Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“METHOD WRITING”: How To Improve Your Writing And Get Thyself Published

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This is a blog bit consisting entirely of writing about writing because, really, you just can’t have too much of this sort of crap in the Blogosphere.

Everywhere I look in the Blogosphere I find unpublished and self-published Wannabe Writers from the ‘Wannabe Writers Happy Club’ posting blog bits advising others how to improve their fiction, polish their manuscripts, make their characters more believable, develop their stories, put more pop in their plot, more zing in their thing; and how to compose an attention-grabbing query letter and land an agent (without bruising her feet).

Then - despite all previous warnings against it - I got to thinking. And what I thought was this: Heck, I’m not a published writer, so my writing advice is every bit as valid as that which is being dispensed daily by all those Wannabe Writers from the ‘Wannabe Writers Happy Club’. Why don’t I write an educational blog bit for Wannabe Writers? One in which I share with them my secrets for improving their fiction, polishing their manuscripts, making their characters more believable, and so on and so forth, up to and including popping, zinging and bruiseless landings.

So, that’s what this is.

And you will find my blog bit of writing about writing to be superior to the others written by unpublished writers because I am able to convey to you EVERYTHING you ought to know in one easy lesson. You won't need to return here week after week to catch yet another installment of writing about writing, as you do at the blogs of all those many members of the ‘Wannabe Writers Happy Club’ who spend more time writing about writing than they do WRITING. Read this once and yer done! What could be simpler?

METHOD WRITING

The most important thing I have to pass on to you is my own patented way of writing which I call “Method Writing”.

Before you can grasp the idea behind Method Writing you must first have an understanding of Method Acting. Most people are familiar with the term “Method Acting”, but unless you have been trained as an actor, chances are you may not really understand what the term implies.

In a nutshell, Method Acting is a form of thespian behavior in which two women undress and… No, wait! Check that.

Method Acting is a form of thespian behavior in which an actor utilizes (“dredges up” would be a better way of saying it) the memory of personal life experiences and applies them when appropriate to the role he or she is playing on the stage or in a movie. For example, let’s say you’re playing the part of a man who despises his mother. At some point you might want to think back and get in touch with those feelings you had when you were six years old and your mother told you to stop playing with your food, but you kept at it until she bitch-slapped you right out of your chair. Recalling how that felt, you can then mentally apply it to the character you are pretending to be in this play or film.

Oftentimes, Method Actors will also impose physical pain or discomfort upon themselves in order to achieve a kind of realism. Three of the more famous Method Actors are Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Dustin Hoffman.

Brando played a number of characters who mumbled when they spoke, so when he delivered his lines he would really mumble them. That’s “Method Acting”.

In order to achieve palpable tension in East Of Eden’s ferris wheel scene in which Cal Trask finds himself alone with his brother’s girlfriend, James Dean deliberately did not urinate for some ridiculous amount of time. Yeah, you can clearly see the tension he was experiencing. That boy had to GO!

And then there’s the famous (if not entirely accurate) story about Dustin Hoffman in the film The Marathon Man. At one point his character was supposed to be sleep-deprived and haggard. In preparing himself for that scene, Dustin Hoffman remained awake for two days and nights. When Laurence Olivier saw Hoffman’s appearance on the set, he said to him, "Dear boy, you look absolutely awful. Why don't you try ‘acting’? It's so much easier."

Not all actors use the “abuse yerself Method”. In fact, most do not. I recall the time I asked Mike Farrell, who played B.J. Hunnicutt on the TV show M*A*S*H, how he prepared himself for a scene and he replied: I just memorize my lines and say them.

Ahhh… Tricky!

So, what is my patented “Method Writing” method then? Well, I theorize that when you’re writing, in order to write a really believable piece of writing, you really need to have EXPERIENCED what it is you’re… uh… writing… about.
[Hmmm... Somehow that sentence didn't sound right.]

For example, let’s say you’re writing about a character who hates eating old, moldy bread. You need to first go out and eat some old, moldy bread so you can really write that hatred from experience.

Let’s say you’ve created a character who jumps from a 50-story building and kills himself when the stock he owns in the ACME Dynamite Company tumbles and he loses a fortune. According to my Method Writing method, you ought to, at least once, jump from a 50-story building, so that you will be able to write vividly about that sensation of the wind blowing through your hair, your life flashing before your eyes, and the abject dread of your quickly advancing, impending demise.

Of course Method Writing does not apply soley to human characters. You’re sometimes going to have other types of animals in your stories, too, aren’t you? Well, how can you write about a dog, for instance, if you have no real concept of what it feels like to be a dog?

Go on, get down on all fours, walk around down there and experience that lower perspective. Do a little barking and whining (the barking and whining you’ve done as a human being is of a different sort). Scratch yourself raw, pee on a tree, lick your private parts, and sniff the butts of other dogs. OK, NOW you know what it's like to be a dog and you can write your dog characters as a real authority on the subject.

