What Writers Can Learn From Facebook’s Birthday

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What Writers Can Learn From Facebook's Birthday

Anyone with eyes or friends can hardly have failed to notice that this week marks Facebook’s 10th birthday.

If you’re anything like me (and I do hope you are, you lucky people you) then your timelines will have been inundated with My Facebook films. If, at this point, you’re asking “what’s Facebook and what’s a timeline?” then your Author Marketing Plan is #failing #abysmally. Much like hashtags on Facebook really.

One ring to bind them
Yes, this week we’re all awash in personal lookbacks over the past however many years we’ve been sharing our lives online. Top-rated photos, most-liked posts and sundry other reminiscences all rolled up into a one-minute-five-second film encapsulating what FB regards as our most notable assets.

So, I hear you wondering aloud, what has any of this got to do with writing?

Take a close look at all those films. Whether they’re shared by best friends or vague acquaintances, they all have one thing in common. Each of them focuses on two or three thematic elements which tell us a whole heap about what’s important to the individual they represent. No matter that I barely know some of the people whose films I’ve seen, I now know a couple of key factors about who they are and what’s most important in their worlds.

Less is most definitely more
Riffing on last week’s theme of characterisation, how extraordinary is it that such minimal detail can tell a viewer (or reader – see where this is going now…?) so much about a stranger. Of course, we’re all multi-faceted individuals and all the better for that. But how many saxophone-playing, ski-jumping, trampolining, home-loving, wild-partying, monogamist lotharios who are fluent in Chinese, Norwegian and Klingon do you really know?

No, thought not.

The characters you create will be just as diverse a bunch as your friends and family, with a varied range of interests. But very few will have all of their strongest attributes in equal measure. There will be dominant facets which get to the heart of who each character really is and what they stand for.

So what would you say about each of the main characters in your writing if you had only one-minute-and-five-seconds to describe them? Which of their character traits would you select? Which major life events would have to be brought up to put this character in context? Which of the other characters in your work is so intrinsically linked to them that they would merit a mention? What would be the single most captivating nugget of information that would stop a reader in their tracks?

Tricky isn’t it?

Summing it all up
To fully understand your characters and throw them into crystal-clear focus, I heartily recommend you give this a try. Describe them, their very essence, what makes them so uniquely them, in just one minute and five seconds. Then you’ll have the truth not only of who each character is at heart, but of their true value and importance in your story.

That’s the meat, the rest is gravy. Or, in honour of Facebook’s birthday, that’s the cake, the rest is custard. Mmmmmm, cake.

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11 thoughts on “What Writers Can Learn From Facebook’s Birthday

  1. Well, I doubt that my character’s most shared moment will be about his/her pet hamster, as in the case of moi! Pathetic. My online film was disappointing to say the least. HA HA. I’ll make sure my characters are more exciting. This is a great idea for an exercise!

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  2. Great point! 🙂 Going through a Goal, Motivation, Conflict wizard has helped me a great deal with my own characterization as well, since it’s kind of the same thing – boiling down the characters to their most basic wants and desires, and then figuring out what is keeping them from reaching or achieving those things. And what they want can clue you in to who they are as a person, their personalities.

    I’ve also used Martha Alderson’s Plot Whisperer workbook for characterization, which is super useful … because she knows a great plot is really all about great characters, so a lot of the exercises are about figuring out your characters. One of my favorite parts is just a list you fill out about what your character loves, hates, fears, what their dreams are, what their secret is, etc.

    Also, she helped define “turning point” in my mind, FINALLY. It’s when the character’s goal CHANGES … which should obviously happen at some point as the story circumstances change and build upon each other. Anyway, good stuff! 🙂 Thoroughly enjoying all of these posts!

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      • Yes, the workbook is GREAT! Google Blockbuster Plots and that will take you to her site. She has a lot of other resources and online workshops too! Even free YouTube videos where she walks you through the process! Pretty awesome! And yes, keep up these awesome posts! 😉

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