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Frame Rate: Writing from experience

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[/media-credit] I hope this family picture isn’t based on personal experience.

Who knew the plights of a pre-teen movie junkie living in the 1980s could be so hilarious? That’s the story of ABC’s The Goldbergs, which follows young Adam Goldberg and his music-loving siblings, eccentric mother and couch potato (or…recliner potato?) dad. Based on writer Adam Goldberg’s actual childhood full of his love for movies and complete with actual footage he filmed in the 80s, this show is emotional, nostalgic, and above all, an absolute riot.

I say nostalgic. I was not around in the 80s. I was born in 1998. The 80s was definitely not a thing that happened to me. But the 80s is something that happened to my parents! They were teens around that time, and I grew up around a lot of my parent’s favorite things, which included 80s music, video games and movies. And as the resident teen wannabe film maker in the house, this show is a pretty big hit with my family.

This show is really good at dialogue based comedy. But at it’s core, the show is always based on Goldberg’s actual life and experiences. Granted, there’s a lot of differences. Most of the stories are incredibly embellished or entirely made up. And Adam doesn’t have an older brother and sister, he has two older brothers. But in all the situations, Goldberg draws from his real life experiences. Whether the story is based on his struggle in Spanish class, or the Hands Across America event, Goldberg taps into experiences from his life, personal or non.

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[/media-credit] What kid doesn’t want a hoverboard? An entire episode is based around Adam’s fear of being laughed at for his interests, which is a great way to develop his character, and relatable for much of the audience.

When I first heard the advice “write from experience”, I pushed it aside. “My life is pretty boring,” I said (to myself). “And how can you write about dragons and spaceships if you follow that advice?” But that writing advice doesn’t mean to write exactly everything that happens to you. It means to tap into the things you see, you feel, you hear. Overhear a funny conversation at the coffee shop? Work it into your writing piece. Ever travelled to another city? Write a location similar to the one you visited. Have a family member who always wears really tacky sweaters? Write a character like that (as long as your family member won’t get offended). Draw from character traits you’ve seen in others or yourself. Listen, observe. Work a funny story, an inside joke, a terrifying experience. It works for the Goldbergs and countless other movies, books, and shows. So take a minute and work a bit of life into your writing, even if it’s just a little. Chances are, people will find they completely relate.

This writer can be reached via email, [email protected] or via Twitter, @ejladd.

To read more from Frame Rate, check out Frame Rate: A little Star Wars something.

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    Zoe HouseJan 19, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Hey, Emily! I love your take on “Write what you know.”

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