Now that you’re practicing my METHOD WRITING way, your writing will take on a sharper, more authentic tone. People will believe it now when your Rover character says to your Fido character, “You stink, butthead!”

MISCELLANEOUS ADVICE

Beyond my Method Writing method, here are some random suggestions I often suggest to wannabe writers who ask me to suggest some suggestions that will help them contort their best stories and achieve their career goals:

Your story needs to GO somewhere. Make sure you have plenty of different scenes in your plot. Don’t have all of the action take place in the garage or the bathroom.

If you’re writing a comedy, you should try to make it funny.

If you’re writing a mystery, make sure the story is very mysteriousy, and don’t forget to tell us at the end whodunit.

If this is to be a steamy romance novel, please make sure all of the sex isn’t done on the kitchen table. Your characters need to do it in other places as well. (We’re getting kinda tired of that same old scene where one or the other of the two participants [three, four or five, if it’s an extra hot romance scene] pushes everything off the kitchen table with one swipe of their arm and then both of them jump onto the table like large bowls of lemon Jello.)

If you’re writing a drama, you should try to include a lot of drama.

Make your characters interesting! No one wants to read a novel with a bunch of uninteresting characters in it.

If you’re attempting to compose an attention-grabbing query letter you should put something attention-grabbing in it.

If you’re seeking a writer's agent, write to a lot of writer's agents and ask them if they’re seeking a writer.

If you are intending to write a Science Fiction novel or a Fantasy novel, you should write a historical romance novel about the Civil War instead. (I think it would be better, and besides that, we have enough – ENOUGH! – Science Fiction and Fantasy stories al-flippin’-ready!)

If you are intending to write a historical romance novel about the Civil War, you should make it about the Vietnam War instead, because I think someone already wrote a famous historical romance novel about the Civil War.

If you’re planning to write a historical romance novel about the Vietnam War, change it to World War I, because we’re sick and tired of hearing about the Vietnam War, damn it! Sheesh! Give it a REST! (Also, remove the “romance” aspect from the historical novel. Just the idea of a historical romance novel about some guys in World War I is kind of eew! Don’t ask, and for heaven’s sake, don't tell!)

Don’t forget to include all of the seven senses when you’re writing stuffs. To be considered are: Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch, Female Cleavage and sometimes Y. (Abbreviated: “S, S, S, T, T, TT, and sometimes Y”.)

OK, listen up, Wannabe’ers, this is important: NEVER write a scene in which a man takes a shot to the groin, regardless of whether that shot is delivered by a knee, a ball, a bat, an umbrella, or a frightened turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

Also, NEVER write a scene in which a woman hauls off and punches a man and he hits the floor!

BOTH of these shticks ceased being funny and/or surprising about the same time that America was reveling in “The Summer Of Love” (that was 1967, for you non-hippie types). Either of those actions appearing in a book or screenplay you’ve written is an overt confession that the writer (in this case, "you") is a trite-minded, non-original-idea-havin’-loser. . . . In fact, the very moment you write a scene in which a man absorbs a shot to the “family jewels” or a scene in which a man is knocked flat from one punch delivered by a woman, you “may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what you were intended for.”

When it comes to the professional writing career you’re attempting to develop, “if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.”

98.79% of you will never develop a professional writing career. That’s an accurate statistic, and if you don’t believe me (to borrow a line from Casey Stengel), "You can look it up."

[Go ahead, Google it! Type into the search window “98.79% of you will never develop a professional writing career” and then click “Google Search”. See if this blog bit doesn’t show up on the first page of results. When you find it, bring it up and then scroll down to this point where it says “98.79% of you will never develop a professional writing career” and confirm for yourself that 98.79% of you will never develop a professional writing career.]

However, the fact that you are very unlikely to develop a professional writing career is no reason for you to give up drinking. There is nuttin’ in ‘The Rule Book Of Life’ that says only authors are permitted to be alcoholics. Drink! “Drink!”, I say! Just because you feel bad about your failure as a writer doesn’t mean that you can’t feel good.

OK, that’s pretty much all you really need to know in order to join the 1.21% of Wannabe Writers who will develop professional writing careers. So, can we please – PLEASE! – have no more new blog bits appearing in the Blogosphere about improving fiction, polishing manuscripts, making characters more believable, developing stories, putting more pop in the plot, more zing in the thing?

In other words, can we have NO MORE “writing about writing”? If you want to write, just freakin’ write!

I’ll even acknowledge that “writing about writing” is writing. But it’s not Writing writing. You know what I mean? You wanna write? Fine. Stop writing and Write! (Alright?!)

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
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12 comments:

Arlee Bird said...

Wow, that was a lot of stuffs in that post. You could have divided that up into several posts....hey, wait a minute--I think I'm experiencing deja vu.

Seriously though, you should start another blog--a writing blog. You could write about the same stuff over and over, but in different ways. I'm sure you'd gain tons of followers. And you might actually get some readers.

