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Showing posts with label Fiction Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction Writing. Show all posts

The Current of a Story: Themes

A theme of a story is a central message or idea that the author wants to convey to the reader. It is often explored through the characters, plot, setting, and conflict of the story. The theme might come from the ‘question of the story’ i.e. will the hero escape? will the princess survive the dragon? will Tom ask Mary to stay?

A.I. VOLITION IS A WILD RIDE

Okay, listen up people! You want to know what it would take to give AI volition? Well, it's a doozy of a question, my friends. We're talking about giving machines the ability to have their own desires and intentions, just like us humans. That's some next-level stuff, folks!

Hot, Scorching, Door Open, Door Closed

Everyone has their own preferences for the types of stories they enjoy. Especially when it comes to romance! In all of the books you’ll find on the Romantic Fantasy Shelf, romance is an important element of the story, meaning that if you were to remove it, you would lose something significant from the story. Of course, that’s why we’re all here, right? But also knowing the “heat level” or “steam level” of a particular story (a measure of the intensity of the romance) may be a deciding factor on whether or not it’s a good fit!

Bringing it To Your Story

I just came from a conversation which brought up a peeve of mine. This Be a good reader, to be a good writer. I want to assure you, that if you don't know what you are looking for, you're not going to suddenly recognize it from reading. Not from any author worthy of study. Because right now, you don't know enough to ask the question -- which isn't a slight. Not at all. Here are couple of examples of techniques being used which are going to slip under the radar. But maybe they will spark enough in your writer's mind to figure out a few others.

When It Feels Right: Emotional Connection

Most of the time I'm exploring the topic of Emotional Connection, it is for writing fiction, and making that connection with the reader -- a connection which will allow the reader to slip into immersion with the story -- what those in Psychology call Narrative Transportation. 

I'm caught in both worlds today. I've just completed my novel and in the editing phase, but this novel is being published under my name, not a clients/ghostwritten. 

To experience narrative transportation, the audience should experience empathy with the characters. Social psychologists Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby argue that when audiences take the perspectives and experiences of the characters in the story they “lose themselves and assume the identity of the character, adopting the character’s thoughts, emotions, goals, traits, and actions and experiencing the narrative as though they were that character.” 

As postulated by Green and Brock (2002), imagery indeed seems to play an important role in transportation. Using a more fine-grained measure of perceived imagery ability than in previous research (Green et al., 2008), the present study demonstrated that transportation into a narrative and identification with its protagonist vary across different media depending on recipients’ perceived ability to generate vivid mental imagery. 

“Transportation effects work through reducing counterarguing, creating connections (identification and liking) with characters and increasing perceptions of realism and emotional involvement,” say Green and Clark.

Green and Clark provide three ways narrative transportation works to change beliefs:
  • People perceive less intent to persuade.
  • People identify with and like the characters and then adopt the beliefs of those characters.
  • People may remember the events in a story as their own.(In an Aside, below, there is a link to an article on this phenomena of False Memories)


All that means to me is I can go further with the story, and keep my reader with me. 



Now let's switch gears and look at what the minds of Copywriting have to say on this subject. They don't call it Narrative Transportation, they call it Emotional Connection/Branding. 

The Ten Commandments of Emotional Connection:

i. From Consumers → to People
Emotional branding allows companies to create a relationship with its consumers that is based on mutual respect. This approach would help potential consumers to have a positive attitude towards the product, creating an attraction between the brand and the items being sold without being forced to purchase.

ii. From Product → to Experience
Emotional branding creates an emotional memory between the buyer and the product as a form of connection that goes beyond need. Need is based on price and convenience, buying the product experience has an added value to it which money won’t be able to buy.

iii. From Honesty → to Trust
Emotional branding builds trust. It is one of the fundamental values of a brand which requires genuine effort from the company. This brings total comfort to customers and it gives advantage to the company because the buyers will put their brand as one of their top choices.

iv. From Quality → to Preference
Emotional Branding helps a brand become a consumer’s preference. The quality is an essential factor to stay in business, however achieving preferential status by consumers mean that the product made a real connection with its users.

