Content is King: Fly Your Freak Flag & Write Your Passion

Content is King: Fly Your Freak Flag & Write Your Passion

I am rewatching Community on Netflix.  I watched it when it originally aired on NBC, but watching several episodes back-to-back is a whole new experience.  As I’m watching, I keep thinking I can’t believe this was on broadcast television! Because it’s weird, really weird.

Ostensibly about a seven member study group at Greendale Community College, the show’s heart is a love of pop culture.   Almost every episode is an homage to a specific show or genre and it’s pretty genius, especially to a story geek like me. But it is not mainstream.

the cast of the TV show Community
The cast of Community

Community’s mere existence, let alone the fact that it lasted five seasons on NBC, before a final season on Yahoo television, is remarkable. The show is still so popular that last year there was a  bidding war  over the rights to make a movie.

Content is King

Community’s ongoing popularity is testament to the world we live in now where content is king. Gone are the days when you had to create something that appealed to everyone. No matter what kind of storytelling or subject matter you are into, if you create it your people will find you. Whatever kind of weird and wacky ideas you have bouncing around in your head, there’s an audience out there waiting to gobble it up.

So fly your freak flag! Create the kind of content you want to watch and read. From sourdough bread to railroads to alien romance there is literally something out there for everyone. This range of storytelling is good news for creators and audiences. It’s good news for people like me that are interested in a bunch of random things. It’s good news for people that are really interested in one thing.

Everything is Cool

Judging people by the kinds of stories they’re into is an attitude of the past. The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about geeks into science fiction and comic books, was a huge hit that was on for 12 years. Things that were once considered niche like Doctor Who and zombies have gone mainstream. Romance readers, once looked down on, invented Book Tok, talking about their favorite books on Tik Tok, propelling romance sales into the stratosphere. Creators are inspired by their favorite things, whether they are considered cool or not. A big mystery buff, writer-director Rian Johnson created modern versions of his favorites, Agatha Christie’s Poirot (Knives Out) and Columbo (Poker Face).

Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and create content that is truly one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re into creating hilarious sketches, heartwarming stories, or hair-raising horror, there’s an audience out there just waiting to lap it up. So, let your creativity run wild and create content that will make your audience laugh, cry, or scream (in a good way, of course).

Don’t worry if what you want to write about doesn’t seem to in anywhere. Fly your freak flag and stand out. Comment below and let me know some things that you are really excited about creating.

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All the Love:  Using More Than One Type of Love in Your Story

All the Love: Using More Than One Type of Love in Your Story

Love has been all around us this month as we talk about  how to use love in your stories.  I got a wonderful question from a reader about stories where characters must choose between different types of love. She asked if audiences respond to these kinds of stories. I love this question!

In my opinion, stories with different kinds of love, that are often in conflict with one another, resonate with audiences. These different storylines give the audience lots of characters and outcomes to root for. Love in all its forms hooks audiences.

Found families are the most common multi-love stories because they have so many characters, which gives opportunities for more storylines.

As an example, let’s look at all the different kinds of love stories in the Avengers movies through End Game. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a collection of movies that has captured the hearts and minds of audiences. One of the key factors in the success of these movies is the different kinds of love stories that are woven throughout. Each of these types of love creates a compelling and emotional storyline that keeps audiences invested in the characters.

Found Family love is the foundation of the Avengers movies. It is a love that is built of shared experiences and loyalty. The Avengers care about each other like a family, and when they are under attack, they fight together. We see this in The Avengers (2012) when Loki and the Chitauri aliens attack Earth, and then later in the series when HYDRA tries to take over the world.

Family Love is another kind of love that is explored in the Avengers movies. Hawkeye and Black Panther both have families that they love and would do anything to protect. In the movies, Hawkeye’s love for his family is put to the test when they are threatened, and he must make difficult choices to keep them safe. Black Panther’s love for his family drives him to seek revenge for his father’s death and to protect his kingdom from outside threats.

Sibling Love adds conflict and stakes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Loki and Thor have a love-hate relationship that is rooted in their sibling rivalry and different personalities. T’Challa (Black Panther) and his little sister Shuri have a strong bond that is based on their love and respect for one another. Her inventions are an important part of his success. These relationships add complexity and depth to the characters, showing that even superheroes have complicated family dynamics.

Romantic Love is an important part of the Avengers movies. Tony Stark and his secretary Pepper, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Vision, and Captain America and Agent Peggy Carter are all romantic couples that come together over the course of the movies. Natasha (Black Widow) and Dr. Bruce Banner (The Incredible Hulk) also have romantic tension, but they do not get together. These romantic relationships add a layer of emotional depth to the characters and their motivations. They also create a sense of vulnerability, as the characters must navigate both the challenges of their relationships and protecting the world.

