Monday, July 03, 2006

Creating your own character arc

The Optimistic Reader's got a post here about how much they hate filling in application forms, specifically the Why Do You Deserve To Be Considered For This Opportunity sectiion. I was much the same until I decided to turn these irksome moments into a storytelling exercise. The way I figure it, everybody likes to hear stories, likes to be entertained - unless all us scribes would be out of a job, right? Well, the same applies to people who have to vet applications, be it for a new job, a loan or a career advancement opportunity. Think how dull it must be for them, wading through dozens or even hundreds of arid CVs and dry, lifeless pleas to be considered. The same applies to interviews for our hypothetical job, loan or career advancement opportunity, assuming you're lucky enough to get shortlisted for whatever you're seeking.

A year ago I decided the best way to handle such situations was by creating a little narrative, building a character arc for myself. Inject that into your application form or your interview spiel and it involves the person on the other side of the desk. You make yourself seem interesting and empowered, somebody on a quest with a clarity of vision about where they've come from and where they want to go. That's much more attractive than simply being nervous, sweaty and desperate. [I love the lines in Broadcast News on this subject, which I'll paraphrase from memory here: "Wouldn't it great if desperation were attractive? If need were a turn-on?"]

Why do you want this job, loan or career advancement opportunity? Tell them a story, turn yourself into a character in this story - and you're inviting them to help you achieve your quest. They can become Obi Wan to your Luke by agreeing to give you that loan, that job, that opportunity. Now, I'm not suggesting you simply lie or invent a complete fiction - that's dodgy ground and you're liable to get found out. But think of what you're trying to achieve as a story and then pitch that story, either through the text on your application or in person at the interview.

Sounds daft? Maybe it is, but this has been working for me lately. I successfully employed this method when I applied for my MA Screenwriting course, and it's helped me win one of a handful of opportunities to be mentored for the next nine months by a working screenwriter. Remember, you are the hero of your own life, or at least the protagonist. Try turning that life into an entertaining or intriguing story. It's been working for me lately...


Optimistic_Reader said...

I wish you had told me this before I filled in the form! Good idea though.

Julio Angel Ortiz said...

I think this is a great idea! I'm writing this one down in my notebook. Where should I send the royalties to? ;-)