Dreaming Your Way to Success

Have you heard of lucid dreaming?  This is when a dreamer is fully cognizant of being in a dream state.  Some authors actually work at learning to control this form of dreaming as a means for shaping their projects, regardless of whether they are focused on fiction or non-fiction.

Dreamscaping or dream sculpting (as the process is sometimes called) allows the dreamer to actively contemplate the contents of a dream while asleep—and to question how these subjects may be relevant to their personal or professional living.

Dreamscaping Your Creative Project
Wordsmiths and artists are often encouraged to keep notebooks at hand for recording stray thoughts that can help them maximize future creativity.  This includes placing a pen and paper by your bed for capturing ideas that may materialize during the night. 

Regardless of your type of work, I’m rather certain that you have awakened on more than one morning (or the middle of a night) and thought, “Hmm, that was an interesting dream.  Now what was there about it that I wanted to remember?” 

For those of us relying on random ideas on which to build our shaping of words and images, it can be important to retain unexpected thoughts.  I can report that I have benefitted from vigorously striving to record the contents of potentially significant dreams.  And I’ve suffered the disappointment of having forgotten to have the implements for recording anything before falling back into a deep and dreamless state.  The mornings that have followed have been very frustrating.  Far worse than a simple hangover experienced by authors of yore!

My Methods of Directing the Dreaming Process
A simple Internet search will yield instructional resources for learning to implement Lucid Dreaming.  As I’m not a specialist in this field of study, I’ll merely share how I have approached the topic. 

After reading some background material, and discussing the concept with artists, I decided to delve into the process several years ago.  I began my sojourn in this endeavor by placing a retractable pen and small bound book for journaling on my bedside table.  Do note that having a pen without a lid has proven invaluable to my night-time note writing, since I’m rather clumsy and a bit befuddled when rising from a vivid dream.

Most evenings, I spend a few minutes before going to bed contemplating projects I wish to undertake the following day.  Often, this is while rocking in a chair and petting my cat, which I find soothing on several levels.  I then read a few pages of both meditative and mystery books.  After turning off my reading light, I review my to-do list.  I won’t claim that my contemplation of work goals is directly responsible for yielding inspirational ideas during the night.  However, these practices do serve as an off-switch for my overactive mind. 

As anyone attempting to call me in the a.m. will attest, I am not a morning person.  Some of my best work is born in the silence of nocturnal hours.  So prior to entering my pre-sleep routine, I’m already in a creative thinking mode.  The number of hours I spend in sleep varies, but when most people are rising to their own days of productivity, often I am entering my deepest dreams.  While most may seem unrelated to the work I envision undertaking, they are varied in topic and have a film-like quality. 

Results from My Dreamscaping
Having disciplined myself to interrupt the dreaming process, I can now report overall success in benefiting from dreaming with lucidity.  Records of some of my dreams make it into my journal.  Elements of others capture my attention sufficiently to be recalled for several hours after my waking. 

Perhaps the worst challenge that arises from the overall experience, is being forced to fold new concepts into work I may have considered complete.  Sometimes that means reprinting quite a number of pages of text due to a minor edit in their midst.  However, I’m thrilled to report that expanding a character’s role by having her play a bamboo flute has yielded a lovely audio element to that scene… and an interesting twist to the epilogue for Yen for Murder, Book Four in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series!

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series (Prospect for Murder), Conversations with Auntie Carol, a series of Hawaiian Oral History Interviews and other projects, please visit my author’s website at www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, visit: www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Interviews & Oral Histories: #4

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

You’ve done it!  Regardless of whether an interview is the first or the hundredth, I hope you will feel a sense of accomplishment while parting company with whomever you’ve interviewed! By this point, you should have an audio (if not visual) recording of the dialogue, plus notes you’ve composed prior to and during your conversation. You should also have a signed interviewee release that can allow you to draw from the experience indefinitely.

The Significance of Your Relationship with Your Subject
In my last discussion of general and oral history interviews, I noted that it is good to impress your subject positively.  Doing so includes: projecting a pleasing appearance and voice; demonstrating the level of your commitment, as shown by your research and organization of pertinent questions; and, your sensitivity to their physical, mental, and emotional circumstances.

That last issue is one that is often neglected by professional, as well as novice, interviewers.  Too often a sense of righteousness on the part of the interviewer as truth teller can prevent development of a significant rapport with the interviewee.  While it is important to maintain a professional relationship, the lack of a rapport with your subject may lead to a diminished level of trust and desire to reveal themselves fully.

Your Parting Words
As you prepare to depart from an interview, you will want to leave the door between you and your subject open to further communication.  After all, they’ve trusted you with a part of themselves and they want to know that you’ll value what they have shared with you. Even if you have not established a warm relationship, you will want to facilitate future communication and assure them that they will have an opportunity to view a transcript of the interview.

This does not mean you are relinquishing your role as the interviewer, nor does it imply you are going to change revealing the realities of your conversation. However, if errors are found by either of you, there should be a means for adding explanatory notes. This is especially useful in clarifying names, relationships, numbers, dates, and sequences, which may have been transposed or mistakenly described.   

Editorial Procedures
During the transcription and editorial process, you may need to communicate with your interviewee to gain clarity on numerous points. To maintain accurate records, it is good to receive replies to your questions by email or other written documentation

This is especially useful if there are conflicts regarding the meaning of a passage. After all, the interviewee is relaying answers to your questions through the lens of their point of view.  While you  may never agree with their explanation, the transcript and your notes will allow future readers and/or listeners to experience a close approximation of the event and draw their own conclusions.  This is why clear records of all your communication and notes are so important.

The method[s] of annotation you choose for your transcript can take several forms. This is where your creativity comes into play.   Personally, I try to avoid footnotes.  Instead, I employ bracketed statements for minor clarification and section endnotes for issues dealing with proper nouns and other facts that may stimulate a future reader to pursue answers to their own questions.

Although the interviewer should not remove actual dialogue, you can provide clarification of key points by including a glossary of foreign and specialized vocabulary, as well as an index. Some authors dislike the use of indices if they plan to publish via a downloadable vehicle that may render pagination inaccurate and irrelevant. However, readers of a work published on the Internet may be able to utilize a find/search tool to locate terms they wish to revisit and readers of a hardcopy edition will be pleased with the inclusion of an easy reference tool at the back of the work. 

Another means for heightening the usefulness of your final product is separating your transcript into sections. If the interview was conducted during multiple sessions, utilization of chapter breaks is quite logical. Even when the conversation was held on a single occasion, separating sequenced questions and answers provides natural breaks.

Such a layout should facilitate communication between you and your subject[s] as you review the nearly finished project. Once you have completed editing and annotating your transcript, you can proceed to shaping a final format to meet any requirements for publication. [See my previous blog, Interviews & Oral Histories #3, for the closing  discussion of interview publication.]

