Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 118 · 7 months ago

118: Storytelling Tips and Murder Writing with Carlos Allende


Do you ever have a recurring dream? Maybe you're always falling, and you wake up just before you smack into something. Or maybe you're like me as a child and randomly dream about fat men eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and exploding (but in a fun, cartoony way). 

For Carlos Allende, a fiction writer and media scholar, his recurring dream was that he had murdered someone. And that served as the launching pad for his latest book, Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love

Carlos is talking about his new book, but he's also dropping plenty of knowledge on storytelling, writing, and marketing your work. And don't worry, no one actually gets murdered in this episode, so you can safely tune in.

Big thank you to Dave from Beer In Frontfor the intro! Check out his podcast after this one and learn about some tasty beverages.

When you're done listening to this podcast, check out mine. It's called beer in front. Every week I talk about a classic beer that maybe we've forgotten along the way. I'll also talk about new beers and have potential to be classics. As the Chicago Beer Guy, I also talk a lot about great craft beers in the city of Chicago. That it's beer in front where ever you listen to podcasts, good people, cool things as a podcast feature and conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. Get inspired by their stories to do your own cool thing, and here's your host, Joey held. Welcome to good people, cool things. Today's guest is Carlos a end a, author of the New Book Coffee, shopping, murder love. If you've ever wondered what would you like to find a dead body inside your fraser that your roommate keeps in the garage. They don't want to check out this book. There's a lot more going on, but that's that's how it starts, as in chapter one there's a murder, and that's the mark, I think, of a very interesting book. Carlos talks about how writing two books prior to this has helped shape his characters and focus for this book, why he likes to write characters the people don't really enjoy rooting for, but they do it anyway. He also talks about some of the events he's got coming up and how they have all helped him grow as a writer. There's lots of good stuff in here, so you ever have wanted to write book or get more insight into just the writing process in generally want to just be a better writer, definitely want to listen into what Carlos has to say. And if you want even more of that beyond this episode, head on over to good people, cool thingscom sign up for the newsletter that shares all kinds of resources, tips, advice, lots of good stuff, so you don't miss out on anything in helping you reach your goals. And after you do that, sit back, relax and listen to this delightful conversation with Carlos. For people who maybe aren't familiar with you, can you give us her name and elevator pitch, but also tell us the type of elevator we're writing on? On my caress agenda. I'm a writer and I'm also a media psychologist. I write satire and dark comedy and I make fun of everyone, but I tried to. I tried to help up message and some media psychologies that restore the how media effects behavior. And specifically I study how to make stories more engaging. I teach a class on that. You see an extension of the Psycholo you have compelling story yelling. So that's what I focus my research on, how to what it is that engage those in a story. Can we get a sneak peak as if we were in the class? Do you have like one one quick takeaway? Yeah, it's the same element as in a game. It's you have to have a goal, a very clear goal. If you don't have if you agree or doesn't understand what the goal is, they won't be able to engage. You have a series of challenges, like in any game. If the problem is solved to easily, it is boring and if it's too difficult, as in a game, you get frustrated and you leave. So you always always have to have hope and you have to have rules, which is something that we always have but we don't think much about. And, like in a game, if you don't understand the rules, you're not going to have ponder you're not going to know what to do. So rules allow readers to predict what may happen next. They limit what could happen in the story. And so that's the essence of my course. And then I talk a lot about a lot of stuff. My My PhD dissertation was on the Motivational get the motivational effect of compassion and securing engagement.

