Allison Chaney Whitmore is a screenwriter, graphic novelist, and writing coach from Los Angeles. She loves to tell coming-of-age stories with a hint of romance, fantasy, or adventure, but also enjoys a good gothic horror story. She’s also the writer of the comic Love University.
As a coach, working with new writers with a passion for story is her favorite thing. Allison holds a Master’s degree in English education and has studied screenwriting at the graduate level. Outside of her work, she enjoys classic films, genre television, a good book, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
What’s the last thing you read or watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
The current season of This Is Us is really good. I love the way they weave together plot, character, and theme. I also got to watch all of Fleabag and Killing Eve this summer, both of which I found amazing. I’m looking forward to watching season 3 of The Crown, as it always has top writing, and The Haunting of Hill House, which I hear has incredible writing as well. I can never pick one thing.
Were you always a writer, or was it something you eventually discovered you had a knack for?
I’ve always been a dreamer and a story enthusiast. I wanted to be an actor from a young age and started writing skits in elementary school. Long-form prose came in high school, and I wrote my first screenplay in a pink composition notebook with graph line paper the summer after graduation. So, if I haven’t always been a writer, I’ve been one for a pretty long time.
What inspired you to write your comic Love University?
The concept came to me many years ago. One Friday after work, I was stuck in traffic on Sunset behind UCLA and just randomly thought — What if there was a school for cupids, called Love U? I thought it was funny at the time, but also strongly felt it was something I could see on television. When the opportunity came up to write a comic book series, I pitched it, and they really liked it.
What was your process for writing it?
This particular story just had a concept, no character to start. That’s not usual with me. Both typically come to me at the same time. This one I had to take the idea and pull the story out of it. I found the main character, Lucy, then I began thinking about the journey she might take over several issues as the world around her began to populate in my mind. I wondered about her day-to-day struggles, her lifelong personal wounds, and her hopes and dreams. From there, I just let the story unfold. After that brainstorming phase, I went through my usual process of theme, logline, beat sheet, outline, and script. Then it was notes, revision, and so forth.
How did you connect with the publishing company for your comics, and what role do they play with your projects?
I was working with another writer on a web series who was also a comic book writer. I’d recently been hired to write a couple of comics for a pair of independent creators. They were looking for screenwriters to complete the work. I was sort of lost in terms of what to do, so I asked my colleague to take a look at what I’d been working on. He really liked my work and sent it on to his publisher, who asked if I’d like to write a series of my own.
A key component of writing (for both film and comics) is to make the stories and characters relatable. What sort of approaches do you take to accomplish that?
To me, my characters are reflections of the human experience. I simply remember the human sides of their experiences — wounds, worries, hopes, dreams. I think about the way they speak, and why that is. I think about the way they dress, their favorite music, how they navigate through the world. Everyone has a specific journey that makes them uniquely who they are. I realize that should be the same for my characters, and that helps bring them to life, as well as making them more relatable to the reader.
As a writing coach, what are some of the more common mistakes you see?
Most of the mistakes come from finding the core of their stories, hitting plot points, and formatting. Sometimes it’s tough for people to figure out whether they have just an idea, or enough to make an actual story. That’s what we work on. It’s actually a lot of fun.
There are a lot of writing coaches out there. What’s unique about you and your methods?
I come from a teaching background, so my approach is about building skills from the ground up, but also starting with the big picture in mind. I like to help people work through their creative blocks and find the stories they want to tell. I’m much more of a coach than a consultant. I’ll give notes and focus on that type of thing, but I’m often looking to help writers become the best version of themselves. Working with me is like having your own personal teacher. Not everyone needs that, but it definitely works for some people.
What do you consider the components of a good script?
Strong character arcs, relatability, clear concept, emotional hook, and an identifiable theme.
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
-Always plan to write more stories. Don’t put everything into just one script. Move on. Write more. Keep getting better.
-The writing process is different for everyone. Just like we have different ways of learning and absorbing information, the way we get to a story can vary. Give yourself time to find your way.
-Your first draft is not going to be perfect. Ever.
-Plan if you can. It saves you time.
-Make time for both writing and living.
-Read as much as you can.
-Think outside the box.
How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?
Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
Cheesecake could be considered pie, so…cheesecake. In terms of actual pie, probably pumpkin! Perfect time of year for that. Happy holidays!