Future Interviews with The Subject
The potential for scheduling future interviews may depend on issues beyond a mutual desire to do so. For example, if the interview is part of a larger project controlled by someone else, you may be limited in continuing your relationship with your subject.  And, although the current publisher may express an interest in further interviews, shifts within their organization may preclude future publishing through them. Even when you are working on a wholly freelance basis, your ability to publish may depend on your finding a new source willing to take on the project. And if you decide to expand the initial work into a series of articles or even a book, the task may become even more challenging.

As I’ve noted before, planning, executing, and publishing an interview is a unique experience. Even without the permanency of the Cloud, an interview lives far beyond the event itself! The effort you put into researching your subject’s life and work may prove of interest to people far beyond your targeted readership.  The dialectical elements of the conversation, introductory remarks, annotations, and other explanations will serve not only to illuminate your subject, but also your own life’s work.

In my next blog about interviews, I will discuss the renewal and publication of oral history interviews I conducted more than 25 years ago with a dear Hawaiian auntie whose family history is very interesting…The title is, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder,  Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox Delima Farias, and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website, ImaginingsWordpower.com.  

THE AUTHOR RECYCLES

New Creations From Old Work

 In past blogs I’ve talked about examining your previous work as a writer.  Not only does this allow you to measure your progress, it also provides a pool of sources for new directions in content and style.  I am a member of the National Writers Union and the local chapter recently asked me to be their featured speaker at a monthly meetingOften, their speakers read from current projects, but since I’d help to fill in the previous month with a reading of both the Prologue and Epilogue from PROSPECT FOR MURDER [the debut title of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series], I decided to give a talk on how I’ve recycled parts of past projects.  While there’s nothing novel in this concept, I thought that in detailing how I’d used pieces I’d created during my years in Arizona, I might stimulate my listeners to consider the ways in which they might draw upon works in their own files…

Wordsmiths Don’t Fall into a Single Demographic Description

When you look around any gathering of writers, you’ll find that we’re: Young and old; formally educated and barely literate in the grammatical sense; gifted melodious speakers and hoarsely halting readers; technical prodigies and flawed yet persuasive explorers of every topic imaginable.  The breadth and depth of our compositions are as varied as we are.  And usually, if we’re old enough, such variety will be found spread throughout our individual bodies of work.  

In projects of both fiction and non-fiction, I draw on a background in business, education, and the performing arts.   As might be expected, there is no consistent pattern to my output—except for the decades of public relations, marketing, and design consultation I’ve performed for executives and their profit and non-profit entities. 

Forms from the Past…

In preparing for my talk, I looked over previous work I had drawn upon for recent print, audio, and Internet projects.  Not all were inspirational gems of form, content, or style, but each item I had chosen to re-purpose fulfilled a specific need.  With every new project, I contemplate how the assignment fits within the scope of my professional history.  Not only do I look for concepts, data, and text that may yield something I can reuse, but also the bits and pieces that should be moved to the recycle bin.

…Reshaping for Today and Beyond

This year’s springtime file pruning produced some of everything.  I found business cards, ads, and brochures that could be used for marketing workshops. As I continued my file and closet clearing, I eyed posters and signage that could be augmented with a large artistic label for some future event.  I quickly dismissed them as ineffective for a speech delivered from a podium.  There was, however, one item I could share:  a copy of Stephen Covey’s famous matrix of time and productivity management.  The gist of this true jewel of philosophy is that if we focus on aspects of both our personal and professional lives that are important but not critical, we’ll be better prepared for challenges that may arise.

After a brief introduction of this principle to open my talk, I noted how elements of past writing had been folded into my writer’s blog [for samples, please visit https://www.Blog.ImaginingsWordpower.com].  From project inspiration to background research, through the phases of writing and editing, production, and marketing, I discussed how I select issues that may be of interest to other authors and artists.  In addition to mentioning a few of those blog topics, I provided examples of material I’d chosen to use in recent book projects.

~  When I joined with five other authors to publish UNDER SONORAN SKIES, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert,  I contributed both fiction and non-fiction.  With new and as well as re-shaped pieces, we all expanded our repertoire.  Knowing that publication of  Prospect For Murder was approaching, I included its prologue.   I also featured historical articles such asThe Holidays in Tucson, 1878,” which I read at the NWU meeting.   

~  In  Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second book of the mystery series], I’ve drawn on notes from my studies in history, plus a series of oral history interviews I conducted many years earlier.  This has allowed me to mention the first woman registered to vote in the Territory of Hawai`i in 1920, and to place a major scene in the historic and ecologically significant site of Kawai Nui Marsh.  

~  The compilation of the oral history interviews, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias has indeed proven to be an invaluable resource.  Carol was a dear friend seeking to preserve her family’s history, library and other artifacts.   Descended from Hawaiian nobility, her recollections of life in upcountry Maui in the early twentieth century and dancing hula in Waikīkī on December 6th, 1941, delight both readers and listeners.  In reshaping the layout for a book of the seven interviews and an audio edition comprised of the original recordings, I described how this resurrected project is benefiting from the comprehensive glossaries I’ve constructed for the Hawaiian and other non-English vocabulary included in the Hawaiian mysteries. 

~  Finally, I referred to the fourth mystery, A Yen For Murder, for which I examined promo materials I wrote for Highland Games and the Hilo International Festival on the island of Hawai`i during the 1970s.  This led to having Natalie reminisce about hearing a remarkable young woman play the Japanese koto at the Festival…and decades later having that woman, then a Buddhist priestess, become the victim.

In the future, I anticipate giving talks on the authorship process, for which many of these examples will be useful.  Of course, there will also be samples of flawed book covers, changing email addresses, and evolving reviews to reference.  How does all this relate to your work?  Well, I wonder what awaits you when you dive into your own files.  Will you choose to build on your dramatic successes?  Or will you determine that what was once viewed as a failed project may rise to the realization of full and positive fruition?

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

BALANCING VERBIAGE & SPACE

There have been many instances in my career as a professional writer when I’ve needed to alter text to maximize its appearance within the space allotted to it.  Sometimes this is disappointing, as the words I initially selected were ideal to the purpose and tone of the project.  Nevertheless, the goal in any written work is to create a product that is most appropriate for communicating with one’s target market. 

 As I generate promotional materials for marketing Prospect For Murder [the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series], I’ve frequently had to revisit this basic activity of editingsubstituting vocabulary to fit the available space.
Value of a Professional Wordsmith
One of the greatest values a professional wordsmith brings to a verbal project is their knowing when and how to adjust text to maximize readability.  This ability to edit within varied  parameters demands the flexibility as well as the skill to replace verbiage to accommodate the allowed space.