I propose a yeah, it is there is a longer title. I propose a solution to the sadness paradox or tray paradox. Why we enjoy such stories if they make us sad? So we don't enjoy them because they make us said. We enjoy them because they make cause, they arouse our compassion, and compassion is motivating. We want to know what will have up and with a careacters, we worry about them, we following, let in love with them a little bit, and compulsion energizes you and once makes you want to help mote rates of treason, and that's why we engage with reason and that, in my opinion, that applies to any kind of story, or just sad stories. So that's it. That's a real bitch. I like it. I like it. Now we're going to talk about your latest book, but let's go all the way back. Do you remember the first thing that you ever wrote? I always wanted to be a writer, but I never got serious in it. I started writing a novel when I was, I guess, seventeen, and it was a cheesiest novel. I still happy in the script. I never finished it and I was trying to. I was imitating Victor Rugo because I was very impressed by by the haunchback and Notre Dame, and it was pretty bad, but it was but it was a good exercise, so I guess I learned a lot about it. Yeah, I think seventeen is probably earlier than a lot of a lot of people try to attempt a novels. I think that was a great yeah, great fun days for everything. And now your latest book, Coffee Shopping, murdered love, comes out. I'll have to do something with any one. Yeah, I'm sorry, I was trying to think of when this if this would air before or after, but we'll say. We'll just set your new book. But okay, I very good read, very excited for people to read it. Was the INS pressure behind it? Well, a lot of things, and I would say the first woman is I had a friend who was very, very negative, and he my caber. He likes a lot of dark stuff and long story short, he broke up with his boyfriend and he was very depressed and I said, Oh, I'm going to write that story, but I ended up writting a completely different story, but based on him. I said, I want to make something about someone who's I want people to root for him, but he's not going to be the nicest person. But then I realized I'd even work and I started shanning it and something completely different happened. And and I also had recurrent nightmare when I was a teenager, or maybe, yeah, when I was a teenager, I used to dream that I killed someone and that I had to hide the body and I would wake up with the feeling that I was guilty, that I had motors someone. I had to hide the body from my mother and the dream was very vivid. I mean I had a corpse. She was watching to be in the living room and I had to get the corpse out of the House and it was it was such a horrible sensation and I would wake up convinced that I had killed someone, but I just couldn't remember who I have killed. And then I said, well, I want I want to share that feeling and I guess analyze in my dreams I realized that that the corpse represented my shame for being gay. I mean it's a shame and it shouldn't exist, but I'd impost by society. That's the way I felt and and I guess I...

...wanted my readers to to feel that. But I didn't want my book to be just about shaming people and making people feel miserable and so so it was a dark comedy. So I makes the elements of act of the negative friend that I that I was inspired on, and that then that nightmare and the central Motif in the book is trying to get rid of a body. And then people in my life. I had have two previous books which weren't that successful, but people that read them to me that they were very good. They will were very well written and they took a lot of effort. And then I realize I want to work that hard anymore. I don't want to do that much research. So I I just wrote about people I knew and I totally change the circumstances, a change in the names I just told her personalities, so I could say that that many of the characters are inspired by real people. I just I just took them as if they were actors and I gave them different roles and different circumstances and and and I didn't have much time to write it. I was attending a workshop called Writers Block. It doesn't exist in a lay anymore. I think it exists, still exists online. It was very good. We met every Wednesday georch in Senta Monica and it was a lot of fun and I didn't have a lot of time because I was but then I was in my PhD. I only had two hours every week. So I would use right, right, right, right, right, and I wouldn't care about I would write just about what I wanted to see in the book. I wouldn't care how the events would connect. And that was a good way to write it because it forced me to just write. And then, of course I went through many, many, many, many edits, but but I just cranked it and because I cranked it up, because I didn't want to invent characters, I just space them in real people and I made him look like horrible. Most of them are actually really, really really nice people. Well, then they'll never know, I'll never know. It's about them. Right. Well, whatever I may, they the friend that inspired Charlie. I totallys told his personality. He's a really smart guy, very very nice, very politically correct, but he loves to digress when he talks and he knows. He's happy with it. He's game. He actually read a little bit and I made a youtube video of him reading and he likes it to start do with it. That's I think. That's all I can ask for. Yeah, yeah, now you mentioned that you've got your two other books, so this is your third book. So you're a professional by now. You've got you know, this is the piece of cake to write a book. I'm totally kidding, but from what you've learned from those first two books that you were able to apply. You said you don't, you didn't want to do as much research, but like, what else were you able to take from what you would learned from those first two? Well, the first one was historical drama set in during the war of reform in Mexico. I was in Spanish. I did a lot of historical research and I was in armored with the classics, especially with Bo Zach and to do and and then tosty. And I was very ambitious, and I mean like I guess many aspiring writers begin like that or in love with the classics and they want to rewrite that something like warm piece. I wanted to write the Mexican version and and then I realized I didn't know how to engage people. I knew how to right and the story was good,...