Best Friend Love runs through the Avengers movies too. In Captain America: Civil War (2016), Captain America’s loyalty to his best friend Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) puts him at odds with Iron Man, who wants to arrest Barnes for killing his parents. Here we see best friend love in conflict with both family love and big love (justice).

Big Love is new kind of love we haven’t discussed yet. Big love is when characters love or have loyalty to a cause bigger than themselves. For Captain America, it is his love of the United States. For the Avengers it is keeping the world safe. In Captain America: Civil War, Captain and Iron Man disagree how to keep the world safe and it tears the Avengers apart. Big love drives the characters’ actions throughout the movies and creates a sense of purpose and meaning that goes beyond individual desires.

All of these threads of big love come together in the last movie End Game (2019). Both Tony Stark and Natasha sacrifice themselves to save their loved ones and the world. With great love often comes great sacrifice. In another twist, Captain America who has sacrificed his personal life for the greater good, gets to go back in time and live a happy life with his true love Peggy.

The Takeaway

By exploring these different types of love, the Avengers movies show that superheroes are not just powerful, but also human, with all the emotions and relationships that come with the human experience. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe stories with different types of love are incredibly effective in engaging audiences. They allow for complex character development and multiple storylines, which creates a richer, more satisfying story. By exploring the conflicts that arise when characters must choose between different types of love, these stories create emotionally resonant experiences that stay with us long after the credits roll.

So the next time you’re writing a story, consider adding different kinds of love into the mix – it may just be the key to hooking your audience and making them fall in love with your characters.

And if you need some inspiration, here is a  list of all the Marvel movies  I referenced.

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5 Kinds of Love to Use in Your Story Instead of Romance

5 Kinds of Love to Use in Your Story Instead of Romance

Last week we talked about the importance of romantic subplots in your stories because  audiences love love . Serendipitously, I came across this  webinar  by the Mystery Writers of America Norcal Chapter about inserting romance into your mystery. It’s over zoom and it’s free this Saturday.

This week we’re going to talk about other ways you can incorporate love into your stories. As the song goes Love Is All Around Us. You don’t need to use a romantic subplot to include some emotion into your story. Here are some other kinds of loving relationships that can enrich your writing.

All Kinds of Love

Family Love: Modern Family

Family Love: The functional loving family that we see in every family sitcom from The Brady Bunch to Modern Family. A family united in fighting a threat – A Quiet Place (2018). Dealing with a member’s impending death – The Family Stone (2005). Or a dysfunctional family healing – This is Where I Leave You (2014).

Sibling Love: Party of Five

Sibling Love: Sibling love can heal. In The Skeleton Twins (2014) two adult siblings reconnect and help each other fix their lives. Siblings can face a dangerous threat. In The Night of the Hunter (1955) a young brother and sister must evade their murderous new step-father. Siblings can take care of each other when their parents die – Party of Five (1994-2000).

Parent & Child Love: Sheldon & Mary Cooper from The Big Bang Theory

Parent & Child Love: Parents can protect their children – The Road (2009). In a coming of age story, children see their parents in a new light – Mermaids (1990) and Juno (2007). Parents can be a central part of a character’s identity – Sheldon and his mother in The Big Bang Theory. Parents can help their children heal – The Horse Whisperer (1998). Or nurture their talent – Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993).

Best Friends Love: Bridesmaids

Best Friend Love: With best friend love we have women & men’s stories that showcase the difference in male and female relationships. On the women’s side we have: Women breaking out their shell – Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar (2021). The fear of your best friend replacing you – Bridesmaids (2011). Standing up to the mean girls – Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion (1997). The Sex and the City TV series was ostensibly about four women looking for love, but it was really about their love for each other in their enduring friendship.

Another name for best friend love is buddy comedy, which has been rechristened in recent years as bromance. Buddy comedies are almost always two men. Sometimes they know each other before the story starts and become friends along the way – Ride Along (2014). Sometimes they are strangers who are friends by the end – Midnight Run(1988). Sometimes they start the story as friends 21 Jump Street (2012) and Shaun of the Dead (2004) and their friendship is challenged but comes out stronger in the end.

Found Family Love: Friends

Found Family Love: A found family is when a group of characters come together to love and support each other through many adventures. The Avengers, the Fast and Furious gang, Friends, and The Big Bang Theory are all found families.

