Why Writers Should Be Method Actors

Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 | 6 comments

Why Writers Should Be Method Actors

My guest this week is author, Tammy Doherty. She gives a unique look at what actors and writers have in common and how that can affect our characters! Enjoy!



Wandering Wednesdays


When Norma Gail first asked me to write a guest post on writing tips, I was stumped as to what to write about. What could I say that hasn’t been touted over and over? We’ve all heard “a writer writes,” “write something, anything every day,” and “give yourself permission to write bad, that’s what first drafts are for.” Or how about “edit, edit, edit”? All very good writing tips and advice, but you want to hear something new, right? Me, too.


Thinking about how I write brought about a realization – I’m a method actor. No, I don’t perform on stage (I shudder at the thought!). The way I create and work with my characters, however, is much like an actor who becomes the character they are playing. Once I understand my characters, get into their heads, then writing flows naturally. Notice I didn’t say easily! First drafts are still meant to be full of lousy writing and I still have to revise and edit. Knowing my hero and heroine helps know what they will do, how they will react, what words will come out of their mouths (and, conversely, what words they will choose to keep inside). When I hit a road block, often it’s because I’m trying to make one or more characters do or say something contrary to their personality.


A few years ago, I bought a program by Jeff Gerke on creating characters. I don’t think it’s available anymore but his book Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction looks like it covers the same topics. In this approach, the writer uses personality traits established by psychologists along with natural attributes, background, emotional journeys, etc. I also picked up Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, which explains the basic personality types. Using this as a guide, I delved into the psyche of Caitlin and Sean in my new novel, She’s Mine. I had the first draft written already and thought I knew both of these characters yet I was still having some trouble in certain spots during editing. Turns out, I was trying to force them into doing what I would do, not what they would do.


After this breakthrough, I did a personality sketch for the hero and heroine of the next book in this series (which, sadly, still has no name and is currently referred to as Mystique of Naultag, Book 2 or MON2). The hero of MON2 appears as a secondary character in She’s Mine, so I had to portray him properly even before writing his story. Using personality types, I gathered a list of his traits and quirks. I got into his head. The epilogue of She’s Mine is written from his point of view. I really got into his head and the thoughts and dialog flowed easily as I added that scene to the novel. Yes, I said easily. By then, I knew exactly who he is and how he reacts to people and situations. As I write MON2, it won’t come as easily because I have to bounce between two characters. In essence, I will be an actor playing two parts in a play. I have to take a moment (or a few hours) between scene changes to “become” the point of view character.


Personally, I find it fun to do this. Secretly, I always wanted to be an award-winning actress but my fear of performing in public kept me from that dream. Now I can play the part of any character, pour myself into the role, and hopefully create an award-winning performance. At the very least, I’m entertaining myself and it’s great stress relief!


About the author:

Tammy DohertyTammy Doherty is the author of several Christian/Inspy novels, two of which have been on Amazon’s best-selling list. Her first three novels are historical romance with a touch of suspense; the fourth book, SHE’S MINE, is a contemporary romantic suspense set in a small town in central Massachusetts. Ms. Doherty lives on a small farm in central MA with her husband and two children, where they grow and sell perennial plants. You can connect with Tammy at her Facebook page www.facebook.com/TammyDohertyAuthor.





Book Links:

Celtic Knot Celtic Cross Claddaugh

Shes Mine









“She’s Mine”        http://amzn.to/186sL5R

“Celtic Cross”       http://amzn.to/1JVTbJk

“Claddaugh”         http://amzn.to/1JVTgN3

“Celtic Knot”        http://amzn.to/1JVTioe



  1. I love this, Tammy, and it’s so true! I recently was taken aback when two of my characters started to react in a way I would not have chosen to. I was so disturbed, yet realized, that was appropriate to who they were! I guess if we don’t really think a character through (quirks and all), the dialogue just won’t flow as we try to squeeze them into our mold! Thanks for a great post!

    • Thanks, Elaine, I’m glad it rings true with you. And thank you for visiting D

    • I appreciate you stopping by, Elaine! I was intrigued as well!

  2. I write this way too. I want to know what my main and secondary characters have in their pockets, hidden in their homes, what their first pet was.

    • Thanks for taking time to stop by, Nike! I appreciate it!

    • I just found the family tree I did for Sean Taggart – none of which has any bearing on the story. But it’s fun knowing the characters so well!

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