v. From Notoriety → to Aspiration
Emotional Branding shapes a business to be an aspiration instead of simply being known. Brand awareness creates familiarity with its users but to be attain success, the brand must be able to inspire the user to be desired.

vi. From Identity → to Personality
Emotional Branding teaches a company to build its personality to create a lasting impact on users. Brand personalities form charismatic attitude that would trigger positive emotional response towards the brand.

vii. From Function → to Feel
Emotional Branding makes experience as an important factor in creating brand identity. The product may perform according to its practical function, but emotional branding enables the user to have a deeper emotional experience while using the product.

viii. From Ubiquity → to Presence
Similar with having an experience, emotional branding promotes brand presence as it also creates an impact on potential users, ensuring a permanent connection with people.

ix. From Communication → to Dialogue
Emotional branding encourages to have a conversation with its target audience. It means that there should be a dialogue from the company relayed to the target audience via personal message to share actual experiences with the product.

x. From Service → to Relationship
Emotional branding helps create a special relationship between the brand and its loyal users. Creating a relationship with the consumers is perhaps the most important aspect of emotional branding because the company intends to have a deep connection with its customers and it will create an important bond among its users.
~ As Listed by Marc Gobé

Emotional branding uses the consumer's ability to process messages to promote a significant feeling associated with the brand.The two types of processing that a person can use to comprehend branding are Active Processing, which is learning that happens when deep, attentive processing is being applied, or, Implicit processing, which is when meaning can be processed without awareness. Emotional branding is quite complex, in that a person can interpret a brand image through attentive processing, but once their emotions are provoked, the meaning that they take from the brand image can be implicitly processed, or in other words, subconsciously created.
An example of this could be music playing in a store to create a subconscious mood.

There are multiple techniques for achieving an emotional response to a brand. The first, and perhaps the most complicated method is by attaching the brand to a certain set of ideological values. This works best when the advertiser has done substantial amounts of research on the demographic audience, knowing what values and ideas will trigger an emotional response and connection to the brand. The values can be embedded into the brand through images and language. An example of this would be the family values and essence of childhood and bonding portrayed in Walt Disney World Ads.
Emotional branding uses a series of themes and symbols to create meaning for a consumer. In this sense, "theme" means a concept or story line that is present throughout an ad, and if integrated well-enough, throughout the brand. A "symbol" is representative of the theme. Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders suggests that the symbol represents a promise and consumers buy the promise. The text reads, "The cosmetic manufacturers are not selling Lanolin, they are selling hope. We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not buy just an auto, we buy prestige."

As suggested in Edward Bernays' The Engineering of Consent, Themes must appeal to human motivations in order to be successful. Motivation lies deep with a person's subconscious desires to achieve or meet certain goals. Bernays suggests that there is an extensive list of factors that drive motivation based on both ideological values and personal experience.

There are a few techniques used with symbolism. The first is making the theme and symbol of a brand continuously publicized. The second technique is making sure that the theme and symbol hold substance and promote a specific idea about the company. The company symbol needs to be adaptable to a changing society while standing firmly as a set of values.

Symbols can represent multiple themes simultaneously, as suggested by Bernays. For example, a kitten can represent both playfulness and comfort. Symbols provide a promise for a sense of fulfillment associated with their brand. Vance Packard highlights the eight hidden needs that consumers have that themes and symbols attempt to sell. The eight needs are as follows:
    • Emotional security
    • Reassurance of worth
    • Ego-gratification
    • Creative outlets
    • Love objects
    • Sense of power
    • Sense of roots
    • Immortality
These needs, which are subconsciously emotion-based, serve as a foundation for emotional branding and allow marketers to create a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to consumer needs. People want to fulfill these needs, and advertisers promote the need to fulfill these needs in a perpetual cycle.

A second method of emotional branding is making a literal statement about a product and its association to emotion. An example of this can be seen in a 1966 Hamlet Cigar ad that states “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.”  This associates the brand with a particular emotion in the most literal way possible.

A third method of association to emotion is giving the consumer an emotional reaction to an ad, or in our case it would be a blurb. An example of this in advertising could be calming music playing simultaneously with images of people enjoying the product. This method works best when irrational emotions are evoked. For example, playing somber music with images of people struggling without the product would create an irrational connection to the product by playing on the consumer’s sadness. In one way, the brand creates a positive connotation with itself, in another, the brand creates a negative connotation of life without the product. 

