Tricks of the Writing Trades (5 of 5): “Faking Authenticity”

From the concerted efforts of writers on major motion pictures to comics creators, novelists, travel bloggers, copywriters and others in between, writers are using an arsenal of techniques, methods and tricks in the shared pursuit of capturing the emotions of the audience. 

The creativity of it all is fascinating. So here are my thoughts on…

Researching to “Fake Authenticity”

All writers need to research a subject in order to create a level of authenticity — ya know, faking it until ya making it! That inherently leads to a level of authoritativeness as well as whether the reader will finish reading what you wrote. Readers want to learn and they have a 6th sense about whether or not they’re being bullshitted to.

The best thing writers can do is research everything humanly possible on a subject. Books from the library, videos on youtube, blogs, magazines, word of mouth, infographics, movies, songs, anything you can think of. Each source may present something new and fresh on the matter. Research is essential.

In fact, a friend of mine is a travel blogger. She’s probably visited just over half the places she writes about. The rest of the time she fakes it. I know, right! But she’s so good at creating authenticity that readers eat it up. Her research is phenomenal and because she’s travelled so much, she knows what to look for in her research to draw out the authenticity of a destination. It’s why her blog is an authority on travel. Impressive, right? Though, if she knew I was talking about her dirty little secret, she would 100% murder me.

Regardless, all writers fake it to some extent. We have to. But that research pays off. In fact, you no longer just feign authority, you become an authority. A prime example would be science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who was enlisted by NASA because they found he knew more about future stuff than they did. Cool, no?

Anyway, that’s it. I hope this very short series of tricks of the writing trades has helped you a smidgen. I’m not expert on it all but I do have experience – and at the end of the day that’s what matters.

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Oh, I have to turn the handle.

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Tricks of the Writing Trades (4 of 5): Mastering Headlines

From the concerted efforts of writers on major motion pictures to comics creators, novelists, travel bloggers, copywriters and others in between, writers are using an arsenal of techniques, methods and tricks in the shared pursuit of capturing the emotions of the audience. 

The creativity of it all is fascinating. So here are my thoughts on…

Mastering Headlines to Strike Today’s Readers Into Action

When you’re on social media or say the iPhone News app, you’re mostly scrolling the headlines until something catches your eye. Then by the gravity of the headline you dive in. Did it pay off? A lot of the time no. So become a good writer to answer that question and master writing an excellent headline to strike readers into action.

Copywriters know this. Screenwriters too, with writing loglines. 

You should probably go out there and check out various How To’s on writing headlines or writing loglines. It’s good to understand how each form works, why they work and how that knowledge can work for you.

Once that’s done, write down 7-10 headlines in a specific field of knowledge – B2B Content Marketing, Video Games, Literature Reviews, Physics News, etc. –  and then think about their worth, their weight in idea-gold. Do the headlines capture the attention of the intended audience? Some examples:

  • Here’s why Marketers Are Obsessed with Twitter
  • Cities should embrace free WiFi and embrace Digital Services
  • This Strategy Can Help You Reach Level 99 in 60 Min
  • New Laws Changing America in 2017, from Healthcare to Public Fares

Would you click them? Well, what about writing content for them? Personally, I have no idea about half that stuff, but as a working copywriter I have to research the shit out things to make sure the article or blog or whatever is to an extent authentic, authoritative and keeps reader’s moving from the first sentence to the end.

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If you pursue this exercise daily, testing yourself against what’s out there, you will get good at it. For writing something that feels authentic? Well, check out the next and final part in this series. See below:

Tricks of the Writing Trades (3 of 5): Sentence Structure can Deepen the Text

From the concerted efforts of writers on major motion pictures to comics creators, novelists, travel bloggers, copywriters and others in between, writers are using an arsenal of techniques, methods and tricks in the shared pursuit of capturing the emotions of the audience. 

The creativity of it all is fascinating. So here are my thoughts on…

Structuring Sentences to Deepen the Interpretation of the Text

This is common to prose writing as well as writing that utilises intertextuality. The way certain sentences are written may deepen the reader’s interpretation of the text to something intentional or rather beyond intention of the author, as argued by Roland Barthes in his essay Le Morte d’Author. Ya with me?

Certain sentences can be structured in a variety of ways, all of which can be in turn interpreted by the reader in a way particular to him or her, with some alignment by the author. OK!

What’s important here is that the talented Mr. Windsor-Smith captures the mood of this point in the story poignantly.

I wrote that in part 2 of this series. Intertextuality of ‘the talented Mr. Windsor-Smith’ is referencing the title of the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Though, some readers may not pick up on that 90s reference so they read it in line with the work of the artist I posted prior.

For a prose example, I’ve settled on this line from The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. For context, this opens chapter VI, just after the protagonist confides in her friend about seeing… a ghost.

It took of course more than that particular passage to place us together in presence of what we had now to live with as we could, my dreadful liability to impressions of the order so vividly exemplified, and my companion’s knowledge henceforth – a knowledge half consternation and half compassion – of that liability.

Draw your attention to ‘my dreadful liability to impressions of the order so vividly exemplified’. It wouldn’t mean much to readers nowadays and can come across as difficult English. But back in those days of 1908 England, seeing a ghost and speaking about it would be considered a liability to your character and the system it exists in. Of course, readers today would pick up on this if a sense of those times were present in mind, but the weight of the line, its gravitas, would have delivered something deeper to readers back then.

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I. See. You.

Moving on:

  1. I kicked the can, and it hit Richie.
  2. Richie yelled because the can hit him.
  3. There was a yell, Richie I gathered as Thomas was seen running off.

Three differing versions of the same event. Each with slightly differing interpretations. Each interpretation deepening the story in a certain way if the text was read amongst other lines of prose, let’s say.

