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The Client That Made Matthew Cry

A couple weeks ago, I got a call from Matthew Arkin. We talk a few times a week about projects, processes, calendars, clients, so I grabbed my earbuds and started doing chores, getting ready to walk and talk.

I was not expecting to hear a catch in his voice when he said hello. 

He said he had to tell me about his last session with a new client. He sounded very intense. My eyes got big and I had one of those moments where you take note of where you are -- I stopped on the third basement step with a basket of laundry on my hip. 

"What's wrong?" 

"Nothing!" he said. "It's just that her last assignment made me cry, it was so good!" 

I grinned and snapped out of my holding pattern, heading back down the stairs. Matthew has been teaching The Storyteller's Eye pretty intensely this year; for stage and screen at Chapman University, and for fiction writers at MTCE. We've been tweaking the fiction course over the last six months, making it more responsive to each client's needs and refining the process -- which now includes a phone call from me at about the 3rd-assignment mark, where people tend to have a breakdown and need a good pep talk. It's in the last three weeks that the magic is really happening. 

Matthew told me about this client, about the original draft she started with, the assignments she'd tackled on exposition, showing vs. telling, character development . . . but the major breakthrough was with this last draft. She'd infused it with all the energy and elements of the lessons she'd completed and wrote an entirely new scene out of a couple of sentences of the original draft. 

I asked Matthew if he thought the client would let him share the piece in a blog post, and he checked with her -- and she said yes. Read on to get Matthew's perspective and see how a passing mention of a guy walking into a bar developed into a totally engaging scene. 



P.S. Matthew's dad, Alan Arkin, just got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last Friday, and Matthew (and Steve Carell!) both spoke to honor him. The 40-minute ceremony is here -- I found it hilarious! -- and an article in NBC Los Angeles is here. There's a great photo of Matthew, Alan, and Steve at that link. Not every day that I have news like that! :D
In the first draft of this fantasy adventure novel, a character named Viktor arrives for a meeting at a pub called The Sleeping Dragon. The passage is on page 10 of the novel, and we do not know much about the fantastical story world. As Viktor enters the pub, he is confronted by a bouncer, and we read the following:

   “You are welcome to drink, but take heed. There will be no violence in this establishment.”
   Viktor nodded and walked to the back of the room, where an elf sat impatiently waiting.
   “It’s about time. I got word two days ago.”

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January 2019





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