Writing From Your Gut

Good evening! I’m still here!

The Traveling Screenwriting has been a little on the nutso side these last few months. I’ve been traveling, I’ve been writing, and I’ve been blogging a TON – just over here at The Chocolate Tourist.

Character wisdom from comedy writer Dan Harmon on characters

Dan Harmon, courtesy of Channel 101 Wiki

My screenplay has gone through many permutations (as screenplays do) in the last few months, and who the heck knows when it will be finished. Meanwhile I’ve had a bunch of other ideas.

Isn’t that the way it goes? You’re down deep in the snaggly weeds of a fourth rewrite of the script you’re committed to, and then a saucy new idea flounces by your imagination.

It’s tough not to get distracted.

In any case, I want to share this unique and insightful take on character development from Big TV Writer honcho Dan Harmon. He co-created Adult Swim and is currently working on Community.

And he’s pretty smart about telling stories.

On his blog, Dan Harmon Poops, he answers a question about writing characters. First, get your phone. Then scroll through your contacts until one of the names creates a visceral, gut reaction in you.

Ask yourself why that person’s name caused that reaction in you. Don’t try to make it an accurate answer, make it your honest, personal answer. Make it a thousand overlapping micro-answers. Don’t find categorical terminology for any of it, just dump the marbles of emotional memory all over the floor, flood the room with them. You were infatuated with Rebecca because she wore Chuck Taylors and played bass and tasted like cigarettes.

Now play with the marbles. Experiment with eliminating them, cross referencing them…didn’t Tracy also taste like cigarettes, and didn’t you hate that about her? What if Rebecca had tasted like Scope, would you have been less in love with her…?

This is a fascinating exercise. Without even consulting my phone, I can think of the names to which I react strongly. Dread, excitement, fascination, embarrassment. Now imagine pouring all those feelings into the characters on the page.

I’ve recently become aware how snobby I tend to be with regard to characters. They’re either good or bad. I’m either rooting for them or rooting against them. But the best characters – even my favorite characters – are not that simple. They’re complex, human-y concoctions of the soul as much as the imagination.

They do great things and terrible things. Motivated by all kinds of reasons.

We don’t have to figure them out.

We just put them in the middle of a story and watch what they do.

Day 15: Make Some Friends

The winding Sea-to-Sky Highway

Back from vacation, and on with the writing challenge! Happy Summer, everyone.

We’ve invested some time by now in getting ourselves involved in social networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and most recently, Google+ (which I confess I haven’t revisited since). Well, let’s break down the big network of society into the individuals woven into said net.

Namely, friends.

Day 15: Connect with at least three new people on one of your social network sites.

So, where to begin?

Twitter would be the simplest and most straight-forward path – the 140-character profile usually drives users to stick to the important stuff, which is handy when you’re looking for specific interests that relate to your own. And it’s easy to follow said users. And in my experience, 8 times out of 10 said users will follow you back.

Facebook, on the other hand, could be a little trickier. Facebook users tend to be more oriented toward keeping up with family and friends, and depending on the user, could be resistant to connecting with strangers. Then again, depending on how active they are, Facebook could be a lot more  likely to yield meaningful interaction if you’re allowed into the inner circle.

LinkedIn connections used to be impossible to make without a bona fide acquaintance with the object of your socialization. Or at least an email address (if you fibbed and said you were friends), but now supposed ‘friends’ don’t need any proof of friendship, and if you don’t want to be that dishonest, you can just click the option for ‘I don’t know this person’. So chances are, if you rewrite the automatic “Dear blank, I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn” invitation copy into something that actually introduces you and why this person might want to know you, it could work out well.

Again, it all depends on how active your prospective connections are on each site.

I’m brand new to Google+ so I don’t even know how connections are made there. Anyone want to chime in on this?

So having weighed all the options, I think I will go with Facebook. There are a few friends of friends I’ve wanted to meet, and this is a good kick in the kiester to give it a try. What’s the worst the can happen? They’re totally turned off by my charming self-introduction and proposed invasion of their Facebook privacy, and forever think black thoughts at the very mention of my name.

Big deal.

Let’s go make some friends!

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Day 12: Encourage Conversation

A good hostess knows how to keep a conversation going. She presents a topic and invites comments.

That’s sort of like what we do as bloggers – unlike authors, whose work is done and separate from their person, a blogger is right in the midst of their creative work. We draw readers in and encourage them to stay and participate. Interact, if you will, with our writing.

Today’s exercise from Robert Brewer’s platform-building challenge hinges on the second half of this relationship.

Day 12: Write a blog post and a call to action

In which a ‘call to action’ is an opportunity to connect via social media or previous blog posts. Offering readers other ways to engage, beyond this one post that may have randomly popped up in their feed reader. It’s another way of communicating, “Come on in, take your shoes off, have a drink. Make yourself comfortable and tell me about yourself.”

Sit down and visit for a spell.

To read more about Robert Brewer’s writing challenge, and how I was enticed to follow along, take a look at my first post on Day 1: Get Back in the Box

I’d love to have you come see me in the Twitterverse, Facebookland, or LinkedInville.

Twitter: @cortneywrites

Facebook: Cortney Writes

LinkedIn: Cortney Matz

Any thoughts about this post? Leave a comment and join the conversation!

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Day 8: Get Linked In

More social media! Facebook: check. Twitter: check. LinkedIn… up next.

Day 8: Create a LinkedIn profile

Robert doesn’t have a lot to say about LinkedIn, other than to recommend getting on it, and then he asked for advice from readers. In my experience, LI is one networking site that seems to have a split opinion. Half the people love it and extoll the multitudinous ways for industrious folk to do business by connecting with friends of friends and answering questions about which they have expertise. The other half is there because they feel they should be.

But now what?

I’ve been on LinkedIn for a few years, and have taken the time to fill out my profile pretty completely. I have 129 connections, 5 endorsements for my work, and when I have new episodes of the chocolate show I post links there.

I’ve connected with a few folks I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and had one interesting email from a cable station (which didn’t go anywhere), but otherwise it’s been a pretty dry fount.

I’m sure it is beneficial for the sake of legitimacy to have a profile on LinkedIn. It’s kind of an online resume with accountability from all your connections to back it up. Plus there are lots of professional groups to participate in, and new job opportunities within your network are emailed to you regularly.

All that to say, I’m on the fence.

Any thoughts? Have you played with LinkedIn and found it a helpful tool? Let us discuss.

Join the link!

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Day 6: Mingle

In case you’re just joining us, I’m a few days into Robert Brewer’s writing challenge, encouraging us to take steps every day for 30 days toward building a platform and developing your following.

It’s been a smashing experience so far, and I’m pretty excited to carry on.

Day 6: Read a Blog and Comment on it

A reasonable suggestion. Where to begin?

Since I blog primarily about stories, fiction, travel, and my personal experience with all those things, it seemed smart to look for other blogs with a similar focus. When I laid eyes on MORFIS, I knew my search was over.

MORFIS is a collection of art, illustrations, photography and design that takes you to another place. Browsing around the virtual gallery, I found myself smiling involuntarily. The imagination spread across the digital pages is really something. I was drawn in.

But it isn’t enough to visit a blog and merely appreciate it. We are to leave evidence of our appreciation.

I was hard pressed to choose, but I settled on a post depicting illustrations by Dan May, a highly detailed fine artist in Chicago. Take a peek at the blog and see what you think – I was quite inspired, and may even come up with some new stories based on what I saw. You can see Dan’s photos (and my comment) here.