It is important to note that emotional branding is something that comes with time and long standing presence. For example, attachment of the specific emotion of “nostalgia” to the Kodak brand of film, “bonding” to the Jim Beam bourbon brand, and “love” to the McDonald’s brand are built over time. Through repetition of these themes and symbols, these brand names have reached brand euphoria, where meaning no longer needs to be created, as enough branding has been done to solidify the brand image.


References

Green, M. C., & Clark, J. L. (2013). Transportation into narrative worlds: implications for entertainment media influences on tobacco use. Addiction, 108(3), 477–484

Kaufman, G. F., & Libby, L. K. (2012). Changing beliefs and behavior through experience-taking. Journal of personality and social psychology, 103(1), 1. Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., Giovannini, D., Capozza, D., & Trifiletti, E. (2015). The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 45(2), 105–121.

Galinsky, A. D., & Moskowitz, G. B. (2000). Perspective-taking: decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(4), 708.

Johnson, D. R., Jasper, D. M., Griffin, S., & Huffman, B. L. (2013). Reading narrative fiction reduces Arab-Muslim prejudice and offers a safe haven from intergroup anxiety. Social Cognition, 31(5), 578–598.

Green, M. C. (2004). Transportation into narrative worlds: The role of prior knowledge and perceived realism. Discourse processes, 38(2), 247–266.


Further Reading







Do Swear Words have a Purpose?

Should you use swear words? There are quite a few opinions out there about whether they should be used. Some people feel that there is nothing intellectual or edgy about swear words -- That they have no artistic value, and only show a lack of skill.

The first thing I want to know when asked about this topic, and many others that come in the form of "Is it alright to..?" is to know if the concern is as a Writer? or Morally? I can't help with morals. I don't find moral evaluation effective for fiction writing. Just about everything I post on this blog is from the POV of being a writer, and creating stories which have immersion value for the reader. With that in mind:

Perhaps a strong argument could be made that profanity itself is not intellectual. Maybe you could even make an argument -- that, aside from those who have endured injuries to the brain, or suffer from mental conditions, which make swearing an act beyond their control -- using profanity demonstrates a lack of intelligence. However, using fuck properly as a writer is intellectual. 

Studies show that sex-related insults in particular are common across cultures (Flynn, 1976), so they are good tools for keeping the reader inside the story, with a strong, impacting word. No matter what culture you are raised in, if you speak English, you are not going to be confused about the meaning of Fuck in the context of the scene.

Vocabulary Effect

Take a quick check of your emotional state at this point. How do you feel over all? Note levels of stress or tense muscles. Take a breath and relax. There are several memes in this article which will likely cause tense or stressful feelings as you continue to read. Be mindful and allow the feeling. Notice what happens when you read these words. Make notes. 
Having command of a lexicon, which is cross-culturally understood has obvious value to a writer, no matter what that writer strives in producing. This is hardly an intellectual justification for a small subset of the vocabulary, when there are others which could claim the same level of understanding. But there are qualities in certain words which other words do not possess.

A while back I posted a piece on the power particular words have on us:

Writers use words as tools, as keys, even as a mode of travel -- but it has come to my attention that many writers, even experienced novelists, don't really divine the concept that 'words have power'. Take for example the word yawn. Yawn is short, and basic. Yawn is not a command, and thus benign. Yawn is even a common word. We hear the word yawn all the time. When someone yawns, however, other people yawn.  In fact, you don’t even need to see me yawn do you? No. You don’t. You just have to read the word yawn, a few times, and your mind will react just like the word yawn was a real yawn, instead of just a word on the page.

Not enough novelists give this the consideration it deserves. It should be passed on with greater frequency, but even we minimize phrases like “Words have power”, hearing it as an esoteric belief, rather than a fact that has more than three decades of rigorous study behind the concepts to back them up -- with repeatable results. We feel or believe that this belongs to another era, the 70s perhaps -- when in fact it is more apt now than it ever was – in any other age.

