Sunday, February 28, 2016

Humans of New York Week: Out of Character Intros

I’m still working on long-term stuff, but in the meantime I figured we could do another week pulling from the “Humans of New York” site. As I said last time, I am endlessly amazed at the ability of Brandon Stanton to do quick interviews, elicit interesting details, and then find the one that instantly humanizes his subjects. This is very similar to the job of a fiction writer, so let’s look at how he does it and how it’s applicable to our work.

Let’s start with some “always likeable” moments. One of his best tricks is to look for an instantly “out of character” detail.  We all make snap judgements, and then we love to have those presumptions upended. So here we have a Marine getting dragged around by his toddler daughter:
Young people who talk like they’re old:
Or vice versa:
This one only seems likable because of how he’s dressed. What a confident (and oddball) guy to casually humble-brag about this to a stranger:
When we meet a character, we instantly put up our guard: Is this going to just be a “type”? Will he be just what he seems, or worth paying attention to? As soon as you can set up and upend an expectation, we put down our dukes and take an interest.

Next: Nailing the one-line backstory

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