...but I ended up cotting a lot of it because it just didn't add to the story. And it's not the same writing in the nineteenth century, where you have no competition from TV, from radio, from the Internet, and but nowadays, well, when you engage is you devote time and attention on a task that is potentially rewarding and you compare it to everything else. So I'm going to read this book because it's going to be more rewarding than watching TV or playing a game, etc. And but not all the time. So what I learned after writing that book is just beautiful prose doesn't make it and it's not enough. It helps that make your story cleater, it makes it more enjoyable, but that doesn't guarantee that your book will be engaging. And and I ended up calling a lot, and the second book pretty much the same. It was a little bit like I'm going to do meet down a little bit, I said, and I still did a lot of research. It's it's a dark I call it the horror farce. is a dark comedy setting Venice, throughout the Venice California, throughout the first half of the twenty century. I did a lot of research again and about bunks, about which is and about the history of Venice, and it was good. But but I I didn't have a central goal. I think it was two books in one. It's too good and I'm I'm very proud of it and I really liked it. So the third I thought like, I'm just going to make a crank frankly up, make it super commercial, make it and then at the same time I was trying to apply what I was learning at school. And then I realized I created my little formula and that's what I said. You have to turn your story into a game. You have to impose a goal as soon as possible. So the motor is on the first chapter, the series of challenges and the basic rules I do stick to. If you break your own rules, is like playing a game with a child that came keeps breaking the rules. So it's very important that that we writers become aware of our own rules. And so, yeah, I guess by the third I knew how to make a store engaging and I'm still working on that for the next book. I like it. I like it, and the rules being complicated really really speaks to because I feel like the last two or three games I've tried to play have just been over the top complex and I'm like, let's just let's go back to something somewhere. Yes, yes, we like things simply, simple, story and we don't we don't want things to be too complicated, we don't want them to be too easy either. Exactly exactly. Now one of your marketing efforts is just going to your website. You have a lot of events that you've been doing. We were talking beforehand. The only times festival of books we were maybe like five booths away from each other but hadn't met yet. So so now we're meeting all right times and you have a lot more coming up. You have different readings. Are there certain events or marketing strategies that you've seen that have worked better, or does it kind of depend on the event. Well, I would say just pretend that you're a salesperson and just grab people. I was in Philadelphia. My Book is very campy, very dark about is dark comedy. My target audience are a game in I say thirty and older, and I will use pulling people from the crowd and I said, Hey, you're look at come over, you like make coming. Yeah, you're gonna do that with every book, but that people would come. And nowadays, when maybe in society where it took a to call people either, but just you look at...