In the past, when a client decided my composition met their needs, they usually took the text to a graphic artist and I never saw it again—at least not before the final product was printed, uploaded to a website, or sent forth in emails.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the presentation of my work looked awkward because of justified paragraphing and/or the lack of breaking syllables at the end of paragraphs, which resulted in wide gaps or crammed lettering.

If I remained in close contact with the client, I sometimes had an opportunity to rectify the situation.  At a minimum, I could alert them to the problem which was bound to recur until their process of production was changed.  If I had the opportunity to work with the artist tasked with incorporating my text, I could suggest potential means for enhancing the overall layout by:

~  Changing words that were too long or short
~  Altering the paragraph structure
~  Adjusting the number of columns or their size
~  Repositioning and/or resizing artwork
Subliminal Influences

Harmonizing Product Packaging and Marketing Materials

Regardless of the sophistication of a project, balancing art and typography can truly maximize the sensory experience of your readers.  It is a vital key to synchronizing a product’s packaging and the marketing materials that accompany it.  As may be expected, this can help determine a reader’s initial response to the product being represented, thereby affecting whether it will be purchased or bypassed. 

Even the information presented in a dentist’s pamphlet should be designed to flow in an harmonious manner.  The next time you have an appointment at a professional’s office, glance through the materials in their waiting room.  If you find odd looking paragraphs, it’s probably because a graphic artist took the text and simply dropped it into their design—usually without the copy writer having the opportunity to re-edit their text.

Designing Promotional Materials & Websites
In my blog on the layout of books, I discussed the various issues I faced in the design of covers for the hardcover and audio book editions of Prospect For Murder.  All of the spatial challenges I’ve just explored in this blog were applicable in both editions.  I’m very grateful that my artist and typographer were the same person [you can visit www.yasaminejune.com to view her art].  This meant I was able to work with her to balance elements of concern.  Of course, working in this manner requires mutual understanding and sufficient time to accomplish the necessary edits.

Artwork & Titling in Secondary Projects

From Hardcover to Audio Book Format
Transforming the images and text of the hardcover book jacket into that of the audio book required more than re-positioning and resizing the many design elements.  Most notably, the mysterious moon above the apartment building had to be deleted to accommodate the resized and realigned titling.  In addition, the book synopsis and my author bio had to be shortened to allow for book reviews.

Postcards
Recently I reworked the 8.5 x 5 inch promotional postcard I am using for several purposes.  As I now have a growing number of positive book reviews I wish to highlight, I needed to edit both the book’s description, as well as my bio to accommodate snippets from the four reviews I wanted to feature on the front of the card.  And because I may wish to employ varied greetings, I had to allow room on the backside to place labels with personalized messages.

Letters
It may seem needless to mention that each letter that one sends out via snail mail or email is an entity unto itself.  However, writers are just as prone as other professionals to remain wedded to verbiage for which they have an affinity.  Generally, effective letters should be limited to a single page.  This means that the need to resize the length of one’s text arises quite often.  Sometimes simply reworking the size and location of a logo and decreasing the dimension of margins will suffice to reuse a favorite piece of composition.  At other times, it’s also necessary to:

~  Combine paragraphs
~  Reduce the size of the font used for text
~  Use left justified paragraphing without indentation
~  Use an even smaller dimension for line spacing between paragraphs

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Book Production Issues

The art of communication is as varied as its practitioners.  The creative process varies with each writer’s inspiration and often reflects the perceived desires of their target market and the writing tips to which the author has been introduced. There are many comprehensive sources of writers’ guidelines available on-line and in print. Through this blog, I am attempting to share snippets of authoring strategies as they arise in my own wordsmithing

Many publishing houses restrict the amount of input an author may have in the printing process.  But as a writer, you should be able to express concerns you have about the production of a work that will carry your name.  As someone who has assisted in the process for other amateur and professional writers, and served as the art director on a collaborative effort, I am somewhat familiar with aspects of producing a high quality book.  Now, as a debut author of fiction, I am entering a new phase of professional experience.  While the following areas of concern may not be presented in the sequencing of a publisher or art director, they represent my thought process while preparing for the publication of Prospect For Murder, the first book in the new Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.
branding program
Unified Appearance in a Series
Career longevity for a writer often rests on their successful book branding and advertising.  These issues bring us to the appearance of one’s product; in this case, books.  There are many design dilemmas facing authors and the people who will introduce their work to the world.  Personally, I enjoy reading a classic hardbound book, so my contemplation of quality book printing rests on my perceptions of what constitutes a fine hardcover edition.
the reader’s experience
While the design elements of a print or on-line artistic project may vary in several ways (sometimes because of the genre), some issues are common.  In general, the test of a book’s initial appeal is its cover.  Does it draw the eye of the potential reader?  I say the reader, rather than the buyer, because with the constant rise in the cost of hardcopy books, library patrons represent a large segment of the public that may read your book.  Of course, to reach that readership, you will first have to appeal to the buyers of books that line library shelves.

Book jacket design is one of the most important elements that concerns marketers.  Therefore, I encourage you to seek an artist whose skills in fine and graphic art (as well as typography) will meet the needs of myriad projects.  Fortunately, I have found this breadth of talent in the work of Yasamine June.  

I do not claim to be a specialist in color theory, but generally, bold colors and print in product packaging are believed to help maximize sales In book publishing, successful cover design does not rest solely on these elements, or even on the overall quality of the artwork.  In publishing, the book’s genre is also vital.  Prospect for Murder is clearly a mystery.  In this genre, the coloration employed in book art often features dark colors, sometimes enhanced with the use of chiaroscuro [the effective contrasting of shadow and light]. 

To facilitate communication with my readers, my artistic vision embraces continuing historical and cultural features within the content and artistic accents that unify the appearance of the books.  Because my stories center on Hawai`i, I am using Island-themed framing based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry for each book’s cover.  This repeating image, plus ones that are pertinent to each story, will serve to meet potential readers’ expectations by unifying my branding, thereby increasing the public’s recognition of each new addition to the series.

In classic format, I have included a cast of characters, chapter aphorisms, and a notes and acknowledgments section.  In addition, because of the inclusion of considerable foreign language and historical references, I offer a guide for pronouncing Hawaiian words and a glossary of non-English and specialized vocabulary.  For emphasis, the aphorisms are presented in italic fonts and a distinctive hibiscus-based image frames each page number.
formatting tips
Empowering Your Words Through Readable Text
The next concern I have is readability.  Given the length of my books [PFM is 92,000 words], concerns about the cost of printing could lead to printing decisions based on saving paper: Margin size can be reduced; spacing after periods can be decreased from two spaces to one, blank pages between chapters can be eliminated, and the weight of the paper reduced.  Such choices might reduce the overall size of a book and conserve paper; but they would not enhance the sensory experience of the people reading the book. 