Look, I think you get it. Just keep it in mind. You don’t have to follow what first comes to mind, just what path leads to the right emotion.

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I wonder how serious.

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Tricks of the Writing Trades (2 of 5): Dialogue + Layout = Mood

From the concerted efforts of writers on major motion pictures to comics creators, novelists, travel bloggers, copywriters and others in between, writers are using an arsenal of techniques, methods and tricks in the shared pursuit of capturing the emotions of the audience. 

The creativity of it all is fascinating. So here are my thoughts on…

Using Dialogue in Conjunction with Layout to Develop Mood

Yes, this falls under Show Don’t Tell, and overlaps into prose, copy writing, blogging, etc. too. But for this post, I’m focusing on storytelling in comics.

Remember: in Western comics, you read from top-left to bottom-right in a zig-zag motion. Now, check out this page from Marvel Presents: Weapon X by writer/artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

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I shouldn’t of had candy before bed.

Pretty cool stuff, right?

With this page, while the zig-zag motion is in fact tight, like a snake coiling in a Nokia, you can also read it loosely because of the layout and dialogue placement. Your eyes are trying to make sense of this scary-weird scene, automatically moving to panels that don’t necessarily fit a linear reading of the dialogue, creating its incoherent, dream-like feeling.

This is because the outer panels orbit the inner three of Logan waking up. We gather he’s having some sort of bad dream or hallucination. The following pages begin to reveal it’s a bit of both as Logan is dreaming while being operated on – the infamous operation that gave Wolverine his indestructible skeleton. And we begin to suspect something fishy by the last panel, which shows Logan leaning on what looks to be, perhaps, an operating table (in similar colour and fashion to the tech in the adjacent panel with the scientists).

There’s so much to explore in this one page. What’s important here is that the talented Mr. Windsor-Smith captures the mood of this point in the story poignantly. He shows us fear, despair, paranoia, confusion, and more — grabbing our attention. The dialogue works inline with the structure and artwork, it serves it, and that’s important.

You see this in other writing too. Dialogue comes second to actions in screenwriting. Dialogue is surgically injected into prose or used as a narrative guide. Dialogue shows us the end of a point made in copy writing or punctuates a feeling gathered from a paragraph or two as a caption in blogging. And that’s just a small set of examples.

Dialogue atop layout can finish off setting the mood. So file this away as a trick to be aware of next time you sit down to write the shit out of something. And guys, that goes for first dates too!

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Tricks of the Writing Trades (1 of 5): Specific Ethnic Characters

From the concerted efforts of writers on major motion pictures to comics creators, novelists, travel bloggers, copywriters and others in between, writers are using an arsenal of techniques, methods and tricks in the shared pursuit of capturing the emotions of the audience. 

The creativity of it all is fascinating. So here are my thoughts on…

Writing Characters to Specific Ethnicity to Expand Your Audience

You may be noticing the expanding diversity of actors in movies. More African, Asian and Women actors are appearing on the silver screen every year. While a lot of this is in response to the cry for greater diversity in movies, which is great but a tad late, certain character diversity is governed by the Top Brass at the studios wanting to expand into burgeoning markets, such as China, now the world’s biggest film market.

To stay in focus, let’s concentrate on two bigger examples, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rogue One. In Episode 7, you may have noticed some Asian pirates after Han, Rey, Finn and Chewie in that scene on the Millennium Falcon, who didn’t do much other than posture a non-threat. ‘So what?’, you say. Well, these damn talented Filipino actors are actually the stars of two of the best Martial Arts action movies of the past decade – The Raid 1 and 2. Thus, some of the audience or market was expecting more from them.

Quite recently, Rogue One enlisted Chinese Martial Arts and Action movie legends Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang to play the roles of a Kung Fu monk and his big-ass gun carrying comrade-in-arms to, well, fight and die. Sounds… err… kinda cool, right? Well, no. Not really. See…

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‘Die, You Imperial First Order Scum!’

…what I want you to take away from this is that these roles are developed and given to non-white actors in order to capture the attention of foreign audiences. Hell, it works to a certain extent, until it fails miserably because the characters don’t resonate, are hollow, don’t fulfil expectations, etcetera etcetera etcetera. In these two cases, the characters:

  • In Episode 7 – fail to serve the story (because the movie sucks)
  • In Rogue One – feel forced in (pun) to a hollow endeavour

For you screenwriters going for those big buck flicks, remember, if you’re writing in roles for foreign stars, make sure the actor gets to do what he or she is famous for – which is most likely kicking butt (especially nowadays). And the same goes for writers wanting to add some diversity to their own stories. Make sure the each character serves the story and not the backdrop or the needs of the powers that be.

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‘I swear! Show the sub, get the hipsters!’

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Dream Journaling and Creativity – Princess rides Whale-Shark

All these lucid dreams I’m having is sparking some creativity. It’s been hard to just let them go, so I recorded them into this dream journal app on my phone, at somewhere around two hundred words each entry.

In one, a middle aged Adonis with frizzy black hair joins me to DJ a “killer” rave. In another, a topsy-turvy business venture seashells by the beach becomes a slice of life where Bill Murray educated me on meeting a soul mate. While in the most prevalent dream, I met a dark princess in a world-past-midnight, who rides a flying whale-shark, as she stalks the skies high above the kingdom I’m working a con in. There are others too.

Reading back through the entries is an introspective experience. Similar to a normal journal, I found reading them back helped me work through some things by figuring out the metaphors buried in these fantastical settings. Perfect juice for writing stories.

What I’m trying to say is, get on board. Dream journals are a must for any writer seeking transparency – leading to better creativity.

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