So, back to what we are talking about, we know that insults, especially insults that refer to the act of sex a physically affecting. However, simply referring to sex or genitalia is not sufficient to make a word or phrase taboo. Our reaction to the word “fuck” is much different than our reaction to “coitus,” “make love,” or even “have sex.” There is also nothing special about the sounds or syllables in the word “fuck.” Close-sounding words—such as “duck,” “truck,” and ”buck”—are not prohibited and in some cases can serve as a more socially appropriate substitution for what everyone understands was meant to be a curse word, for example “mothertrucker!” (Pinker, 2007).

In certain situations swear words and taboo phrases have their uses: mainly to evoke a strong negative reaction from someone. Speech perception is nearly automatic in mature individuals (Pinker, 2007). Try this: don’t think of an apple. Did you think of an apple anyway when you read the word “apple”? With swear words, your mind
immediately drags up whatever offensive combination of forceful descriptors of the nastier aspects of things we may not want to think about.

Swear words are also useful and effective ways of conveying that you feel strongly about something or inciting strong feelings in someone else, even when used outside of their traditional definitions (Jay, 2009a; Pinker, 2007). Saying that something is “bloody amazing” does not mean that that thing was literally bloody, but adding the term “bloody” to the phrase gives it extra emotional emphasis.

However, swearing is not always about evoking negative emotions; swearing itself can also be a cultural phenomenon.

Denotations and connotations are associated with any word when you hear them, but swear words are more primal. Their connotations more profound on the reader, or listener. These make swear words powerful insults and forceful descriptors of the nastier aspects of things -- yes -- but also they are bridges to other aspects of meaning and description. For example:

The willingness to break a cultural taboo in front of others creates an atmosphere of informality and sense of community. A realism that pulls the reader into an emersion. If taboos are defined by the greater society, then an environment where subverting those taboos is acceptable creates a smaller, more intimate society inside of the greater society (Pinker, 2007).

Using this information it is easy to see how this is useful to demonstrate a MCs history. For example, your MC is a District Attorney. For the last three chapters he's dealt with criminals, but not once has he used profanity. He talks to the Mayor, to lawyers, to police officers. Perhaps these other characters have used profanity, or maybe not, but he has not. In chapter four he visits his parents house, and when he finds his cousin there, he says, "Holy shit motherfucker! When did you get back?"

We instantly feel that there is a strong bond between these two characters, and that they share a relationship that perhaps no one else in the family is a part of. It's personal, and intimate. It also demonstrates a level of trust between them. 


Another interesting use of taboo language is as a cathartic experience, a way of expressing and alleviating pain, frustration, stress, or regret (Jay et al. 2006). A classic example of this would be shouting “damn it” after hitting yourself with a hammer while trying to nail something down.

Swearing was also shown to increase the ability of subjects to tolerate pain (Stephens, 2011).


Using neuroimaging techniques such as PET (positron emission tomography) scans, they demonstrated that a small part of the brain called the amygdala is highly active when exposed to threatening, and vulgar words (Isenberg, 1999).

The amygdala is part of the limbic system, one of the primitive parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion and memory. In particular, amygdala activity is correlated with negative emotional associations; stimulating the amygdala can cause panic attacks and aggressive behaviors, while destroying the amygdala causes unusual placidness or fearlessness (Zald, 2003; Davis, 2001). Therefore, it makes sense that the amygdala would be activated in association with unpleasant words such as swear words. The amygdala also makes several connections to memory and association centers in the brain, which could also be responsible for the increased memory response when subjects are presented with swear words (Davis, 2001).

Is swearing harmful?

“Swearing can occur with any emotion and yield positive or negative outcomes. Our work so far suggests that most uses of swear words are not problematic.”

 ~ Timothy Jay and Kristin Janschewitz
The use of swearing in both aphasia and GTS gives us a real insight into how swearing works in the brain. Individuals with aphasia have damaged the normal parts of the brain which produce formal language, such as Broca’s area or Wernicke’s area, found in the left hemisphere of the brain. The fact that they continue to be able to swear suggests that swearing is localized outside of these damaged areas, and is handled differently than other parts of their vocabulary. Psychologist Chris Code, who studied individuals who had their left hemispheres removed, proposed that swear words and several other types of speech preserved in aphasic individuals fall into a category of “lexical automatisms” or automatic speech, which are localized to the right hemisphere instead of the left one (Code, 1996; Van Lancker 1999).