Beyond these general considerations, my target market is older, well-educated women and men who are as interested in character relationships as they are intriguing plotlines.  Many readers within my target market may wear eye glasses or contact lenses.  Nevertheless, I am told that with the lack of certain vocabulary and situational elements, the inclusion of historical references and multiculturalism, my series may be appropriate to students in advanced placement courses in secondary school.  These students may not be as concerned with the layout preferences of older readers, but they too will benefit from easy-to-read text.

Regarding my recently published book, I have agreed to a layout that includes single spacing following the end of sentences, despite the continuing use of two spaces by many publishers both here and abroad.  To compensate for this, my publisher has used a larger font that enhances the readability of the text of the hardcopy.

Cohesive Audio Books and Public Readings
With a trilogy of books already completed in the Natalie Seachrist series, I have already completed an audio edition of the first volume.  In general, I knew I had to employ a believable voice for each of the characters.  As the series is written in the first person, the most important voice is that of the protagonist, who is roughly my age.  For Natalie’s narrative, I have used a measured and calm voice; for her interaction with other characters, I employ tones and rhythms appropriate to each scene.  Other characters are presented to showcase their unique profiles.

In preparation for recordings and public performances, I recorded descriptions and samples of each cast member.  The text for each was printed in a distinctive color.  In addition, I utilized a 14 point font and 1.5 line spacing, plus varying spacing and marks to indicate pauses and emphasis.  For instance, I use: upward and downward arrows for changes in tone; ellipses for the trailing off of my voice; and long dashes for abrupt breaks.  For vocabulary or phrases about which I was concerned with correct pronunciation, I inserted underscoring and added hyphens between syllables.

In future blogs, I’ll report on the response to the decisions I have made in this phase of my practice of the art and science of writing!

 Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Media Relations For Authors: #2, Media Releases

Strategic Media Relations Dos and Don’ts

As a professional wordsmith, your practice of the art and science of writing is only part of the equation in achieving the goals and objectives you set for your career.  Successful advertising and branding for an author rests on myriad authoring strategies, including positive relations with members of the media.  Like most aspects of your work, you will need to invest time, effort, and occasional infusions of money into researching, establishing, and maintaining good relations with the media.  As you think about preparing your outreach to the media, remember that you are moving into the realm of commercial writing, which requires you to employ concise verbiage that directly addresses the needs and interests of a specific audience.

Get to Know Your Media Outlets
A key element in any branding program is determining which media outlets [ranging across print, broadcast, and On-line platforms] are appropriate for shining a spotlight on the current project.  Once you’ve completed compiling notes of interest about each—including the demographics of their patrons—you will need to establish relationships with their journalists and perhaps one or more of their department heads.  Regardless of whether you’re going to contact staff or management, a personal salutation is always good.  After all, looking to the future, there’s no telling what a person’s next job may be…or how you might reconnect with them to your mutual benefit.
Expanding Your Media Relations
Networking with Media Contacts
With your background work complete, you’re ready to launch regular rounds of communication with media contacts.  Despite interaction you may have had in the past, you will need to follow up on any leads you’ve just uncovered.  Is there a department or individual journalist for whom your current or future work will be of particular interest? Is there a community event for which your work fits well?  Can you make a donation…or otherwise interact with a newsworthy non-profit or organization which may be participating in the event?  Can you send out a tasteful PSA focusing on the group while increasing your public visibility?

As an author, it’s easy to rely heavily on your effective writing rather than speaking skills when examining how to broaden your community involvement.  But when an opportunity arises to visit with a media specialist personally, you can broaden your talent in the genteel art of verbal communication.  Through such contact, you should be able to affirm the media’s awareness of you and glean new facts about their individual needs and desires.

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to meet media representatives you plan to contact, you can begin sending out press releases highlighting your noteworthy work.  What constitutes a newsworthy announcement?  Chiefly, the topic you address must be appropriate to the specific media outlet and their concrete as well as virtual community.  For example, you wouldn’t send a notice about a program for elementary school children to a magazine for Seniors—unless that demographic is notably involved in the activity. 

Generating Timely Media Releases
If there is an element of time involved (such as a holiday event), it’s more likely the media outlet will grant you attention IF you’ve contacted them with sufficient lead time.  There are two simple ways to determine each media outlet’s deadlines:  Pay for a subscription to a detailed media list; or, build your own record for each of your preferred media outlets.  Even if you have an annual subscription to one or more media contact data bases, the information can quickly become outdated, so unless the provider of a list sends out updates, you’ll have to check with each media organization periodically. 

If you’re creating a media list yourself, you’ll need to gather the following information:  The names of each organization and their key personnel; a street address for drop-offs; a mailing address if it differs from the physical address; phone and fax numbers and email addresses for pertinent departments.  As you become acquainted with individuals within each organization, they may provide you with additional contact information. 

The creative process an author uses to facilitate communication with their audience must be dynamic.  Consider the following scenarios that can motivate you to communicate with local, regional, national, Internet, and even international media outlets:

Win a Contest, Award, or Scholarship?
Media outlets are always interested in stories of success, especially if they address a segment of their niche market.  Make sure you indicate the importance of the organization recognizing you with an award.

Participating in a Special Event?
Even if the organizers of an event are sending out media releases, you can submit your own in a distinctive format that highlights your particular contribution.
political campaigns
Awarded a Noteworthy Position, Contract, or Commission?
Send out a media release, including copy that demonstrates the stature of the individual, business or organization granting it to you.  You can also provide periodic releases reporting on significant stages of progress in your work Be sure to mention newsworthy persons who may have become involved in the project.  This could include a high profile woman or man whose image will be associated with your final product, be slated to read your text in an audio publication, or perform as the MC at an event you are managing personally.  By the way, this includes political, religious or volunteer activities in which you may be involved.

You may be wondering if there’s any way of ensuring your media release will receive positive attention and be acted upon as you desire.  The simple answer is no.  Admittedly, it helps to get your information released if you’re prominent in your field.  Your main concern should be avoiding being perceived as wasting a media professional’s time.  If your material and its content doesn’t appear relevant, not only will it minimize the possibility of coverage of your current plea for attention, but it also decreases the likelihood that your next outreach will be greeted with joy.

When selecting between two or more potential news items to promote, you should remember that the most popular topics for garnering media attention are connected to children, elders, or non-profit organizations That’s why it is beneficial to team up with such groups within your community on appropriate projects.   Not only will such associations gain media attention, but they will bring loyal followers to your future projects.… And word of mouth promotion is the most beneficial form of advertising!

