also important to keep in mind that first person POV may be the answer if you need to learn how to get in your character's head.


ssas said...

Good point, Dave. In my new novel, I keep noticing first person slipping in. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to get into Trinidad's head. I don't know.

To the rest of you: my fellow editors are more qualified to write first person than I.

lesleylsmith said...

I don't know why you (Betsy) would say we were "more qualified" to write 1st person pov than you. Aren't you a 1st person? :)
Also, your blog is 1st person!

lesleylsmith said...

I REALLY think thinking/writing 1st person is a tool authors can use to get in their characters heads. You can always change the pronouns later. :)
So, basically, I agree with Dave. :)
Actually that 'how would Hamlet react' bit is excellent. I do think some authors think this instead of becoming Hamlet.
Become Hamlet!