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:
“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?
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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