Making a Good First Impression
Regardless of how important you view your message, you must consider how a media outlet will judge its potential value to their customers.  As a promotional consultant, I’ve often worked with writers and artists who view their work as being of the utmost significance.  They begin nearly every communication by speaking of themselves and their status.  This is in direct conflict with the media’s need to serve their patrons Rather than opening your plea for coverage with “I” (or even your name if the piece is written in the third person), begin with something that will appeal to your reader and encourage their interest in learning more about you.

Shaping a Strong Media Release 
Most of the media releases I see are one or two pages of single-spaced paragraphs headed, “For immediate release.”  These releases have no sectioning, no titling, and no use of bold or underscored text.  And if the opening of a long document is not auspicious, the recipient probably won’t finish reading it.

If you bore the recipient, how have you benefited from the effort…and cost, if you’ve mailed hardcopy?  Even if the release is read, there’s no guarantee that the recipient will act upon the information.  If you’re lucky the bare bones of your information will be published.  However, unless there’s a very slow news day (with a large “ news hole),” the full text of a long release is unlikely to be included.  If only part of your text is published, there’s no assurance that the details you deem pertinent will be included in the news piece.  

One way to short-circuit these problems is the use of the classic inverted pyramid for news writing. This means that the most important facts must be placed at the beginning of the release. With each succeeding paragraph, the importance and relevance of the information contained decreases.  Many editors are grateful to receive material they can merely drop into their layout.

 Sending Out Media Releases
You must, of course, follow the instructions a media outlet provides for sending press releases.  However, some organizations allow some flexibility in their instructions.  To increase the number of people who see my releases, I place a note at the end of emails stating that a FAX or even hardcopy will follow Since so few people bother with anything but emails today, there’s a good chance several people will read your copy when its sent in more than one form.  Of course, you cannot control how the media will respond.  Even if they decide to publish your message, you can’t be certain of how they will treat your copy, so keep in mind that providing less text gives an editor less to delete or re-sequence If they’re interested in learning more they’ll contact you.

And don’t forget to send out another media release when you’ve completed your current project.  Highlight the event’s outcome, mentioning any noteworthy person or historical context which will distinguish the activity as being of general interest in your community.  You can even send out subsequent releases to announce the results or consequences of your work.

The Benefits of Polishing Your Media Writing Skills
With careful research and repeated practice in writing media releases, you’ll enhance your ability to work efficiently with the media A successful program of media blitzing rests on gathering facts and then presenting them in a way that builds interest in your topic.  Many times your challenge is in establishing a rhythm to the words you use to present the facts you have carefully laid out. 

As __________’s youth face another summer seeking entertainment …
The enclosed image shows reality television personality _____ donating her time at…
Jane Smith, winner of the 2015 _____ award has been named presiding judge in the forthcoming spelling bee for elementary school children in the _____ School District. 

Remember that if you are involved in an event benefiting your community, you might be the ideal guest for an early morning drive time radio talk show—one of the best ways of getting a large number of people to become aware of via free media coverage.

Despite your best efforts to enhance your connectivity with the media, at some point you may be forced to invest in advertising.  To maximize the results, your branded message must be positively memorable.  From the words you use to the colors and shapes that accompany and frame them, you must strike an accord with your target market.  In today’s tough marketplace, you will need to look beyond traditional ads and commercials.  Appropriate saturation of social media outlets, YouTube videos, and even infomercials have all been used effectively by authors seeking improved community relations.  As you contemplate your options, you will have to evaluate whether you have the skill set to design and implement a branding program without the assistance of advertising professionals.

Wishing you the best in your wordsmithing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

For examples of concise print and broadcast media releases, please visit:  https://www.imaginingswordpower.com/media/media_release_samples.html.To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

Energizing Descriptive Writing

Regardless of whether you’re a professional or amateur writer, the most challenging part of a day of wordsmithing may be facing a blank piece of paper, or an empty page on your monitor’s screen 
Writing Tips
The Art and Science of Writing
It may be surprising to you, but despite our electronic age, there are still writers who begin each project with hardcopy composition.  If this authoring strategy produces effective prose, it’s hard to argue with their writing process.  It’s all a question of the results that come from one’s practice of the art of communication.  In both fiction and non-fiction, when the writer’s inspiration produces a rich palette of words that maximizes their reader’s experience, their methods have been successful!

Regardless of your wordsmithing process, on days when you feel lacking in creativity and even editorial direction, I suggest you begin by capturing the images that first come to your mind as you contemplate the scope and goals of your project.  Work without concern for the structure of language, correct grammar, or the sequence in which the words emerge.  Within a short while, you should find yourself producing an unstoppable stream of verbiage. 

As your pace slows, you can pause to write a brief outline of your work to that point.  Confident that you will not lose direction, glance over your creative output for patterns within the images, dialogue, and activity that you have produced.  You can then begin empowering your words by strengthening the connectivity of fragmented text.

You should then be able to move back and forth between the creative and editorial processes fairly easily.  I stress the first category—creativity—because writers often lose images they have glimpsed by becoming too absorbed in initial self-editing.  Remember, editing can always be accomplished at a future time.  But if you lose your inspired thoughts, they may never be retrieved…or built upon as you initially envisioned.

Experienced authors often have an established writer’s voice on which they can draw.  This is true whether they are writing the fourth book in a series, or constructing a non-fiction piece reflecting their true voice and personality.  Whether you are in this position, or creating a wholly new voice, you may wish to take a few moments and reflect on the tone, sophistication of vocabulary, structure of language that is most appropriate to the current work, and images that will enhance the sensory experience of your audience.  [Pease note that I am referring to your voice as the teller of facts or a story, not the voices of any characters you may be creating.]

With these elements in mind, you can enter the realm of refining the vocabulary and organization of your piece.  As usual, I suggest you begin with the most obvious edits.  Personally, I have a tendency to employ overly complex sentence structure that begs immediate trimming.  Another pattern that many of us face is the need to flip first and last clauses, sentences, and even paragraphs.  Like everything else, practice makes better, if not perfect, form.  By the time you’ve reached the end of a couple of sections, your structure should have tightened with increasing clarity.
Writer’s Guidelines
My Editorial Process
Sometimes in the midst of mundane edits, I have a sense of the truly impactful changes I wish to make.  If working in hardcopy (often late at night in the midst of classic films or predictable episodes of television mystery shows), I’ll make marginal notes regarding a character’s appearance, vocabulary, motivations, or inner thoughts regarding other characters.  [This has proven especially important when working on books subsequent to Prospect for Murder in the continuing Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.] And when at the computer, I may utilize small sticky notes to record my ideas.