...yet. Okay, so here's my book, take a little Blah Blah Blah, and people have to like you. And and I was aggressive, but in a nice way. I would say, don't be shy. I'm not that way in my everyday life. So forget about forget about yourself, think about selling your book. Become a salesperson when you're at them event, talk to people, ask their names, care about them. I mean there's a guy that I really like, Robert Sheldini. Guys his book influence. It talks about how to persuade people and the first rule is they have to live you. You have to offer them something. I was offering them invitations to an event or I was showing them the book. I have three teet in the first event etchater rots there are and yeah, you have to care of them. They have to know who they you are, and I mean I don't know what else to add, but I would say just just become a salesperson. I forget about yourself. Yeah, I think that might be easier said than done for some people, but I agree. I think like the yelling at people was that most kind of what we started adopting, and the La Times festival books being a two day event. I think you could really kind of learn on Saturday, like what people responded to more and then on Sunday like really home that in and yeah, it was like Hey, you know, I like your shirt, or like hey, that bag you're caring is super interesting, and it that peaks their interest because you're relating to them as a protonist like immediately by by book. It's like Hey, I'm noticing you, and now you're kind of like, okay, I'll come check it out, and of course they're going to get the people that like to. One of the other writers I was with had written a book about the Maliby wildfires from a few years back. So some people would come and just like batter him with questions and then they'd leave and he's like, you know, all of that's in the book. Like they could have just bought the book and sift. Yeah, saved the breath that they just spent there. But some people are just going to come to chat, and I think that's even cool too, because you're meeting people from all over, like people are coming from out of town and like even out of the country. I feel like sometimes, for this event, which was super cool, you have to ask for a commitment. I mean, I we didn't ask people you want to buy the book. I would say hey, you want me to sign it for you and they say oh, yes, and okay, you can pay to this girl here, and that's it exactly. Yeah, the signing is a nice, NSS little perk for people. They're just like, oh, okay, that's not authentic one. I like it. Yeah, something else that I like to ask is a question that you wish you were asked more frequently, and I really like your as heir of the we were kind of touching a little bit on this with the psychology, but why do you make the reader root for horrible. People want to think that for several reasons. One, I guess, gays. We have been my line for a long time, and I mean I like to say that I belong to pretty much the last generation that was born. I mean I'm not that, not everyone. I'm not that old and I'm not the young either, but I was born in the S, let's put it that way, late s with put it more like a Med sants, but a round out, round out. Yeah, I was born. My generation never thought that we could be free, freely GATA, that we could marry and a stuff, and then things started changing really fast in the s and then the two thousands and the well, marriage equality, gay marriage is legal, etc. So, Stubert, when I was a kid, I thought I was there was something wrong with..., and and then you find out, note, there's nothing wrong with you. and New generations don't are not don't grow up with that shame or shame or guilt. That so you feel like you're a bad person and and we identify with villains because you're bad. You're a bad person yourself, and you grow up with that wrong belief. And there's a there's a youtuber. Forgot his name. He talks a lot about gays in media and that he has a video about Disney villains how they a lot of them are a gay or inspired in gay people, like Orsola from the Little Mermaid and Prince John from Robin Hood, and or I mean pretty campy gays. I mean there's a lot of gay themes in Disney movies, but very he and that gay people love that because they identified with those vilains. This car from from the Lion King, and so in part you identify with them. That's why we like divine from John Waters. Younger people won't know who divine is, but if you know she's she's great and she's horrible and then, and then I'm also in especially in American pop culture. You don't see this so much in European literature and Spanish literature, but I in European and American literature you always root for the good guy, and in the movies you always root for the good guy, not always put you have a conception for up and with Bout Zach, for instance, was one of my favorite writers. You sometimes, I mean everybody is horrible in the human comedy and you sometimes root for people who don't deserve your compassion, but but they have it and I think it allows you to understand more about human nature. And when you identify with a moral person in a story, you realize that that the world doesn't divide in the good and the bad, because if you grow up thinking that the world divides into the good and the bad, you tend to identify with a good people and and you think of yourself as a good person. And I think both most of us are good people. I don't believe in good and bad. I think some people are more selfish and others and that's why they they can commit crimes and may be immoral, but I tend we all, we all tend to by nature. We're not, we're not, we don't, we're not born horrible and that. But if you identify with horrible, immoral people, then you can realize you can, you can be that way sometimes and then you become aware of that and you don't grow up thinking that you are, by the fault, the good guy and you realize when you're being selfish and abusive. And I guess with a did nation, Shar Charlie, they do horrible, selfish things that we all can do sometimes. And if you, if you realize that you can be like them sometimes, but you are aware that those things are wrong, then you say okay, you may reflect about your behavior when you always identify with a good guys like Superhero. Superheroes are always a good guys and they always fight for against crime and and and for liberty and freedom and whatever, and but they can do terrible things that they are not considered immortal because you're doing it for the greater good. And then we may come to think, oh, it's okay if we break the rules because us we're doing we're breaking the rules for the greater good,...

