Archive for September, 2019
Most serious writers want to connect with an audience; preferably a big one. You have something to say. You have a story to tell. You want people to read it. One of the best ways to make people want to read your work is to create memorable and relatable central characters. Whether you are writing a short story, screenplay, or a novel, you want your readers to identify with and live the story through your main characters. To do this, you have to create three dimensional characters that live and breathe in your reader’s imagination. I’d like to share with you a method I learned for from professional, published writers.
I started writing in earnest when I began a career in marketing communications. In my early thirties, it became clear to me that writing was the thing I enjoyed doing the most when it came to work. I wrote promotional copy and content for radio and TV ads, brochures, websites, press releases, Power Point® presentations, sales contests and salesperson motivation, and on and on. In my forties, I wrote a few not-so-good short stories. At the age of fifty, I decided to try my hand at writing screenplays. I was scared shitless. Deep down, I really didn’t think I could do it. Some crazy impulse pushed me towards the cliff’s edge and over it into the unknown.
Fortunately, I was old enough to realize I needed help. At fifty, I didn’t have the time or inclination to fall into the traps most beginning fiction writers do. I had already suffered enough scars from learning how to write business communications. I wanted to walk as straight a path as possible in this new world of fiction writing. I knew that mistakes were inevitable. I just wanted to avoid the detours.
Somehow, I found my way to the Online Writers’ Program at UCLA. One of the first things I learned in my online courses was the necessity of building an original and compelling Protagonist and Antagonist plus an interesting cast of supporting characters. Unless you are an incredibly gifted genius, you will need to know your characters thoroughly before you start writing your story. You must know them in detail, including the seminal events that made them who they are today, commonly called their backstory. Why is this necessary? Because if you don’t know who your characters are and what they need and want before you start writing, they will almost certainly be flat, two-dimensional cut outs. At the very least, they won’t be original and interesting.
If you craft your characters carefully and thoughtfully, your story will write itself. Your plot will be character driven, rather than contrived. Your readers will become emotionally attached to your characters.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Enough of this baloney. Tell me how to write amazing characters.
There are two methods I can suggest. You can sit down and write everything you know about your character. Hopefully, you’ll fill several pages with your biographical information. If you can do this effectively, more power to you. There’s only one catch: You better know what to include in your character’s bio because, as we’ve said, you have to know your character inside and out. That’s why I prefer the second method, especially if you are new to creating fictional characters.
The second method, which I deveoped from my online courses at UCLA, employs a character template to build your character. I feel it’s better than writing about your characters in an unstructured format because it forces you to answer questions about them that you might try to avoid or just plain leave out. Here’s the template you can use to create central characters with more originality, specificity, and complexity. Filling out the template takes a bit of work, but in the end, I believe it can expand your audience and pave the way to greater writing success.
Build or Figure:
Past/present home life:
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com
“The Sun in Your Heart is Rising.”
I’ve been working towards a spiritual awakening for most of my adult life, and it seems I’m on the brink of a promising development in my growth process. There are many paths to “higher consciousness” and many kinds of spiritual awakenings. In fact, each of us is destined for his or her own unique awakening. For the past five years, I’ve been involved in something called “Waking Down in Mutuality.” WDM is a path that nurtures an embodied individual awakening through energetic transmission and various forms of study and group participation. There are no gurus. It is not a cult. The people who help other people to awaken are teachers and facilitators. There is no hierarchy. There is no dogma. There are no “shoulds” or “oughts.”
The chances are that you’ve never heard of anything like WDM. You’re not alone. Less than one percent of the world’s population is interested in transformative spiritual awakening. You may be wondering why I’m interested. The answer is simple: I want to experience more peace, love and joy in my life than most other pursuits can provide.
Thanks to the evolution of consciousness and the opportunities and modalities provided by WDM and its close relative, Trillium Awakening, I don’t have to be a monk or a saint to awaken. I don’t have to destroy or surrender my ego. I can just be me, whatever that is. I don’t have to separate spirit and matter. I can live a relatively normal life while opening myself to the treasures of the Heart, every chance I get.
Recently, I’ve made a discovery. It’s a big one. It’s really more of an experience than a mental concept. I’ve realized that self-worth ultimately has nothing to do with accomplishment. Equating self-worth with achievement is a trap that most of us fall into.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with striving to accomplish things, or to be a better you, or in getting better at whatever it is you do. It definitely feels good to get things done and to improve. As an example, I enjoy the feeling of writing this. It feels good to create something new. But writing a best-selling novel will never give me the deep down satisfaction, wholeness, and completeness that my heart craves. This type of satisfaction can only be found buried deep within my heart. The same is true for you.
I’m not sure where I’m going from here, but I’m confident it will lead to more and more happiness and self-satisfaction. It won’t happen overnight. What’s important is that it’s happening. As WDM founder and spiritual teacher Saniel Bonder likes to say, “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising.” That sounds pretty good to me.
This is going to be a rant of sorts with some upside. It’s also going to be a little embarrassing. Maybe more than a little. Anyway, here goes.
I am a very active person. To avoid boring you with the particulars, let’s just say that I lead a busy life chock full of errands and enjoyable pastimes strung together with “work” that I try to make meaningful. I put the word “work” in quotes because I believe that work has to be enjoyable to yield measurable, positive results.
I have done things I really didn’t want to do called “work.” My father once told me that “you can’t always do what you want to do.” This is true, but I think I took what he said to an extreme.
I have read and observed that highly successful people enjoy what they do. They work very hard because they enjoy it. Now, “working very hard” has to be put into perspective in my case. I have never, ever, worked very hard compared to someone like Tom Brady, or Warren Buffet, or my investment adviser.
However, I have worked very hard (for me) at writing. I am passionate about writing. And looking back on forty plus years of writing, I see that what I’ve written has had very little impact as far as making the world a better place to live in. This includes the latest novel I wrote with a subtext about the energy and environmental crisis (Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.)
This bothers me because I have put a ton of myself into the three books I’ve written, particularly the last one which is available in digital, paperback and audio formats. Another thing that bothers me is the world, not just the Amazon forests, is on fire. We are facing extinction due to the environmental crisis we have managed to visit upon ourselves. The environmental issue has finally become a big topic of discussion, but we aren’t taking the radical steps that are required to confront the problem. That’s why I wrote Micromium a year ago, but it didn’t help. Not the way I wanted it to.
So, if I’ve been doing what I truly want to do for the past thirty odd years, why isn’t it working?
Well, it seems that I finally have a clue. I have not been as successful as I’d like to be because I DON’T BELIEVE IN MYSELF ENOUGH. I’ve learned that a strong belief in oneself and in what one is doing is essential for success. I’ve known about this principle for a long time, but knowing about it and doing something about it are two distinctly different things.¹ Just like the environmental issue.
Recently, I’ve found a way to significantly cut through my self-doubt. It’s called Somatic Experiencing. Since starting this training a month ago, my energy is more focused and it is coming from a deeper place. I’ve already witnessed some positive results. Nothing big mind you, but definitely positive in relation to myself and other people. I’m in the beginning stages of this process, and I hope there will be much more growth to come. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make some positive waves in this troubled world. It’s never too late.
Thanks for reading this. Hope it helped.
¹I’d also like to mention that it helps to do the thing or things you are designed for. It’s important to find your true purpose. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copywriting, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.