With obvious adjustments to structure complete, I move within the piece to maximize its overall flow and tone.  I usually begin by modifying nouns and adjectives.  In a previous blog on color theory [see Design Dilemmas for Authors, Part 3:  Color, May 30, 2015], I discussed various words that might be used in place of the word blue to enhance your color palette

Facilitating Communication
Likewise, consider how you might embellish a scene referring to a red sofa.  While inappropriate for a children’s picture book (and most contemporary fiction), the author of a dramatic historical novel might say, “The heroine entered the study nervously and perched on the garnet colored velvet chaise lounge.”  Here I wish the reader to feel wooed by the distinctive color, texture and shape of a piece of furniture. 

In my own writing, I frequently draw on the breadth of my writer’s palette to concisely depict the ambiance of a scene.  For example, “She heard the sharp sound of a gunshot” became “She was startled by the sharp report of a bullet slicing the air.”  Here I turned a matter-of-fact incident report to a description of my character’s response, which allows the reader to join in the heroine’s frightening experience which will enable your reader to feel they are present at the scene…and who knows how that may prove useful if your piece were to be converted to a script for a movie or television show.
Impactful Advertising Messages
Altering Punctuation
Consider the following examples of shifting vocabulary, word sequence, and punctuation that can alter a reader’s interpretation of a passage within commercial as well as fictional text:

Experience the unique luxury of a journey to the Orient aboard the majestic RMS Empress of Britain.  [Advertising copy similar to posters for the ship’s 1932 world cruise]

I journeyed from Hong Kong to Honolulu aboard the RMS Empress of Britain.  [A matter of fact statement appropriate for any type of writing]

Truly…I did enjoy my trip aboard the RMS Empress of Britain.  [A plea to be believed; perhaps for the dénouement of a murder mystery]

I immensely enjoyed my sojourn from Hong Kong to Honolulu aboard the luxurious RMS Empress of Britain.  [An elegant, almost fussy statement, appropriate to a romance novel]

There are many ways to strengthen your writer’s voice for each project you undertake.  Reading other works in the same genre by authors you like and dislike will provide examples to emulate, as well as to reject in your own work.  There are also reference materials that will broaden your ability to describe people and occurrences in an articulate manner appropriate to your genre.  You might begin by perusing your own reference library to ensure you have:  A couple of grammar-cramming style books such as The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook, which are standards.  You will also want to have a thesaurus or two, and a few dictionaries, including ones for foreign words or phrases you might use. 

Rich Palette of Images
Beyond these basics, consider how you can use Internet search engines and other materials.  One of the most interesting sources I’ve found is obituaries [see Shopping for Characters, May 12, 2015].  This is a great place to find physical descriptions of people, and to discover comprehensive biographic images and sometimes even the settings through which men and women of past generations walked.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

Interviews & Oral Histories: No. 2, Research

Researching For Interviews 

The Art and Science of Writing
Today’s post is a recipe to help you prepare for any general or oral history interview you may conduct
.
  While the ingredients may prove dry for some of my readers, my intent is to simplify the process for those of you seeking to broaden your skills as a researcher, interviewer and writer.  For, like a piece of fine art, the strong interview will provide a complex layering of elements that leads to a deeper understanding of the interviewee’s life, their place within world events, and the experiences that have made them who they are. 

Relying on their charm and a heavy dose of luck, some interviewers claim that establishing a good rapport with one’s subject is all that is required for a strong interview.  But although creating a personal connection with your subject is definitely required, I urge you to consider that doing a bit of research will strengthen your credibility with the interviewee and boost your skills as a professional interviewer worthy of respect.

Although the following example falls under the category of art, it demonstrates how the lack of professional training can interfere with one’s work.  Many years ago, I met a gifted painter who employed the tiniest makeup brushes to create delicate lace, fine hairs on African wildlife, and complex patterns on silken fabrics.  Noticing flaws in the placement of shadows, proportion of objects, and the musculature of human bodies, I gently suggested she take classes in the foundations of art

When she responded that an art teacher had previously crushed her spirit, I suggested she study privately with an artist she could carefully select for compatibility.  Over the years she has achieved a measure of success, but the flaws I first noticed continue throughout the body of her work.  I can only imagine what the knowledge of an authoritative artist could have added to the depth of her art.

Where should you begin your research as an interviewer?  Like the ideal scientist, you will want to thoroughly research your interview subject, confirming basic facts you may have assumed were correct.  To establish a reliable foundation for the facts to be revealed in the interview (as well as to offer a concise expression of the interviewee’s viewpoint), you will need to conduct research that goes beyond the details of their résumé.  This work should be completed before formulating the questions you will ask in the interview. 

As you move through the process of gathering information, consider the following questions.  What is the purpose of the interview project?  What are the demographics of your target audience who will be accessing your work?  Also, what direction is suggested by the format and themes of the media outlet with which you are working

Regardless of the proposed thrust of an interview, information that the public may seek about the subject should be addressed.  In addition, if you wish to separate your interview from others the subject may have granted, I believe it is good to have at least one surprising fact revealed. 

Now comes what some will consider the boring work.  There’s no way around it, unless you want to rely on your great charm.  To organize the facts you have discovered effectively, I suggest you consider using several tools.

  1. Create a double-spaced copy of the interviewee’s résumé or curriculum vitae [CV].  Highlight each piece of information you need to verify.  Place a check mark beside each one you confirm.
  1. Working from either a list provided by the subject (or revealed in your research), examine the interviewee’s articles, books, previous interviews, and other expressions of their thoughts that may exist.
  1. As you proceed with your research, write out potential topics for your forthcoming dialogue.
  1. Create a timeline of the subject’s life.  Although you may be focused on their career and public persona, list highlights in both their professional and personal living as a guideline to help you respond to unexpected turns your dialogue may take.  Depending on what has made the person newsworthy, you may wish to look at a graph of historical events that intersect with their life.  

How will such timelines be useful?  If, for example, the interviewee was involved in the labor movement of the post-World War II era, the strikes of labor unions on the West Coast and in Hawai`i greatly impacted the general public as well as union members.  Consider also the arts.  If your subject is a composer of music or lyrics, you may find that their noteworthy pieces were created at times of considerable importance in history.  Sometimes their work will actually be named for such an occurrence or an entire era.  This was true of a symphony named for, and embodying the discordant notes of, the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  Depending on the flow of your interview, reference to an intersection of general history and your subject’s life may yield surprising insights about their career or personal living.  This can help you communicate with your subject, as well as with your readers or listeners.

  1. Prepare an interviewee survey.  Sequence your questions from the information they have provided to you.  You can simplify the process for your subject by filling in information you have been able to confirm through your research.  This could include:  Dates and descriptions of their degrees, certifications, accreditations, and other qualifications; institutions of affiliation; professional positions they have held; published works, community volunteerism and other involvement; names, ages, careers of spouse, partners, or children.  Remember that if you put in data you have not confirmed, you may be inviting errors—should their memory be flawed, or they actually wish to perpetuate dissemination of erroneous information.

