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G&B: Apologies to Sting

It's been a blast, folks. The Worlds Most Popular Podcast is signing off. Truth to be told, there's not enough hours in the day for ...

Monday, July 5, 2010

tips on becoming a better writer: the wonder years trick


I get e-mails and people asking me a lot about tips on how to write a good article, speech, press release. Even short stories. I tend to give them some good feedback. Read over what they wrote and build from there. This new feature will provide some good hints on how to be a good writer.

To be a good writer. To be a good writer is something you just have to have. It's a creative process that you have inside of you and have to know how to manifest. I always knew that I was a good writer. I just needed to recognize that ability and I exercised it. I wrote everyday. Anything. I gave myself things to write. Tuesday I will write two poems. Wednesday, one short story. Thursday. Anything. I tend to do that sometimes still, If I feel my writing is falling off or I'm just getting lazy in the creative department.

One thing people tend to forget is that to be a writer you have to take in mind four words: Theater of the Mind. That's what writing is. Being able to build a movie in the reader's mind by using words. Unlike radio, where they can use sound effects, us writers can only use words to create that scene that the reader must have to get a good connection on what you want to say. There's a few little secret weapons I use to build that image for the reader. One of them is using music. Culture. TV.

I had an old teacher when I went to broadcasting school. He said a good journalist or anyone in the media realm needs to know one thing. A little about everything. Even if they reader doesn't know exactly when something happened or a song was released, they will get an idea on what era I'm writing about. If I wrote The family of four gathered around the large brown cubed box television with the dusty rabbit eats to watch Sullivan show , the reader knows I'm talking about the 50s or 60s. I can narrow it down even further now by saying something like The old man is on the couch resting his coffee mug on the face of President Lyndon B Johnson who was on the front page, while the tired garbageman reads-up on the Dodgers latest World Series win against the Twins. Only sports heads would know that the year I am talking about is 1965. Therefore, I try to narrow it down even further by mentioning that Malcolm got shot a few months prior or talk about the wife is humming the chart topping Like a Rolling Stone by her favorite singer, Bob Dylen. By now the picture is painted in the readers mind. I am able to go on. One thing I have learned about writing a short story especially is that 70% of the story is painting that image. 30% is actually telling the story. If you pay attention to movies, you'll realize it's very similar. Most of the movie is trying to get the viewer connected with the characters. The story is not really much of it. You won't have a feeling for characters if you don't really know them.

This is why I tend to use things I know about to make a better picture for the reader. After, what comes out is sometimes gold. Sometimes, not. However, I do know that the end product the reader will know what movie I wanted to play in their mind.

Write what you know about and use that to your advantage to become a better writer. Theater of the mind. Don't forget it.