I'd say go ahead and write about writing since you've already started writing about it. I'll read it. You've already touched upon about a hundred topics in this introductory post. You have enough material for posts for the next year or ten. But can you make the posts shorter please?

Good luck with the new writing blog. I'm excited for you.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BOIDMAN ~
>>...Good luck with the new writing blog. I'm excited for you.

Curb your enthusiasm.

I have just included EVERYTHING any would-be author needs to know in one blog bit. There is nuttin' mo' what needs to be said. All that's left is "the doing".

And true, my blog bits may be a shade on the lengthy side, but I write for ADULTS, not children. I figure adults should be able to maintain concentration for a full ten to fifteen minutes at a stretch, and in my opinion, there are already more than enough "See Dick And Jane At The Seashore"-type blogs out there to satisfy everyone with an MTV-attention span.

You, my friend, now have all the information necessary in order to write "The Great American Novel". Go now!... WRITE IT! (I await my personally autographed copy from you.)

I do, however, need to thank you, as it was our little comment exchange on your blog bit yesterday that inspired me to compose this "Method Writing" educational piece. (I believe in giving credit where it's due.) So..."I thank you!"

Boid: "GOT NOVEL?"

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

DiscConnected said...

Stephen-

I was already published. My masterpiece was published in a monthly magazine. It started like this:

"I never believed the stories in your magazine were true, until I was alone at the bar at closing time one Friday night and a woman walked in wearing a scarf and a sneeze."

You can guess the rest!

I simply can't top that!

DiscCombobulated

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

DISCOMBOBULATED ~
YOU wrote that?!

I read that years ago! I used to have a subscription to that magazine, which shall remain nameless, and I can still remember when I read that story.

Only I didn't believe it was true. I figured it was just some staff writer for the magazine who had concocted it.

[I didn't often read those stories though; I only got the magazine for the... pictures.]

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Pooh Lynth said...

Good Stuff Stephen! Remember writing is one letter away from writhing.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks, POOHREGARD!
And don't you forget that no matter what you beLIEve, it contains a "lie".

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

mousiemarc said...

If you’re planning to write a historical romance novel about the Vietnam War, change it to World War I, because we’re sick and tired of hearing about the Vietnam War, damn it! Sheesh! Give it a REST! (Also, remove the “romance” aspect from the historical novel. Just the idea of a historical romance novel about some guys in World War I is kind of eew! Don’t ask, and for heaven’s sake, don't tell!)

Ya know brother man a guy did try to write (though very poorly) a romance novel on World War 1. Well at least the model he would have preferred world war 1 to end by. Heck he even helped start World War 1. It's this book called "Phillip Dru Administrator" By Edward M House. I really think people should stay away from World War 1 romance novels. But maybe you have a different take on it. Maybe someone needs to banish Dru from our minds.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BR'ER MARC ~
Wow! Talk about taking the road - not just less traveled but - almost completely unknown...

Yeah. Ha! "Philip Dru: Administrator" - the absolute worst novel I ever read. And not just because of the author's fascistic ideas, but because it was simply the most poorly written novel I ever read!

The only thing I can say in its favor is that, at least, the so-called "romance" aspect of the story involved a man and a woman.

What I'm really dreading is a World War I historical "romance" novel involving two doughboys. That's where the "Eew!" enters.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

mousiemarc said...

Well I can't argue with you there. Hollywood already visited broke back mountain; they just might make a movie on two dough boy soldiers romantically involved during world war 1. Heck, they might have it between a german and an american as some sort of forbiden love. Ya never know what they would do now a days.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>...Heck, they might have it between a german and an american as some sort of forbiden love.

HOKEY-SMOKE! :o) THAT scenario had never even occurred to me!

Dude!... If you're ever really in a pinch for money, I'm certain that there's a well-payin' screenwriting job awaiting you in Hollyweird.

You're definitely a genius; the only question is: Are you sick enough to indulge your geniusness and make a ton of money with it?

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

This is the best post about writing that I have read... gosh, don't laugh at me, I am being serious.

I have to confess I got a bit tired of reading so many blogs about writing. I completely agree with you, well, with Nike: "just do it!"

Hey, thanks for your nice comment and your visit. You are too good to me :-D)))

Lady Doris

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

LADY DORIS ~

>>...This is the best post about writing that I have read... gosh, don't laugh at me, I am being serious.

I wouldn't even dream of laughing at you... because I think you're entirely right: it IS the best post about writing!

And that's coming from ME, a guy who really doesn't like and really doesn't even get along well with the bloke what wrote it! So, if I SAY it's the best, it must really be the best.

I'm glad you agree. You've got great taste in posts about writing about writing!

>>..."just do it!"

EXACTLY! Just shut the fudge - with walnuts - up and DO IT!

[In all seriousness... thanks for stopping by. Your sense of humor will always be welcome on this blog.]

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'