“Every writer tries to find himself through his characters, through all his writing.”
You’ve probably heard of method acting. Well, I just came across a fascinating variation on that theme. It’s an approach that the incredibly prolific writer Georges Simenon used. To “get under the skin“ of his characters,“ he would assume their identity for an intense period of time.
His strategy must have served him well, because he wrote over 200 novels in his own name and even more using a pen name. His Maigret series alone featured scores of books. Many of his novels were short — he typically wrote six a year. While he may not be known as a stylist, he was definitely an inventive story teller with a fertile imagination.
Generally, he would start s new novel with a bit of atmosphere, a vague sense of place. Then he would come up with a few characters, but he would only know their names, ages, and a little family information. He would have no idea of the events that would occur as his novel unfolded: he was literally writing the story “in real time” to find out what happened.
When he first started a novel, Georges totally immersed himself in his main character and told the story from that character’s point of view. While he was writing, he would “live like a monk.” He wouldn’t see anyone or talk to anyone. As he put it: “All the day I am one of my characters. I feel what he feels… And it’s almost unbearable after five or six days. That is one of the reasons my novels are so short; after eleven days I can’t—-it’s impossible. I have to—it’s physical. I am too tired.”
What a fascinating idea: To totally immerse yourself in your character for an brief, but intense, period of time. I wonder if there’s a germ of something here that we can use in our own work? What do you think?