Swear words for fiction writers are tools. If you use them properly, the rise in emotional levels of the reader, plus the increased memory signature for the details described by the passage can enhance the story.

 But if you're just saying fuck to say fuck, well, fuck it.

Check out 100 Happy Words, and 100 not so happy


Further Reading



Inciting Emotion through Word Usage

Below are 100 words that incite Happy in the reader. 

There are many uses for this understanding of words and their usage. The Meaning of Words is effective, of course. Language would hardly be worth the hassle if that wasn't the case. 

Approaching Action and elevating tension

Have you ever read a novel that has tons of action, car chases, kidnappings, escapes and gun fights -- that doesn't keep you awake even though it is 10:00am on Saturday and you just finished two pots of coffee? Yeah, that's a common problem with newer writers and one that has some simple fixes. Since friends don't let friends publish crap, here are some of the tactics I use for action.

Nightmare Death


Night Terror AXIS I: 307.46
The rare sleep disorder goes by many names: night terrors, sleep terrors, pavor nocturnus, or AXIS I: 307.46 (The DSM’s code). It remains a medical mystery. What medical researchers do know is that night terrors are caused by an over-arousal of the central nervous system (CNS) during sleep. In children, this may be the result of the CNS still maturing — it has long been believed that the CNS’s maturation process ends in early childhood (although several recent studies suggest it may continue to develop through around age 25).

Medical Experts Seek Clues to 'Nightmare Deaths' That Strike Male Asian Refugees

January 11, 1987|LARRY DOYLE | United Press International

Since April, 1983

...at least 130 Southeast Asian refugees have left this world in essentially the same way. They cried out in their sleep. And then they died.

Medical authorities call this Asian Death Syndrome. The refugees have various names for it, one of them being Night Terror.


September is Rising
Marketing New Titles?




Marketing for authors is a larger job than most realize. In this post I've gathered some decent articles to get you up to speed and to offer insights you may not have considered.






On the Use of Chloroform

It is perhaps unfortunate that James Y. Simpson stressed the ease with which chloroform could be used to produce unconsciousness without resort to specialised equipment [1]. The potential advantages were not lost on the criminal fraternity who were quick to attempt a variety of crimes including rape and robbery under its influence. Unlike the use of the cudgel, the garrotte and the pistol it was not a felony in English Law to administer chloroform to another unless the purpose was murder or abortion!.

As early as 1851 it was public knowledge that chloroform had been used for various criminal purposes as witnessed by a well-known cartoon in Punch magazine of that year [2].

Let there be Light

Light is both waves and particles, but is also something that can not be truly imagined. Physicists have noted that light tends to behave more like a classical wave at lower frequencies, but more like a classical particle at higher frequencies, but never completely loses all qualities of one or the other. Visible light, which occupies a middle ground in frequency, can easily be shown in experiments to be describable using either a wave or particle model, or sometimes both.

The Right Word, not The Most Interesting

Oscar Wilde is my hero. Ever since I learned his last words. This quote is so bloated with meaning I could have gone to hero-worship on it alone.

People only hear, what they understand.

That's a maxim that should be taped to the desk right beside the keyboard, and never covered. People do not ask what a word means. Even though they could right-click the mouse and ask Google to define the word for them, they don't. What they do, is ignore the whole sentence and make something up. This is true. Read "Predictably Irrational". The whole sentence -- just gone..Your pitch is useless from there on.

Build Readership? or
Finish the novel First?

This is just my opinion, but after a couple decades doing this, I would worry about finishing the novel first.

Marketing is a full time job, and you want to be a writer. So, Write.

Seriously. Get the novel done, beta read, edited, and then the cover completed.

Now, this is a fast easy way to get your novel going so you can get back to writing. Because that is what we do, we write novels, right?

1. Write three short stories that go with the novel. Each between 10k-15k words. Craft them with all the skills you have, and tie them directly to the novel you just finished.

