Monday, May 21, 2012

Communication Complications

Communication is the primary focus of writing. Even in fiction, communication comes before entertainment because you are communicating a story. Even in psychological thriller novels, with their twisting, confusing plots, the writer still has to communicate images and events effectively in order to create the tension over an unknown element.

In writing, you need to know your readers. You need to know how to communicate to them.

One thing you must know about communication, even if you're talking with an English-speaking person, is that it's likely you are speaking in a different style than they are. What I mean by style is that you will speak in a way, using different words and expressions, that will be different from the other English-speaking person.

Everyone has different ways of talking. Everyone presents ideas through different methods. I have sat through a few presentations by students at my school and I have watched and listened (after all, it was expected of me and I'm a writer) and I noticed that no one starts their presentation in the same way. Just that single difference is only one in a host of differences which include voice tone, hand movements, voice volume, eye contact, and jargon.

In one of those presentations there was a student talking about football. Now, I don't watch football much, and I haven't really watched it at all since coming to college, so I didn't understand much of his presentation. In fact, there were several terms that I just didn't understand in the slightest. This is an example of how jargon, a beautiful thing in its diversity, is a large element of miscommunication.

 In order to achieve the clearest communication to the largest group of people, it is important to cut the jargon out of your writing.

There are times, when you know what type of audience you are writing to, where you can use jargon and be appreciated for it. Indeed, it will make your communication all the clearer. But that is only if your audience is familiar with the jargon you use. For example, you couldn't use military jargon when writing for a magazine that focuses on computer technology and people who work in that field.

The removal of jargon is an effective method that you can use to clean up your communication. Remember, jargon (even if not educational jargon) can lead complicated communication. And complicated communication is often times no communication at all. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, to cover what we have talked about, I give you a...nice list!

1. Writing is first and foremost communication

2. The same language does not mean the same understanding of communication.

3. Clearest communication is achieved by the removal of jargon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Writing Methods Part 2

While there are two extreme sides of writing methods. There are also the middle grounds. It is in those grounds between the two camps that method uniqueness exists. There are many writers who would claim to work from one camp or another. But often times they live on the fringes of the camps, mingling into the middle grounds or backing as far away from them as possible.

These are the two extremes: 

1.I know some writers who stay very far into the outline camp. They plan out every single detail and if something doesn't work, well, they work something else out with a new outline.

2. Then there are the writers, like a dear friend of mine, who spawn a single idea in their mind and then just start writing. They just go with it and let the story tell itself.

I find that many writers would place themselves in the middle ground between the two camps. Or, as one writer friend comically told me, "I think outside the box." Some of them lean more toward the intuitive method and some lean more toward the outline method. But all of them have a mixture of the two in their writing.

Also, I believe that many writers have a journey that leads to their ideal writing method. I do wonder how many writers, you included, are still making little steps in their journeys. Do you still make little changes to your writing method? Are you still trying to find your mix?

My own story started on the fringes of the Intuitive method camp. It worked well enough until I ran into problems. I would create an idea, throw in a main character and a villain and then let them have at it. This did not work so well and it worked terribly for remembering ideas that I wanted to keep. There was one story that I was working on that acted as the kick in my pants to get me on my journey. Looking back, I think it was a bad idea anyway, but I put a lot of work into it and when it failed and I didn't have any plans prepared, I realized I needed to have some security device.

As I started out on my journey I implemented a new element to my method. This new element was my security device. I took a piece of paper and then pondered on my idea for a while. I formed my idea into parts and then detailed what major things I wanted to happen in those parts. This helped because I could concentrate on getting to closer points instead of fighting my way from beginning to end of a whole novel.

The next element I introduced was the spider-web outline. This outline element does not detail major world events or every tiny detail in the story. I designed this element towards my own love for characters. I would place my main character's name into the center of the paper and then draw lines connecting him to all the other characters. I would label these lines with words like enemy, friend, lover, and such.

Recently I added another element of the Outline camp to my writing method. I placed on my spider-web outlines certain key actions character make against characters. This gave me an idea of how certain character became enemies or how certain characters effect others, but I still left it so that I did not know exactly how the characters decided to make those key actions.

My most recent element to my writing method is that I have decided to write the first chapter of every new idea just to see if it writes out well and to supplant it in my mind so that I can think it over.

So, overall, I think my own method consists of my spider-web outline, a synopsis, an elevator pitch, and then the first chapter for every new idea. While I stand farther from the Intuitive method's camp than when I started, I think I still lean heavily toward that method. I enjoy the thrill of the unknown event.

What is your writing method? Which side do you lean toward more?

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