Ask The Editor

February 1, 2010

The Link Between Method Acting and Writing Believable Characters

In one particularly funny episode of the TV series, Monk, a production company is filming a movie based on one of Mr. Monk’s cases. The method actor (played by Stanley Tucci), cast to play the detective, studies him so intensely, he develops the same phobias, quirks, and crime-solving skills.

We’ve all heard of method actors “inhabiting” their characters, but what does that have to do with writing? If you’re writing character-based narrative, more than you might expect.

For my current project, co-authoring a doctor’s memoir, I spent probably hundreds of hours in interviews, probing her thoughts, experiences, remembrances of places and people, and learning more about her from additional interviews with those close to her. The process was only complete when I felt able to imagine what it was like to be in her skin, experiencing what she experienced.

I joked with her that it’s a little like Mr. Spock’s Vulcan mind-meld. But I was half serious too.

Because when you’re writing from the point of view of a character, real or fictional, you can’t do the character justice unless you become so enmeshed, it’s as if you’ve seen through the character’s eyes.

If you can’t inhabit the character to some degree, what you write from that character’s viewpoint won’t feel real to the reader.

– Anita Bartholomew

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January 30, 2009

Amazon sales are up — good news for writers?

Amazon is doing well at a time when just about every other business is tanking.

Some highlights from its announcement:

  • North America segment sales, representing the Company’s U.S. and Canadian sites, were $3.63 billion, up 18% from fourth quarter 2007.
  • International segment sales, representing the Company’s U.K., German, Japanese, French and Chinese sites, were $3.07 billion, up 19% from fourth quarter 2007. Excluding the unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, International sales grew 31%.
  • Worldwide Media sales grew 9% to $3.64 billion, compared with $3.33 billion in fourth quarter 2007.
  • One has to wonder how much of its success is due to business practices that have the potential to harm publishers, writers, and others in the business. For example, it recently strong-armed publishers into either using Amazon’s print-on-demand services or forfeit “buy now” selling opportunities with the online retailer. (Without the “buy now” button, publishers have to compete with sellers of used copies and don’t qualify for the free shipping that makes Amazon so attractive to buyers). That move prompted a class action lawsuit.

    Amazon also demands higher than customary discounts from publishers, which cut into the profits of both publishing company and author. Protest and Amazon, again, cuts off the “buy now” opportunity to buy a publisher’s books. It also drops such publishers from its promotions.

    Now, Amazon, distributor of the Kindle e-book reader, has decided not to carry any e-books except those that use the Kindle proprietary format. It’s a move, like the others, designed to cut off competition.

    So, is Amazon’s success good news for writers? Not if Amazon continues to strangle competition and force publishers and others to accept its terms or take a hike. It would be far better for the industry if there were several online booksellers thriving — and giving book buyers a multitude of choices.

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