To further your acquaintanceship—and to trigger your subject’s memories—you may want to offer blank space for them to fill in items such as:  Their nicknames; mentors and public figures who have impacted their life; programs and schools of thought that have shaped their perspective; adjunct and social organizations with which they may be associated; and, hobbies and interests.  Whether or not you wish to pursue topics such as political, philosophical or religious associations may depend on both what you have learned about your interviewee and the orientation of the media outlet with which you are working.

Despite the details I am suggesting you consider, keep the resulting survey as short and simple as possible.  I also recommend using a five-point Likert Scale for any questions you wish answered with a measurement of the subject’s agreement.  Hopefully, your subject will be able to provide you with a completed survey prior to the interview.  This will allow you to fold their responses into questions you are preparing for conducting the interview. 

If you do not receive a response to your survey, have a pleasant conversation with your interviewee about your preparation, so that they will want to participate fully in the process.  If necessary, try to reschedule the survey by a day or two to ensure you are fully prepared.  If you must conduct the interview without seeing your subject’s survey responses, you may want to take a few moments to try to write notes in the margins of your interview questions about issues you now feel you need to explore.

By the time you are nearing completion of your research, you should know whether or not the facts you have uncovered demonstrate your subject’s ability and desire to answer your questions fully and honestly.  In addition, you will have determined whether the facts revealed are in accord with the original goals of your project.  It is also important to determine whether the direction of the interview indeed fits within the thrust of the media outlet with which you may be working

It is possible that you will find there are fundamental conflicts within the facts revealed in your research, your initial perspective on the interviewee, and the boundaries of the planned interview.  If you are able to control publication of the information resulting from your interview, you are fortunate.  But if you are restricted by the media outlet’s direction, I sincerely hope you will discuss your concerns with their management team prior to conducting an interview that does not honor you or your interviewee.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors, 
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Interviews & Oral Histories, #1, Overview

The Art & Science of Writing
The Anxieties of Conducting Interviews

While many writers enter a new project by addressing its individual parts consecutively, I tend to begin by considering how it parallels other work I have undertaken.  That is why my discussion of business plans and grant proposals is offered in a single page on my website.  Likewise, I view the preparation for conducting both journalistic and oral history interviews as generally the same.  Before examining specific aspects of preparing for an interview, I should clarify that there are limits to this simplistic summation, for the research required for anything dealing with an historical topic is usually greater than that for a biographical feature in a newspaper or magazine.

However, in both instances, you need to begin by learning as much as you can about your subject.  For while time or resources may preclude your conducting in-depth research, there are two essential reasons for doing as much as you can.  The most obvious one is to verify facts that have purported to make the man or woman sufficiently noteworthy for you to undertake your project.  This fact checking ensures that even if the subject’s memory of specific elements in their personal or professional history is flawed, your reporting will be accurate. 

The second reason to perform research is to find commonalities that will help you establish a rapport with your interviewee.  This can be especially important if your interview is being done by telephone rather than in person.  Even with today’s connectivity via computer camera, the nuances of a personal meeting can be lost in electronic communication:  The brightness of your smile upon entering the presence of your interviewee; the warmth of a firm but nonthreatening handshake; the liveliness of your natural voice; the fragrance of memorabilia assembled for your meeting; the shared experience of a flavorful cup of tea or coffee.

Honing your skills in the art of communication is vital in conducting any kind of interview.  In the end, the results of failing to prepare properly for any interview are the same:  Poor quality dialogue between you and your interviewee AND poor quality of your authorship.

Good writing reflects a combination of science and art.  Empowering your words means investing the same amount of energy in your mental preparation as in performing your research, organizing the results, and outlining the questions you will ask during the interview.  What do I mean by encouraging your mental preparation?  There is little you can do to be certain of the attitude of your subject.  But, despite anything that may occur prior to the interview, you can adjust your own thinking to be as positive as possible.  In short, you need to be artful in your interaction with your interviewee in order to have a winning result for both of you. 

That last note is very important, so allow me to repeat it:  In order for your project to be a true success, both you and your interviewee must feel a sense of accomplishment when the conversation ends.  The interviewer is supposed to be in the driver’s seat.  To reach your goal of creating an interaction that will result in mutual satisfaction, you have to anticipate myriad issues that might arise in the interview.

I will admit that once you have completed your transcription, there may be points on which you and the subject will disagree…usually because the interviewee has doubts about the material they have disclosed, or they have misgivings about the manner in which they answered your questions.  In these situations, there is little that you can do about any disappointments your subject may feel—although you can offer to interview them again, or to make note of their after-thoughts in a way that honors both your work and their concerns.  However, as long as you have a signed informed consent and legal release form granting you use of the interview and its contents, you should be safe from future legal issues.

If you are a professional writer, you may have encountered circumstances in which you have turned to an attorney for counsel.  For as laws vary from state to state, and accepted interview practices may change over time, you must be careful to research the legal issues involved in the use of information obtained in interviews you conduct.  Also, you may wish to consider taking courses in journalism and oral history…at least have access to a respected journalist or historian who can advise you about interview standards. 

Should you find the thought of embarking on a round of higher education daunting, please know that you should be able to find a school that will allow you to audit a course.  This means that unlike a student taking the course for college credit, you should not have to take exams or write course papers.  However, as a sign of respect, even if the professor’s permission is not required, I recommend that you speak to them in advance of registering to audit their course[s].

How one handles the discomfort of an interviewee can be a difficult issue for anyone Following an interview with an elderly woman in Hawai`i, I was careful to recreate the full essence of our conversation.  I did this by indicating the subject’s cadence and pronunciation in the transcription.  At the time we were contemplating writing a partial family history, for which little of our dialogue would have appeared in the prose I would have composed for the book.  Unfortunately, that fact did not mitigate her displeasure at what she perceived as flaws in her use of the English language.

In another instance, during research for a master’s degree in modern American history, I conducted an oral history interview with a man who participated in the Allied Occupation of Japan following World War II.  As I had been trained in oral history courses, I had performed considerable research in advance.  The interviewee and I were the ideal combination of being opposite in gender and age, and we did strike a good rapport at the onset of our meeting.  In addition to this interview, I conducted subsequent interviews with former colleagues of the man, which also unfolded in equally harmonious ways.  Unfortunately, when I interviewed his wife after his death, I learned that the work of my subject had been undermined by the rise of McCarthyism and the prolonged witch hunt for anyone suspected of being a communist—or even, as in this case, being a supporter of freedom of speech in open dialogues between persons of varied political leanings.

