Archive for November, 2016

Ah, the deep thoughts that enter your mind when you have just a little bit of spare time to think. There are entire clickbait articles on these types of things. I know. I’ve read several. Many of them still have my head swimming. However, the questions that I considered recently had a lot more to do with a subject that those reading this blog should be able to relate to: who are you writing for?

Of course, this question can have several meanings itself. The first meaning that will pop into many people’s minds is “Who is your target audience?” This is actually an unbelievably important thing to keep in mind when you are writing. What age group are you shooting for? Are you hoping to attract a particular gender of readers or perhaps those with a certain interest set? It’s necessary to know the answer to this question in order to have it help guide your writing. It should shape your choice of words, your characters’ styles, and even your choice of cover art. Research your target audience. Even if you feel that you are part of the very group that you are writing to, it would be a good idea to question and contact those outside of your own comfortable circle of friends. The world often looks different to those who aren’t you.

The other way of interpreting this question is a little deeper. It delves into the idea of why you are writing at all. Who is it that you are doing this for? Let’s go ahead and get the common response to that question out of the way. All writers will say “I am writing for my readers. They are the ones that make me sit down at the keyboard and put my heart and soul into my writing.” It makes for a great acceptance speech at an award ceremony. The problem is that while this answer is not false, it isn’t entirely true either. Of course a writer writes for their readers. Even those who haven’t shown their writing to anyone hope to have someone read it some day. It’s like saying that a chef cook for the eaters. Of course they do. People don’t cook something up for hours, look at it, say to themselves That looks pretty good! and then throw it in the trash. That would be ludicrous. There is someone left out of this whole equation: the writer.

If you write something, you feel that you have something to say. You feel that someone else should hear your words in a way that you might not be able to say aloud. Perhaps you feel that the people that need to hear your words are those that you might otherwise never have an opportunity to communicate with. You feel that you have something to contribute to the world, and you have found writing as your way to make your contribution. So when asked who it is that you write for, the honest answer is that you write for yourself. Some people are afraid to say this because it seems selfish or arrogant. I disagree. When you write, you are sharing with the world some of your inner thoughts, your imagination, your dreams, and all of the things that make you, you. You are really putting yourself out there, open for criticism, ridicule, debate, and validation. When you are writing, you aren’t being arrogant, you are being vulnerable, and that can be a very noble gesture.

So, who do you write for? You write for yourself. Feel free to admit that with pride and no shame. You are making your contribution. Don’t be afraid to recognize that.

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Any Language Arts teacher on the planet will tell you this: our vocabulary seems to be shrinking. It isn’t that we aren’t exposed to new and descriptive words, it is the fact that we don’t use them once we are exposed to them. Am I exaggerating? Does it really matter? Forget the cowboys, I want to know where have all the synonyms gone? (Sorry for the old music reference!) Well, that is what I decide to try and tackle with this video blog.

I was out from work on Monday because of illness. I asked the substitute in my class to instruct my creative writing class to write a description of the favorite place that they have taken a trip to, then pass it to the person behind them and see if they can draw a picture of that scene. Today, the students informed me that she said that they could also describe a place that they would like to visit. I wasn’t annoyed at the substitute for that, but it did kind of crush what I was trying to tell the students.

I tried to give them an example of how different a description can be when you’ve experienced something by talking about one of my vacations. I don’t think that it quite clicked. Instead, I had them take a tally of how many things in their description appealed to each of the senses. Once they did that, I collected their numbers and showed them the results. It confirmed what I thought. Visual descriptions outnumbered all of the others two-to-one.

You may have heard that when you write a scene, you should paint a picture for your reader. Humans are, after all, very visually-oriented creatures. When you send a friend to find someone, the first thing that they ask is what the person looks like. A good visual description can go a very long way in creating a wonderful scene. Still, we leave the other senses out of the fun, and they really want to play!

Many people can take a quick look on the internet and write a pretty good visual description of Washington, D.C. on a Saturday, but don’t you feel more like you are there when they start talking about the smell of the food from the food trucks? Everyone enjoys a good description of a sunset at the beach, but describing that distinct difference between the feeling of dry and wet sand on your feet as you walk along really sells the scene. I enjoy watching a movie as much as anyone, but I would much rather take part in a holodeck adventure that engages all of my senses!  (If you don’t know what a holodeck is, please watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. You owe it to yourself!)

You certainly don’t have to travel to every location that your writing takes place in. That would be very impractical. But by engaging all of the senses when setting your scene, you allow your reader to travel to all of the locations of your writing, and isn’t that the whole point?

 

Featured image courtesy of holdingyourfeettothefire.com