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David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

A client uses a formula—ACTIAMO—when exploring her characters. They discovered it in The Benson Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine:

Crimes possess all the basic factors of a work of art—approach,  conception, technique, imagination, attack, method and organisation. Moreover, crimes vary fully as much in their manner, their aspects, and their general nature, as do works of art. Indeed, a carefully planned crime is just as direct an expression of the individual as is a painting, for instance.

I haven't used approach, conception, technique, imagination, attack, method, or organization in my own writing, but I can see some connections.

The approach could be action—how does a character approach a problem?

Conception, or how they conceive a situation, is a worldview that I rarely begin with. I look at what my character wants and why they want, which leads me back to their history, challenges, and upbringing.

Technique, again, feels like action—but perhaps with specificity. As the book Action: The Actor's Thesaurus shows us, we can all accept someone, but the question is how: acknowledge, admit, adopt, approve, condone, embrace, espouse, permit, receive, or welcome.

Imagination is the character's actions and responses in their head.

Attack—again—is action. Perhaps, the most specific approach to the problem.

The method might be the series of actions taken towards the end.

And lastly, the organization feels like more of a writer's choice. Still, if looking at a character who does the extreme version first (burn the house down before asking for forgiveness, for example), then the order of their actions hints towards their inner responses.

Would I use it? Maybe, but I would feel that this would make me overthink before I write when most of these decisions would be discovered while writing.

I don't want to get in the way of a writer's method—there are 1000s, and we have to be open to them all—but if the method gets in the way of their work, I'd have them reconsider.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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