I offer these examples of challenges faced by the interviewer to encourage you to conduct in-depth research prior to your interview AND to suggest that despite whatever due diligence you have performed, something unforeseen can arise.  I’m glad to say that in the aftermath of both of these challenges, I was able to retain positive relationships with my interviewees, although the projects did not come to fruition as I had planned.  In the long run, I recognized there is little I could have handled differently in the interview process itself, and I have certainly benefited from the experiences I had as a young writer.

This brings me to one of the most important points I wish to make on this topic:  All of your work as a researcher and writer adds to your credibility as an author.  And, without a few challenges along your path, you will lack the breadth of life experience that brings depth to the verbiage you shape into material that both a targeted and general readership will find of interest.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.  To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com. 

Communicating with the Senses

Sense Memory:  Words For The Eye and Palette

 The art of communication is largely reliant on visual and aural stimulation.
An author communicates with the written word.
~  A dancer creates a visual message with his or her body.
~  Actors and public speakers communicate with the spoken word and their bodies.

In the past, the sense of touch helped to share the message of written words, as finely tooled leather-bound tomes invited the reader’s fingers to trace the lettering on a book cover.  Even the sense of smell might be involved, as the carved leather fostered anticipation of the remarkable thoughts within. 

Today, all five of the senses of the writer’s audience may be involved through the communication tools of our multi-media civilizationBeyond the realm of streaming radio and audio books, there are audio messages being sent into space that may not be heard for thousands or even millions of years.  We are also at the brink of attempts at smell- or taste-athon forms of entertainment. 

The goal of any communicator is to ensure that their readers, listeners, and/or viewers will respond positively to their message.  Sometimes the process for achieving this is straightforward, even mechanical.  At other times, the gathering of ingredients for connecting with one’s audience seems happenstance if not magical.

A successful advertising campaign is an example of how this process can work.  Most of us are accustomed to extending our minds beyond a limited promotional image and message to the full experience enjoyed when actually partaking of the featured product or activity.  Whether viewed in a full-page magazine ad or television commercial, the sight of a glistening golden turkey on a platter is expected to invoke memories of holiday feasts shared with our loved ones…rather than the reality of a studio of near-strangers focused on taking pictures of an artificial bird glued to a platter and painted with an oily brown glaze.

Sadly, the perception of truth can be more important than truth itself.  For example, I recall being instructed about the art of opening doors, shaking hands and kissing on stage.  I quickly learned that the natural ways of performing these tasks were irrelevant. The actors had to adjust their movements to make the audience feel comfortable with the actions necessary to theatrical performance.

To ensure our audience will be accepting of the images we have created, the artful wordsmith must do more than employ accurate vocabulary.  This is one reason that translation of text from one language to another is so difficult.  In fact, in addition to being an editorial process, it is a fine artMerely selecting a word that correctly describes something does not make it a successful choice:  The descriptive word you eventually choose must evoke the most appropriate image to both your genre and your audience.

Consider how you might employ the following words and phrases:  Azure, blue, and sapphire; highlighted, revealed, and shone down upon; bright, luminescent, and sunny; juicy, moist, and succulent; boar, ham, and pig.  Depending on the scene being described AND your audience, the text you compose from these words will differ.  While the word blue may be appropriate for an advertisement, a children’s book and a romance novel, the same cannot be said for luminescent, azure, and succulent.

As adults with sophisticated English vocabularies, we may envision immediately the magical sparkle of a luminescent sky and the moist deliciousness of a pork loin described as succulent. However, these word choices would be inappropriate for a children’s book intended for a beginning reader.  Our creative process may draw on a rich palette of images within our mind’s eye, but it must be tempered by the realities of the genre in which we are working.

Refining our writer’s palette is one of the most important authoring strategies we can employ, regardless of whether we are working on fiction or non-fiction projects.  In my work as a practitioner of the art and science of writing, I seek to create a juncture between language and the sensory organsI do this by striving to balance carefully chosen nouns and modifiers within an appropriate structure to provide my targeted audience with a rich sensory experience that they will accept within the current genre.  

There is, of course, no right or wrong decision in the scenarios you create as a writerThe options are many.  The choices are yours.  But as you work on any project, consider the demographics, as well as the expressed responses of members of your audience.  In the end, your word selections should be guided by determining the effect you wish to create in each passage…

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower and branding, please visit:
Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com
For examples of sample color palettes, please visit:  https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/color/plays_on_color.html
Additional discussion of the nature and impact of color is provided at:
https://www.imaginingswordpower.com/wearing/wearing_your_brand.html.

To learn more about Prospect For Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com


Creating Fictional Characters

Researching Fictional Characters
or Client Descriptions?

If you’re a writer—fledgling amateur or professional—you should not be surprised to spend a lot of time in research.  While much of this work can be performed on a computer, tablet or smart phone, some reference materials must be accessed in person.  If you’re lucky, the information you’re seeking can be found at a nearby library or university.

Otherwise, you may need to travel to complete your research in another city, region, or country to visit libraries, museums or archival collections.  Unfortunately, the cost of travel and time spent away from home may be higher than you wish to invest in a project.  Another option is hiring a research assistant.  While this scenario may save time and out-of-pocket expenses, be prepared for unforeseen complexities in working with someone you may never have met.  Even when you speak the same language, the manner in which each of you approaches research may be wholly different.

Whether you are an author seeking fictional characters, or a business executive writing descriptions of your target clientele, you may need to present snapshots of people that will grab your reader’s attention.  Writing succinct portrayals of people can be challenging to the most creative writer.  Fortunately, the answer to this research dilemma may be close at hand.

In addition to your visionary skills, consider people you already know and can easily depict.  While you may not want to author a description of someone likely to read your work, you can combine the attributes of several individuals so that no single person can take offense.   

In the weekly writers’ salon I founded a few years ago, one member has shared her use of newspaper obituaries as a source for biographic images.  Available online or in hardcopy, this resource is readily available at little or no cost.  Often accompanied by photos of the deceased in their prime, these simple paragraphs offer highlights of individuals from every variety of background, education, profession and economic level.

Due to the cost, writers of obituaries usually limit the number of words they use, often omitting physical descriptions of the departed if photos are included.  Despite the brevity, you will find a rich palette of words from which you can shape a dynamic biographic image.  To enhance the available descriptive text for your own project, you might want to draw on information from more than one entry.

Keep in mind that rules of plagiarism apply to any writer’s work, including obituaries.  This fact should not detract from your ability to draw inspiration from an obituary to develop biographical sketches for your work.  The effort you invest in this activity should minimize any assistance you may require from a professional editor.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant
For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

To learn more about Prospect For Murder and my other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at:  https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com