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Screenwriting Strategy - Coffee Shop Conversation Time Out, Case Study

By Author: William Thomas
Total Articles: 38

The other day, I talked to someone at Starbucks who is writing a novel. He's a very successful novelist and screenplay writer. It was good to see him again, because I haven't seen him in a couple of months. I asked him when he came in, and he said he only came in intermittently with no particular schedule. Same as me, which is why perhaps we missed each other from time to time -- as we got to talking -- he explained to me that whenever he got stomped on a character he would go to Starbucks to people watch and try to find someone that matched his character, and then ask them questions to prompt a conversation.
In this way he was figuring out how various people of different stereotypes went about their business, and what they thought about various things. He would let them talk about whatever they wish to, whatever was on their mind, just to get a sense of how to better dial in that character in his novel. He would use bits and pieces, perhaps storing some of those conversations for later in his writing. As a writer myself, although mostly nonfiction, just a little science fiction, this made perfect sense to me. Not only do I like to people watch, but when I am writing science fiction I do use stereotypical conversations in my work.
Why am I mentioning this to you my reader? It's simple, this is such a brilliant and wonderful strategy I thought you should know about it. When is the best time to go to Starbucks for something like this? Well, if your character is a professional you want to go in the early mornings watching everyone walk in and get in line, or after five o'clock when everyone has poured in and is using Starbucks as their mini-happy hour before they hit their road time commute, trying to avoid the bulk of the traffic. If you wanted to talk to retirees you would come in around 10 o'clock and find a group of gentlemen complaining about old-age and politics and what have you, even reminiscing about glory days or their desire for the next decent looking female 20-30 something who walks in.
The reality is that this strategy works so well depending on how you play it and which Starbucks you go to that you could pretty much find all the character types you need for all of the novels and screenplays you will ever write just by going to coffee shops. Okay so, that's my writing tip for today and I hope you will have a "writer's block free" hypomanic writing adventure fully engaged in the creative flow for the rest of the week. Please consider all this and think on it.

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