Friday, September 21, 2012

Week 3: Method Writing, or Why I Can't Write Around Other People

All right. Here’s a more solid post, something I’ve noticed about myself. I’ve heard a few skirting mentions, but nothing that actually makes a point of talking about this.

Method writing? What the heck is that?

Well, I take the term from acting. Simply put, a method actor is an actor to whom the character—motivations, psychology—is the most important part of a script. It is what convinces such an actor to take on a role, or what often makes them pass. Method actors are known for going so deep inside the mind of a character that when the audience looks into the actor’s eyes, they can see the character’s soul.

Heath Ledger was a method actor; his devotion to the role is what created the powerful, almost mystical performance of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Marlon Brando is another, and you can see the sincerity of his performance in The Godfather, Part I. A great example of a method actor still very active today is Geoffrey Rush, who plays Barbosa in the Pirates of the Caribbean films; compare with his work in The King’s Speech.

(Here’s a larger list of method actors, and what it means to be one:

These are the kinds of actors who win awards consistently, while also being actors who make a direct, powerful connection with the audience. Watch Michael Clayton, the ending and credits specifically, and you’ll see what I mean.

They’re also infamous for being eccentric, difficult to work with, and impossible to direct. And they aren’t known for steady work, either. But how does this relate to writing, and writing Epic Fantasy, at that?

Those of you who have read Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time probably know where I’m going already. The depths of understanding Jordan had with his characters was astounding; The blacksmith scene with Perrin in The Dragon Reborn is one of those that simply gives me chills. I feel so close to what is happening, so close to the characters.

Fantasy is often still seen as the teenaged grandson of Tolkien, only meant to give over-the-shoulder views of the fantastic. While I think many of us aspire to Tolkien’s sense of awe, I personally mean to gain immediacy, and intimacy, almost akin to 1st person perspective.

(Robert Jordan also fit with some of the other stereotypes. Harriet, Jordan’s wife and editor, said she could always tell when Jordan was writing the madman Padan Fain; he would slink around the house, she said, and cackle fiendishly for the rest of the afternoon.)

Why do I consider myself a “method writer”? Let’s tally the score.

Am I eccentric? Check.

Difficult to work with? Check.

Bad at taking direction, and taking too long to finish a piece? Check and Check.

Focused on character above all else? Check.

Award winning, the focus of worldwide admiration? Dang it.

Oh, well. Five outta six aint bad. I want the reader to see through the character’s eyes, share his thoughts, understand his very anima. As pretentious as that sounds, it’s what I want. Fortunately, that’s all possible, with my kind of writing.

However, there are some serious drawbacks.

It takes me fifteen minutes, or about, to write myself into the character’s head. If I’m sharing a room with someone, this makes writing VERY hard to do. If the other person only has something to say every TEN MINUTES, an hour of writing will get me precisely nowhere. I’ll just start to develop a real sense for the character before I’m ripped away. And if you keep pressing reset on your NES, Link is going to HATE you.

Also, if a character feels something, I have to understand (or be able to imagine) what that’s like. Similarly, if a character KNOWS something, I have to learn at least enough about it to fake knowing EVERYTHING about it. Horses are a big one in Fantasy; so are weapons. I had to learn what a langlet is, just a couple of weeks ago.

But, benefits and drawbacks aside, I don’t really have a choice about it. “Writers write.” And method writers sit and whine about how hard it is to write. : )


Now, onto Magic!

My brother essentailly said it's impossible to make an effective Heartless Summoning deck, so guess what I'm going to be trying for the next little while?

Heartless Summoning
Palladium Myr
Myr Superion
Etched Champion
Adaptive Automaton
Solemn Simulacrum

That's what I've got so far. Gotta build this one fast, because most of this is rotating out.


Actually, Mary Robinette Kowal made a reference to the concept of "Method Writing" in an episode of Writing Excuses. Thought I'd give credit where it's due. Here's the episode:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 2: A (tentative) Posting Schedule, Writer's Resources, and MtG Combo

I think I'm going to post once a week. Gonna go for Thursday, though I didn't make it this week.

This time, I think I'll just make a list of resources I've found most useful as a writer.

It's a weekly podcast by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowal. "15 Minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and..."  ...they've got a STOCKPILE of writerly advice.

Seriously. They let you listen for free, they have full archives from podcast one, and they've proved invaluable to me. (I don't really do the prompts, and that's still true, so imagine if you were to keep with the program)

A site started by a college student (I think), focused on writing. More importantly, it features ACTUAL Masters-level Creative Writing classes taught by Brandon Sanderson. (I think I'm beginning to sense a pattern here...)

Free youtube postings, unbelievable amounts of good advice here.

Well, that's mostly it. I know, it doesn't seem like a lot, but listen through all the seasons of Writing Excuses and try to tell me I haven't pointed you in the right direction.


Okay, maybe I was a little over the top. but lookey here:

Heartless summoning
Skinrender (Or Butcher Ghoul)
Skirsdag High Priest

Gives a 5/5 flyer EVERY TURN. You're welcome.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Introduction and Explanation

Welcome! I am Nathan Hall (better known in some circles as sephie913) and this is my first blog post. I thought I would introduce myself a little more in depth, explain the title of the blog, and basically tell you what you can expect from it.

I am a writer of Epic Fantasy, as of yet unpublished. I occasionally write Thrillers (usually with supernatural elements), but I find I don't have the patience to research the science for Sci-Fi.

I am writing this blog for a couple of reasons.
1) I have the occasional thought that I feel I need to express, and
2) Because an internet presence is important in the world of Geekdom

Most of my posts will be on writing, in some form or another, even if it's just me whining over my troubles in doing so. :)

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm doing, so it might take me some time to find traction. Until then, my wheels might just spin uselessly. Also, I'm starting college alongside writing, so my posts might be few and far between until I've developed some sort of balance.

Now to the good part: what the heck is the meaning behind the title?!?!

In some ways, it's simpler than it seems. I play Magic: the Gathering in my spare time, and I am more of a "neat idea" kind of guy than a "I mustest win" kind of guy. "More Mana Than God" is one example, from an opening hand I had one evening.

(Those of you who don't play MtG, and don't know anybody who does, probably won't understand the following.

In Standard format:

3 Forest, 1 Birds of Paradise, 1 Druid's Repository, 1 Strangleroot Geist, 1 Primeval Titan

Turn 1: Play Forest, play Birds.
Turn 2: Play Forest, tap Birds for mana, play Druid's Repository.
Turn 3: Play Forest, play Strangleroot Geist, attack with Geist and Birds. (2 counters on Repository)
Turn 4: Hopefully play Forest, remove counters from Repository, play Primeval Titan.

Essentially, this leads to 11 mana on turn 5, or MORE MANA THAN GOD.

[Those of you who play might be interested to note that this leads to a reasonably quick Primal Surge, also known as "punch you in the face with my whole deck".]

This is essentially a risk/reward situation. If I don't get this, I lose. I only get this about once a night (or 1/9 of the time). But the look on my opponants' faces when I put my whole deck onto the battlefield--Asceticism gives them hexproof, Avacyn makes them indestructable, etc--the look on their faces is priceless.

So, that's basically what's going on. I hope you'll tune in next time, and even more optimistically, I hope I'll have something worth reading. I'll post something on here every other week, regardless.