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Are You a “Method” Writer?

Last year I banded together with five awesome contemporary romance authors for the Finding Chris Evans series – a group of linked novellas about one woman’s quest to meet the “Chris Evans” of her dreams and the unintended romantic consequences of her actions as she catapulted several other couples into love before finding her own HEA. (Random plug: that series is on sale for 99cents each for a limited time!)  We had such fun doing it that the five of us who could fit it into our schedules decided to come back for round two this year – a new series, a new premise, but the same domino-effect love story.  And so began Forgetting Jack Cooper.

This time our catalyst (and the hero of the final book) is an actor on a mission to apologize.  You see, Jack Cooper is a method actor and he’s landed a role that could change his life – a big, dramatic, meaty, Oscar-bait role – but it’s about an addict working his way back from the brink and our boy Jack is a bit of a Boy Scout.  He doesn’t drink, doesn’t party, and doesn’t know much about the brink.  So in order to find way into the character, Jack decides to go on a little redemption tour of his own, trying to put right the sins of his past.

I am a total sucker for the idea of redemption, so of course this pinged all my buttons.  My novella is the fourth of the romance relay (with our own Elizabeth Bemis acting as the anchor role for the second year running).  In Forgetting Jack Cooper: The Starlet Edition, my heroine is Ginny Jones, an aspiring actress who got the break of her life only to see it all come crashing down around her when she was caught on tape ranting about an icon of the silver screen in a fit of temper.  Ginny became persona-non-grata in Hollywood and is trying to work her way back in with a tiny little indie film when Jack finds her on his apology pilgrimage.  Little does she know that the sexy Brit he brought with him is actually the tabloid reporter who originally posted the tape that destroyed her career.  As you can guess, Jude and Ginny have to go through a lot of forgiveness to get to their happily-ever-after… and that’s a message that really resonates with me.

See, here’s the thing… if Jack is a method actor, I think I might be a method writer.

Maybe that makes sense, since I did actually get a degree in theatre.  😉  Now, I’m not saying I’ve done all the things my characters have done (not by a long shot!) but I think my characterization is always more authentic – and therefore more powerful – when I can find a way to connect with my hero and heroine on an emotional level.  When I’m employing as many emotional parallels as I can. 

With Ginny’s situation that was (unfortunately) quite easy.  How many of us have been caught bitching about someone in a fit of temper?  Or maybe sent an email that we never should have sent?  *raises hand*  A few years back I had an email temper tantrum that still embarrasses me to think about – but it taught me an incredible amount, so in a way I’m grateful for that moment of verbal diarrhea, if only because the hard lesson of my acute shame taught me to be better – and the grace of the people who forgave me taught me about the kind of person I want to be.  (Which is why this story is dedicated to two of them.)

That welter of feelings – the shame, embarrassment, but also the forgiveness and grace and the powerful sense that the mistake made me better in the long run – was something I brought to the character of Ginny.  Just as I brought my fear of failure to Parvati in Always a Bridesmaid. That isn’t to say I’m a starlet or a master baker, but the emotional resonance is there and when you let it be personal, the work shines through you. 

So that’s my question for you today – are you a method writer?  Do you need to find that access point of emotional parallel as a way into the character?  Or you more of a Meisner writer?  😉


Read the free prequel to the FORGETTING JACK COOPER series and check out all the books at www.forgettingjackcooper.com! 

14 responses to “Are You a “Method” Writer?”

  1. Heather McCollum says:

    Wow! What a great idea for a series!

    I think if we can tap into our own souls for writing our characters, the work is always stronger. And often, those little grains of truth and hard lessons resonate with our readers. Readers connect with the characters and, in so doing, connect with us. Another wonderful thing about books!

    Good luck with the series! They both sound fabulous : )

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  2. First off, I love, love the Jack Cooper concept. Love it!

    Yes, I would have to say I am a method writer. The emotional punches I try to bring to the page many, many times are drawn from my own well. Everything from the acute shame you mentioned, to the constriction of betrayal, to the giddiness of the first blush of love, yeah, I’m tapping into an experience.

    Great topic, Vivi, and here’s to skyrocketing sales on this new series.

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  3. Hope Ramsay says:

    I love, love, love the premise of this series. And since I’m one of your unabashed fan girls, I’ll be picking up these books for my upcoming camping trip. (To be spent by the campfire, Nook in hand.)

    As to writing characters. I’m not sure I understand how a method actor works. But I do know that I spend a lot of time understanding the emotional needs of my main characters. I was just telling my editor the other day, that I start with the emotional needs way before I even think about the external plot line. Sometimes, though, I have these wonderfully complex characters in my head and I can’t find they external story for them. That usually means they don’t belong together. 🙂

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    • Aw, Hope, I hope you enjoy the books! And your trip!

      That emotional depth is the ticket, isn’t it? But it complicates things when the puzzle pieces have to fit together! 😉 Good luck making those emotionally deep characters click!

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  4. Kate Parker says:

    Looks like two great series, Vivi. Congrats and best wishes for many sales.

    I think there’s a little method writer in each of us. How else could we create characters with depth if not by using our own experiences, or those we’ve witnessed?

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  5. Congrats on the new series! The method style of writing is working wonderfully for you. I think I’m more of a Meisner writer as my characters seem to have a mind of their own, no matter my plan. Wishing you lots of well-deserved sales!

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I was hoping we’d hear from some writers with different approaches! 🙂 The creative process is so unique to each of us. Good luck wrangling those characters, Bev!

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  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    Vivi, what a fun idea for a series! Your concept of Method writing really hits the mark for me, because, like Hope, I develop characters from the inside out, emotional needs first.

    To me, emotions are the ultimate ‘write what you know.’ I consider emotions to be a universal access point, a common ‘language’ connecting writer, character, and reader. We all feel emotions – and if we as writers do our job well, the reader is able to engage with our characters no matter how wacky, wild, or out of this world the plot or premise might be.

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  7. Congrats on the new series, Vivi and Liz!

    Interesting topic, Vivi. I think I’m a hybrid to methods. Sometimes, a character will speak to me about their emotional troubles and the story begins. And then other times, it’s a plot that comes to me and I need to dig to learn the internal battle raging inside my character’s head. Either way, connecting with readers is the goal.

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