...than the greater goodies our personal good. So I want people to reflect a little bit and realize that sometimes we are the builders. We can do horrible stuff too. I remember reading, I had don't remember where it was, but some article that calculated all the damage that superheroes do to cities and it's yeah, it's like they're always saying, yeah, it's for the greater good, and I'm like, you just rapped up like eight hundred billion dollars and property, dawn, let's but it's not great. So hopefully no one's done done anything like that and in their lives and they're there. I quote unquote, bad actions or not not that terrible. I want to go back a little bit to something you mentioned of your next book. So do you do you have a fourth book already in the works? I'm working on it. It's not it's I don't have a complete draft yet. Can we get a scoop or is it still still in the raps for now? Yeah, and I've been working on it for a while and it's about I mean, I have this. I like my cover stuff. I like which is and, but I don't like Gore. I don't know. I don't like I like creepy store. So it's about a little gay kid that goes to work for a whitch and he wants to he wants to learn magic to get revenge in the bullies. I take advantage of him. So I'm but he also he might be. I haven't decided on that, but he might be transgender. His Super Ultra Mike. I Like I go my characters are. I tend to write for the marginal people, the ones that that are not the I'm not saying that transgender people are marginal, but is overweight, is not that smart, he's he doesn't have a lot of good qualities, but you guess, you end up liking him. And he wants to be he also wants to he was to be pretty, he was to be popular. He wants to do that. And then this is a macver stuff, one of the witches. It's also Dumbe. Want to tell the story? I'm I'm afraid. So the witches have this bridge tournament club that all the witches in Los Angeles, a ten and one of them gets into the body of a dead woman, a young dead woman. So the other which is getting pressed. So it's like a pull on body suit and they want one for themselves. So the kid ends up being in alone in the house because of certain circumstances. He ends up with the body himself and he is right now. I that's where I am writing. He's deciding whether to wear it or not go out and about in the city. So wearing the body of a beautiful, we young woman. That's a Sashi it. So it sounds too stupid that I'm in at this point, but I'm I'm hoping to write something smart. I'm interested to see where it's there for there. All right, you're almost off the hook, but we always like to wrap up with a top three for you. Let's hear your top three modern composers. Well, I like to I like a lot minimalistic music. I like. My favorite would be Max Richter, Johan Jo Hanson, who unfortunately died, but a new album just came out. I like Philip Glass, but he's not a good choice for writing because he's too loud. He's good for working out and yeah,...

...that's what I like. Minimalistic music and very snowy in my musical taste. That's that's what I that reason when I when I write, I can't, can't read, I can't listen to anything. Song, no lyrics please. Yeah. Yeah, it's hard when you're writing because then it's just you end up writing the song and then night then you get suit for copyright in fringe bit of just writing like a Queen Song or whatever in your yeah, I had to take out some lyrics from the book. So there was there was a part in which Charlie is so excited about going to legend in Tallah and but he doesn't know the lyrics for the opera, so he starts singing the Disney I have to take them out. The math strikes at seeing the real. Yeah, well, Carlos, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. This is a lot of fun. Definitely, everyone listening go out and buy these books because they're very enjoyable. If people want to learn more about you, want to check out the books, where can they find you? It's going to be everywhere. I suppose hear really, I have a launch party at that diesel bookstore in sent to Monica. I'm going to be the village. Oh my God, what is it's in covert city. I'm going to be in book shup eventually, in August. I want to be traveling to San Francisco by the end of the month. And so if you Google coffee shopping model of it's it seems it's going to be everywhere, and of course the big ones. But if you can buy it, then I want of the neighborhood of the book stores. Yeah, support local. Yeah, I like it. Support local or redn press, you can. You can go to their website. Of Reckon race coffee shopping. More than love love it, Carlos. Thank you again. This was a lot of fun. Thank you. Thank you for having me, of course, and we got to end with a Corny joke, as we always do. Two books are chatting with one another and one says hey, you look so much thinner and the second says thanks, I have my appendix removed. Good after it's people, is a dumb joke. Correct, correct, good people cool things. It is produced in Austin, Texas. If you were a fan of this episode, go ahead and hit that follow button. That helps more people here the show. You can send me a message Joey at good people, cool thingscom. Thank you to all of the guests who have been on good people, cool things. Check out all the old episodes. Be a good people cool thingscom as always, thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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