Lots of Love

Often stories have several kinds of love relationships in them. The Harry Potter books and movies are a great example. Harry has a found family with Ron, Hermione, Ron’s family, and the teachers and other students at Hogwarts that care about him. We have best friend love with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. There are romantic relationships throughout the series. All of these different kinds of emotional relationships give the series a lot of depth and keep the audience invested.

What is your favorite kind of love to see on screen or read? What is your favorite kind of love to write? Comment below.  Happy Valentine’s Day! Wishing you a day filled with all kinds of love.

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Can Your Story Use a Little Love?

Can Your Story Use a Little Love?

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and love is in the air! It’s been a while since  we talked about story  and February seems the perfect time to discuss love stories. How important is romance in a story? Very! Even if you’re not writing The Notebook, having a romantic subplot strengthens stories in all genres. A touch of romance can be the glue that holds together the other elements of your story, be it action, drama, or comedy.

Why Audiences Love Love

Love stories are the easiest way to get the audience invested in your characters. The tension of will they or won’t they get together keeps the audience on the edge of their seat.  This tension works particularly well in long form television because it can be sustained over several seasons or similarly, in a book series.  A compelling love story, even if it’s a subplot, is full of obstacles that will keep your audience guessing at the outcome. Is it a happy ending or does our couple go their separate ways at the end of the story?   With a heartwarming, well told love story, the audience is bound to be drawn in and root for the couple.

Another reason audiences invest in love stories is they are relatable and universal.  Everyone has experienced the pangs of falling in love or wants to.  People see themselves in the characters.  And when a viewer or reader identifies with your main characters you have story gold.

Love Develops Your Characters

As we follow characters through the obstacles of their love story we get a unique lens to see into who they are. We get to experience their feelings, their wounds, and learn more about what drives them. Romantic subplots are a wonderful way to deepen the audience’s understanding of your characters. And through their romantic relationship, you can make the audience care about the couple even more.

All Genres Can Use a Little Love

Even genres that don’t seem romantic can benefit from a little love. Take the James Bond franchise for example. In every Bond movie, we have two women – one that gets murdered because of her involvement with Bond and the other who ends up being his romantic partner for the length of the film. These relationships not only add depth to the Bond character but also provide a much-needed emotional component to the high-stakes action scenes.

Romance can strengthen horror too.  For example, the romantic subplot in Halloween Kills (2021) involves Karen Strode (Judy Greer), Laurie’s daughter, and her partner Ray (Anthony Michael Hall). They have a strong relationship and work together to protect their families and survive Michael Myers’ latest killing spree. The subplot adds emotional depth to the film and provides a contrast to the horror and suspense of the main plot.

Happy Ending or Tear Jerker

Finally, it’s important to remember that not all love stories have to be happy endings. In fact, sometimes the most memorable love stories are the ones where the couple doesn’t end up together. Some stories are more impactful when the couple is split apart by choice (Casablanca) or by death (Titanic.)

When done right, a good romantic subplot can bring depth, tension, and emotional investment to your story. No matter what genre you are writing in, don’t be afraid to incorporate a touch of romance into your story. Your audience will thank you for it.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, look at your projects with fresh eyes and see if they could use a little love.

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ChatGBT:  The Future of Writing is Here

ChatGBT: The Future of Writing is Here

The technology for story is always changing.   Humans went from telling stories around a campfire, to writing stories by hand to the printing press and computer. In December story technology took another leap with the introduction of ChatGBT, an artificial intelligence (AI) writing tool.

The Future is Now

Now before you rail against the rise of machines destroying artistic creativity, you are actually already using AI when you write. If you work in Word, the predictive text function as well as the grammar and spelling checks are all run by AI. The two most popular grammar and punctuation tools,  Grammarly  and  Pro Writing Aid , are also run by AI.

Writing just took a giant leap forward. ChatGPT is a revolutionary new writing tool that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to exponentially increase your writing output and creativity. Whether you write marketing copy, blog posts, screenplays, nonfiction or fiction, this tool makes it easier to produce high-quality content quickly and efficiently.

How to use ChatGBT

I became a techno-optimist after I played around with ChatGBT. If you haven’t done it yet, I encourage you  to try it . It’s remarkable! It looks like the texting app on your phone. There is a box where you input what is called a prompt, which is the instruction for ChatGBT to write your content.

One of the most exciting features of ChatGPT is its ability to generate unique stories and plots in response to a simple prompt. For example, you can tell it to write a story about a monster and it will instantly generate a compelling narrative. You can ask it to tell the monster story in the style of a fairy tale or a slasher film. Or, you can ask it to turn the monster story into a movie structure, complete with character development, plot twists and a satisfying ending.

