Disclaimer: I am a natural storyteller not an English teacher.
You've heard of method actors, right? So is there such a thing as a method author?
I think there might be.
Writers need to be able to put themselves in their protagonist's shoes and most do this successfully. We are all human and all know how it feels to be happy, sad, angry etc but unlike actors who sometimes have to pretend the backdrop is there when it isn't, we have to set the scene and really feel our surroundings. Smell, taste, touch, sound ... sight. I could not remember the last of the five senses! Embarrassing. Shh… don't tell anyone.
That just shows how much emphasis I put on sight. My mind is able to conjure up the most magnificent visions, better than anything I can see in the real world. That's why I love books! Every reader will read my books differently and that is pure magic to me.
Whilst writing magic realism, I wanted my protagonist’s experiences to feel real, especially because it's fantasy. I want the reader (you) to imagine what magic rushing through your body feels like, how a magic addict might suffer and what it would be like to use magical instruments. I want you to feel the power, the fear, the anxiety of having dangerous magics at your fingertips. Like The Never Ending Story, I want you to feel like you're part of the story.
Here is why I think I might be a bit of a method author.
Parts of my stories I can experience, I psychically do. I went to Eastwell Manor (a source of inspiration) and investigated. I even spent the night there - it is spooky at night.
I also did smaller things. In one scene, my protagonist slams into the ground from a height. No, I didn't jump off a cliff. I'm crazy but not that crazy! I went into the garden and allowed my body to drop onto the grass. I smelt the dirt, saw the ants scurrying around and felt the prickly blades press into my cheek. I then went back to my desk and wrote the sentence. That is what I think a 'method author' would do.
Another time I wanted her to feel cold, like ice running down her back. So I did that. I noted the change in my skin, my heart rate and generally my body's reaction to the cold. It helped me to write what she was experiencing with a bit more depth.
As long as it isn't dangerous or going to hurt someone else in any way, I try to experience as much as I can to make my stories breathe.
Let me ask you this: Have you ever read a work of fiction where you felt sure the person who wrote it had actually experienced what the protagonist was going through? Maybe you can see the difference in the writing between those who have experienced and those who are faking it?
What about you? Are you a method author? Do you sit around for weeks not washing and stinking up the place because you are writing about someone trapped in the wilderness? Maybe you went to work with someone to get a feel for their job so you can write your story about an accountant turned psychopath? Maybe you are writing about a little dog and go around eating off people's dinner plates and pooping on your neighbour’s lawn. Note: I did not do this when I wrote Curly from Shirley. Eating someone else's dinner is rude.
I'd love your thoughts.
Emma Pullar is a bestselling and award-winning writer of dark fiction and children's books. Her picture book, Curly from Shirley, was a national bestseller and named best opening lines by NZ Post. Emma has one writing competition and awards for her short stories and short scripts. Emma's debut novel, Skeletal, was published by Bloodhound Books in autumn 2017, the sequel, Avian, was published summer 2018.
Emma's crime debut, Paper Dolls, was released March 2019. The audiobook is out Aug 15th and Czech Republic edition will be published in 2020.
Emma also writes articles for Bang2write and Into the Script.
Follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaStoryteller or Instagram @emmapullar_storyteller or fb Emma Pullar.
Follow Emma on Goodreads.