Method Writing by Jack Grapes
Book Review and Commentary March 2, 2016
What is ‘method writing’? The term here may remind you of ‘method acting’ a technique created by Konstantin Stanislavsky (An Actor Prepares) for an actor to emotionally identify with a character that he or she plays. Jack Grapes, an actor, playwright, teacher, and author has been teaching method writing since the 1980s. In his book Method Writing, he states that method writing is a way to find your deepest voice, and yes, it does sound like it can work effectively to empower fiction in any form from novels to poems to short stories to film scripts. I’m trying his suggestions out in my new short story. Very exciting for me so far.
Based on the idea that creativity is a process, “not a prescription for product,” Grapes says a writer needs to allow for the accident of genius in that first draft especially. Discovery has a big role to play here and getting lost is the path. Follow no maps. Fix on no destinations. Risk it and let process take you fast into that first draft.
I am reminded of a marketing gal who said that too many writers don’t know their target audience before they begin writing a novel. She saw this as a deficit in the writing process, because of course she believes that for a novel to be marketed successfully, the book (product) must be written as pitched to the buyer/reader/genre. Grapes disagrees. He believes that writers need to ‘let go of the desire for product and commit honestly and sincerely to the creative process.’ So, no product, no target audience. There’s a bit of Zen here in the maxim that you get what you want by letting it go.
Grapes spends a lot of time on the invisible motor, Voice—the tone, the rhythms, the dynamic flow of energy. He devotes a whole chapter and more on finding that deep voice and identifying the four different voices. I liked his exercise in exploring what he calls the transformation line. Big self-discoveries here and it works a bit like therapy. This power tool feeds what is termed the image/moment concept. While I won’t describe it here, I will say the image/moment technique can crack open any writer to discover not only drama and description, but real time vs. psychological time in scenes.
Begin here: ‘voice creates character’ and ‘character creates plot.’ Every art has its method we are told, and I believe it too. You will find insights on disquieting muses, Surrealism, and giving space and taking space. Method Writing is certainly a gem for any serious writer who desires more than the traditional path to creative writing. This is the unpath. Highly recommended.
Visit Jack Grapes’ website.
Watch the YouTube 2-minute Video of Jack Grapes.
Next on my book review list is Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (Read Feb. 2016 book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (Read Jan. 2016 book review here)
Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps Structure, Steven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White
Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay