Friday, August 24, 2007

You are the protagonist of your own life story

Got all the deadlines in the world right here, so it's back to the Vicious Imagery archives for another blast from the past. This short piece is from July last year, but is just as relevant now as it was then. It's all about creating a personal narrative for yourself while filling in application forms or going to interviews for new opportunities. If you're a writer, turn yourself into a story, that's my policy...

The Optimistic Reader posted about how much they hate filling in application forms, specifically the Why Do You Deserve To Be Considered For This Opportunity section. 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. If they didn't, all of us scribes would be out of a job.

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 life 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 this 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 certainly 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 be Obi Wan to your Luke by agreeing to give you that loan, that job, that opportunity. Now, I'm not suggesting you lie or invent a complete fiction - you're liable to get found out. But think of what you're trying to achieve as a story and then pitch that story, through the text on your application or in person at the interview.

Sounds daft? Maybe it is, but this has been working for me. I successfully employed this method when I applied for my MA Screenwriting course, and it helped me secure nine months bing mentored by working screenwriter Adrian Mead. Remember, you are the hero of your own life, or at least the protagonist. Try turning that life into an entertaining or intriguing story.

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