I was asked these questions and I thought of sharing them here. In case it sounds interesting.
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
The first books I remember were classic children fables which I was simultaneously listening to on vinyl. In my room and listening to/reading them non-stop.
I always liked to write but I had to be “out of school” to start writing freely and enjoy it. I wrote an article that got published. Then I translated my grandfather’s book from Italian. Then I wrote a screenplay. Then another one, and it won an award.
I guess the first who read my writing was my teacher in elementary school, but that wasn’t fun.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I get an idea, I see an image connected to the story, I hear the title in my head, I see the ending. It’s a spark and if it ignites passion I start writing.
My process has changed. It used to be that I got an idea and I wrote. Now I get an idea and I jot down the key concepts, core elements, scenes (if I see/hear them) and then I outline, first. It gives me more freedom.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Reading inspires me to rewrite. Life and people inspires me to write.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Humor. Real, vivid characters that I can empathize with and cheer for. The story itself and, most of all, heart. Even in a drama humor/irony is essential for me. It can be subtle, but a story without it feels to me like an insipid meal. And it must have a pulsating heart, to reach the hearts of the readers/viewers. I’ve seen a lot of flawed stories but if they have heart you forgive a lot. Maybe because if it has heart it’s human and alive.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
I guess, a character must not be only one thing. it can’t be only good or only bad, only right or only wrong, only sad or only happy. In other words, it can’t be only one note, it has to be a song, if not a symphony. For example, I like to make the hero very flawed and the antagonist the bearer of wise and true messages. It creates a natural conflict and it’s a premise full of irony and humor possibilities.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I’m an actor also. I love both forms of storytelling. Immensely.
Often I get inspired by something I say on the fly, or a story I tell. And whenever I’m writing and working on something, I constantly test the story anytime there’s an opportunity. If someone asks, what are you working on? I say, I’m writing _____, it’s a story about ______ (one or two sentences). I use it to gauge the reaction of the listener and adjust the work accordingly.
Deep down inside, whom do you write for?
I write primarily because I have a throbbing need to tell a story. And the operative word is “tell”, which requires somebody to listen. I don’t just write for me, I write to tell the story and connect to others who read it/see it.
Having said that, I love to write and I also write just for me, but that’s a different writing, it’s not a story, necessarily. And, often, if I write something just for me and I see that it is a story, I immediately want to get it out there for others to experience it.
This is how I wrote my one man show, “Life & Me… What A Couple!”. At the time, I was carrying around a notebook and anytime I had an idea or a thought, I just wrote it down, for the sake of it. Some of the stuff was funny. Some felt like a concept for a bigger thing. Some were just thoughts. Then I was asked if I wanted a spot in a theater space to do material. I immediately said yes, even though I didn’t have material. So I went back and started reworking the notes into a full show, a bit at a time, while workshopping it in front of an audience. Until finally I had a show, which ran at HERE Performance Space, New York City, and toured in Pittsburgh, PA.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
This is how “I write what I know”.
Not the literal/physical world, but the emotional, psychological, experiential human reality that is my own. That’s what I know.
Once, I had bombed so badly on stage, I had to write it all out to vent on the page and re-center myself, or I would’ve spent a fortune in therapy. Not long after that I met a publisher who was ready to publish a short-story anthology connected to stage fright. One spot had opened up because a famous actress (can’t name name, but think big) decided to withdraw her story, last-minute. I pitched him and now my story, “The Little Old Lady”, is in “Frightful Stages”, Haworth Press.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Always. I listen to everything a reader/vier might say, and I only use what resonates. I love communication and collaboration. Feedback is part of it.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Selectively, yes. My screenplay RUN WITH ME won the Grand Jury Prize at the New York International Independent Film Festival, and NEW EYES was a semi-finalist and quarter-finalist in a couple of top competitions.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Rough drafts, no, unless it’s a writing partner. But first drafts, yes. Absolutely, I believe in collaboration. If someone can do some of the work I can’t, via notes and feed-back, that’s just fantastic.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
The goal is to get it done and out there for its audience. The discipline is, I commit and do everything I can to finish the work and submit it or pitch it or publish it. I can’t stand unfinished work. Then, I like to get it out there, wherever ‘there’ might be. Like I say for my paintings, other than the act of painting, the thing I like most about my art is when it hangs on your walls. It’s the same for my writing, I want it to get to its audience.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write on a MAC and I love it. I move things around a lot, rearrange stuff, highlight and delete. It’d be a total mess on paper. I’m forever grateful to Steve Jobs and everyone who created such a beautiful and pleasing tool to express my creativity. Like JJ Abrams said, everyday I hope to write something that is worthy of my MAC. I’m very visual, so I use software that isn’t just words but allows me to “see” my story, it’s development and structure. I even use the MAC voice to speak the text so I can hear the writing when polishing it.
Sometimes I scribble things on paper. I draw graphs about plot points. I like to use pencils, I like the feel of the tip brushing on the paper and the sound it makes. But rarely.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing the book version of the award-winning script I wrote, RUN WITH ME. It’s almost ready (although I’ve been saying this every month for the last 4 months). I’m now in the editing/proofreading phase and will be on Amazon and Kindle and other platforms very soon.
It’s a story about a successful New York city couple who, behind a glamorous facade, hides a secret addiction and a badly managed disease.
When he discovers his wife’s long standing drug habit he is forced to come to terms with his denial about his disease and redefine his priorities. Before he loses control over his life and the trust of his daughter, he joins a cutting edge research project on the effects of stress on diabetes. The New York City Marathon becomes the backdrop for the new life he is running toward.
Disease or addiction don’t define us, our choices and actions do.
The story follows this family in their highs and lows, pains and laughter as they each discover that it’s never too late to get better.
My experience (I have Type 1 diabetes from the age of 7) is that a person with a badly managed condition and an addict, both share the ‘victim’ mentality. They’re both addicted to denial, they want to escape from reality to avoid taking responsibility for themselves.
My goal is to entertain and hopefully inspire anyone who is affected by similar conditions.
You can follow my projects at
my blog www.peterarpesella.com/blog/
Also find me on Twitter @peterarp
Google+ Peter Arpesella
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
First, be happy you wrote them.
Then I recommend one of 2 things: 1. They might’ve already served their purpose, so move on and write something else. Or, 2. Give them a structure, a theme, compile them and get them out there. Submit them, individually as short stories, blog them. Go to an open mic and read them, read them in front of a camera and post them on your channel. Podcast them. Mail them to publishers and agents, as they are or just with a little polish. E-publishing is a wonderful way to reach your audience directly without waiting for permission from anyone. Make your writing available for its audience to experience.
These are just the first few ideas on the top of my head, but anything’s better than sitting in your drawers – unless what you’ve written belongs to case 1. There’s a wealth of opportunities.
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