January 12, 2010

Use the Reality Factor in Social Media to Jumpstart Your Writing

I like reality television. (There, now I’ve confessed it to the world.) I’m interested in the real lives of real people. If you’ve followed my blog, then you know that I can’t sit in a restaurant or waiting room without listening to the conversations around me. I’m always collecting bits and pieces of other peoples’ lives. I guess that’s part of being a writer. I know that these smidgens of dialogue and slice-of-life scenarios might find their way into a story someday.

Social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs) is a lot like reality television. If you look among the posts, links, quotes and replies, you’ll find everyday odds and ends of peoples’ lives. For example:

“Rushing home from work now. I haven’t heard from my husband all day. Worried."

“Silent prayer after communion at church and my kid decides to scream, ‘I’m going to throw up.’ Then he does! Loudly.”

“Dropped a frozen chicken on my foot. I think it’s broke. Going to the ER.”

“My daughter just gave birth to a baby girl. As expected, the baby has Downs Syndrome. Babies are like snowflakes. No two are alike and every one is beautiful. I love her.”

“At the libery. Homeless. Where to sleep tonigte? Cold out.”

“Dude. My grandma is 61 and she just got her GED!!”

You might find these comments mundane, but they reflect real life, and that’s what good writers build on. It’s these ordinary comments and scenes that help create well-developed and believable characters.

I prefer to people watch on Twitter. I find it easier than Facebook to find specific groups of people to follow. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, has a great post on his blog for getting started. (See: A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter.) Once you’ve joined Twitter (it’s free) and get comfortable with its basics, you can search for people to follow. Mashable, The Social Media Guide has a helpful post called “10 Ways to Find People on Twitter.” It lists two of my favorite Twitter directories, "Twellow "and "We Follow." These sites allow you to search for groups of people by occupations and interests.

How can searching for specific groups help your writing?

A writer friend of mine just started a new novel and is considering making the main character a doctor. Along with researching the education needed to become a doctor and the professional aspects of practicing medicine, my friend could also use Twitter to help round out her character. I’m sure she could find doctors Twittering (posting messages on Twitter) not only about their professional lives, but also their personal lives. This might give her insight into how some doctors balance work with recreation and family.

Another friend just published a short story about a young single mom. My friend is a 50-something woman with no children. She decided to search for and read blogs written by single mothers. By doing this, she was able to understand some of the concerns and emotions that come with being a single parent. She also found several colorful anecdotes that she changed somewhat and added to her story.

What other ways can you think of to use social media to jumpstart your writing?

Last year, I joined Twitter and Facebook. So far, I’ve built a network of about 500 followers on each site. Most of them are writers and people who share my social/political/religious viewpoints. One of my goals for 2010 is to add more variety to the people I follow. A good writer needs to see through fresh eyes, to understand opposing views and to feel with a compassionate heart the feelings of others. I hope that by this year’s end, I’ve learned to do that. I’ll be sharing notes about my progress here on my blog. I’ll also be posting other ways that social media impacts our writing.

If you’d like to follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you can click on the Twitter and Facebook badges on this page, or go to http://twitter.com/jeanfischer1 and http://www.facebook.com/jeanfischer.writer.

Happy writing!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Ziggy cartoon ©Tom Wilson


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

Great post! Facebook has proved a great way to meet writers, readers, friends, and family.

Don't you need some type of portable Internet connection to use Twitter effectively? I'm still trying to find out what's involved and how much of a time commitment it requires.

I'll check out Michael Hyatt's post. Thanks.

Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

I read Michael Hyatt's post. This won't work for me as I don't have text messaging and don't want it. I've had problems with spam on that service.

I guess I'll stick with Facebook.

Susan :)

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Susan.

You don't need text messaging or anything else out of the ordinary to use Twitter. Some people like to sync Twitter with their cell phones, so they can Tweet from wherever they are, but that's totally optional.

I use Twitter on my computer the same way that I use Facebook. The main difference is that on Twitter, your posts are limited to 160 characters. That, in itself, is a challenge for writers. I've seen one person on Twitter who tweets nothing but haiku poetry.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Thanks for the tip, Jean. This might be doable. :)