Another great feature is the ability to use ChatGPT as a brainstorming partner. You can input a rough idea or concept and ask it to generate a story or plot, and use it as a jumping off point for your own writing. It’s like having another writer in the room to bounce ideas off of.

One more useful trick is using ChatGBT to rewrite and improve your content. You can paste something that you have written into the chat box and ask ChatGBT to rewrite it with specific instructions. For example, you can put your book blurb in the chat box with the prompt “make this more suspenseful.”

Some writers are sounding the alarm saying that AI is going to replace us. Personally, I don’t think a computer will ever be able to replace human creativity and ingenuity. AI in general and ChatGBT in specific need human input to produce its content. The tool is designed to augment human creativity, not replace it. It needs our input to function, and it’s up to the human writer to use their own creativity and imagination to take the generated content to the next level.

As a techno-optimist, I believe that ChatGPT is a game-changer for writers. It’s free to use currently, but there will be a charge for it later. Try it out for yourself and see how it can revolutionize your writing process. This is the future of writing. Embrace it and see how it can improve your work, allowing you to focus on the truly important things: your own creativity and unique voice.

Try it out and let me know what you think! Here’s an article about  20 fun ways to use ChatGBT  to get you started.

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Help Your Favorite Writer: Write an Amazon Review

Help Your Favorite Writer: Write an Amazon Review

As a writer and a story geek, I love consuming people’s content. I also love supporting other writers. To get our work in front of and build an audience we often work for free. Screenwriters and novelists write projects on spec. Bloggers and podcasters make content free before they monetize it. So I look for ways to support creators’ work I like. I’m a Patreon of my favorite podcast and I subscribe to online magazines like the Atavist. One of the easiest ways to help authors is to write a review of their book on Amazon. Amazon is a giant search engine. And the more reviews and sales a book has, the higher to the top of the page it pops up when a reader puts in search terms.

How to Write an Amazon Review

Some people are intimidated at the thought of writing a review. A review doesn’t need to be long or complicated. Two to five sentences are all you need. Write what you liked about the book as if you were recommending it to a friend. Remember this is not a book report so you do not need to summarize the book. Just include the details that help you explain what you liked about it.

  • What was your favorite thing about the book?
  • Who was your favorite character and why?
  • Did you have a favorite scene?

Use juicy adjectives:

  • Rollicking
  • Laugh out loud
  • Gripping
  • Moving
  • Compelling
  • Charming

The Headline: I like to write my review first and then pick one of the sentences to use as my headline. When I choose my headline, I think about what will motivate a reader to choose the book.

End on a high note: If the book is part of a series, I always like to end with “can’t wait to read the next one!”

5 Stars: And finally, always use five stars. Five star reviews are weighted much heavier than four-star reviews. So if there’s something that you didn’t like about the book which is why you want to rate it under five stars, understand that it will ding the author’s rating which may not be your intention. (By the way this weighted system works in everything from rating your Uber driver to your pharmacy tech.)

Be Positive: My goal in reviewing a book is to help readers find a story I enjoyed and support great writing. If I don’t like a book, then I don’t write a review.

How to Post a Review

It can be a bit tricky for some people to find the review spot on Amazon (keep scrolling down!) so I made this quick video.

Free Books Need Reviews Too

A permafree book is one that the author has set the price as free permanently. These books are usually the first in a series. It is a sales tactic to get you hooked on the series and buy more books. If I like the first one, I always review it and buy the series. I am a binge reader and I enjoy reading a series in order back to back.

One More Way to Help Authors

Buy books direct from your favorite authors on their websites. This way they get a bit more money because of affiliate links. Even if you don’t buy a book from Amazon, you can still review it there. As the biggest bookstore in the world, authors make a substantial part of their income from Amazon. So help them out!

Other Places to Post a Review

For Authors

Make it as easy as possible for your fans to review your books. When you have a new book coming out, send an email to your list on how to write a review and/or video with links to your books on the different sites. This video from Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz, teaches you how to send a link of the Amazon review site of your book. Feel free to use my explanation of how to write a review above and the video about posting on Amazon.

If you don’t write an author’s newsletter, it’s time to start! I use ConvertKit to write & send my newsletter. I am a ConvertKit affiliate and get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use my link to sign up. I love ConvertKit because it is easy to use and focused on creators. Get started today for free!

Legal Follow Up

Last week we talked about why creatives need contracts. This article about how a YouTube foursome became a YouTube threesome has a great interview with an intellectual attorney discussing agreements.

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