2. As a cycle, putting out one short story every week, on Wednesday morning -- Go on to Amazon, e-publish one of those short stories. List them for $0.99 but use the Special pricing of FREE for the four days they will allow you. One per week, and in-between start mapping out and researching your next novel.

3.  At the end of the run, publish your novel at $3.99 on amazon, no free option.

4. Once your novel is up, go to SmashWords, and run the same schedule.

5. Then, write another novel.

Never read or reply to your reviews.

...just saying.

The only thing I would add is a blog, but only if  you are going to commit to posting something every day. That is where you can answer questions or comment if someone gives you an opinion on your novel. But if you aren't going to commit to a post every day, then don't do it. A dead blog is death to your marketing.

Look at the list of my activity over on the side of this blog. See those first two years? Three? Yeah... I had a huge problem getting a readership "Back". Most of my readers (the ones from the writing I've done under my own name) had come and gone, a long time ago. Since I was ghostwriting these series novels, I didn't really give this blog much thought. And I'm grateful that when I came back to it I didn't need to get a readership up in a hurry, because my readers are only just now beginning to trust me enough to trickle back in.

And thank you for the chance. 



#amwriting #writerslife #write

The Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction

This list is 21 key traits of best-selling fiction excerpted from The Writer’s Little Helperby James V. Smith, Jr.  If you find them interesting, or helpful the author has several more great tips in his book. 
  1. Utility (writing about things that people will use in their lives)
  2. Information (facts people must have to place your writing in context)
  3. Substance (the relative value or weight in any piece of writing)
  4. Focus (the power to bring an issue into clear view)
  5. Logic (a coherent system for making your points)
  6. A sense of connection (the stupid power of personal involvement)
  7. A compelling style (writing in a way that engages)
  8. A sense of humor (wit or at least irony)
  9. Simplicity (clarity and focus on a single idea)
  10. Entertainment (the power to get people to enjoy what you write)
  11. A fast pace (the ability to make your writing feel like a quick read)
  12. Imagery (the power to create pictures with words)
  13. Creativity (the ability to invent)
  14. Excitement (writing with energy that infects a reader with your own enthusiasm)
  15. Comfort (writing that imparts a sense of well-being)
  16. Happiness (writing that gives joy)
  17. Truth (or at least fairness)
  18. Writing that provokes (writing to make people think or act)
  19. Active, memorable writing (the poetry in your prose)
  20. A sense of Wow! (the wonder your writing imparts on a reader)
  21. Transcendence (writing that elevates with its heroism, justice, beauty, honor)
To sell your fiction, you must pay attention to the Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction. FYI, the twenty-one traits are arranged in a kind of rough order.
  • Appeals to the intellect. The first five: utility to logic. To you, the writer, they refer to how you research, organize, and structure your story. These are the large-scale mechanics of a novel.
  • Appeals to the emotions. From a sense of connection to excitement. These are the ways you engage a reader to create buzz. Do these things right, and people will talk about your novel, selling it to others.
  • Appeals to the soul. Comfort through transcendence. With these traits you examine whether your writing matters, whether it lasts, whether it elevates you to the next level as a novelist.

Where do the 21 key traits come from?


They come from the most prolific, most complete, most accessible, most reliable survey of book readers in the world. They come from my study of the thousands of reader reviews on Amazon.com.

Reliable? Yes. Why? Because most reviewers visit a page to write reviews based on their emotional reactions to books. They either love a book or hate it. They were either swept away by the characters and story and language. Or they felt cheated by the author. Either way, they have to speak out.

You can duplicate my research. I analyzed reviews of bestsellers, the good reviews, the bad, and the ugly. I found patterns in the way people responded and sorted reader remarks into categories.

Go ahead. Find the best-selling book in the area where you want to write fiction. Find your own patterns in the first two hundred reviews. I’d be astonished if they were far from my list. These are readers telling writers what they want—or in the instance of a bad review, what they don’t want. You can learn a ton from this kind of market survey. Give it a go.

Then get to writing to satisfy your readers.

Buy The Writer’s Little Helper for more checklists, advice, and instruction on writing!

It is going to get Fakey this Year

This is a quote I found, I want to do some verification:  " On 7/31/2019 Trump has private meeting with Putin. On 8/3/2019, just three ...