Stories are not hard to tell, but writing stories involves creating structure. Experienced writers understand that structure, in the form of the five narrative modes of fiction, intimately. These narrative modes of fiction are action, dialogue, thought, description, and exposition.
About the Narrative Mode of Description
Description sets the mood and the scene and provides an explanation. It gives the details about some place, person or thing. It should serve the story and be a mechanism for immersing readers in the fictional world the characters inhabit. The challenge is to avoid over-describing.
About the Narrative Mode of Action
Readers are engaged and remain engaged when something happens to the fictional characters. The action in the story moves it forward. Action drives the arc of the story and reveals information about the characters. It is something that happens and can include dialogue, gestures, and other activities.
About the Narrative Mode of Dialogue
Dialogue is spoken action. It is conversation between characters that can also help to evolve the characters.
If a writer wants to highlight a trait in a particular character or focus on a subject of discussion, the writer maintains the focus by not distracting readers with other narrative modes during the dialogue. However, writers bring additional meaning into the interplay by including action and thoughts when relevant.
Dialogue boosts pace and narration. Compelling dialogue is not just talk. Readers become absorbed in the story when characters say things we do not expect of them and are not predictable. Writers should avoid making characters sound alike; in real life people have their own individual ways of talking.
About the Narrative Mode of Thought and Monologue
Dialogue, thought, and monologue move the story along, build tension, and reveal something about the character. They can even be contrasted with the others for effect.
About the Narrative Mode of Exposition
Exposition is used to provide details about characters or the story. It is used in the beginning and during transitions, for instance to inform readers about passage of time, change of place or mood, or change in the focus character. It tells, rather than shows, readers about important elements of the story or characters.
Writers can be creative with the use of the modes as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights illustrates. Despite the significant time-shifts in the novel, Emily Bronte maintained a continuous narrative using a multi-layered narration technique. Emily Bronte’s narrative technique reveals her mastery of the writing craft. Distinctively, the action in this memorable novel is presented as eyewitness narrations by characters who participated in what they describe.
Every work of fiction contains these modes, but the ratio varies. For most writers, determining when the different modes can be woven together or used separately improves with practice.
Samuel “Billy” Wilder was born in Vienna, Austria in 1906 and moved to Germany for work. Before he became a screenwriter and director, he was a reporter and drama critic. He subsequently left journalism and became a prolific writer for the German film industry.
From the German Film Industry to Hollywood
Wilder, who was Jewish, came to the U.S. after fleeing Germany to escape the Nazis. He was fortunate to arrive at a time when the studios allowed screenwriters to direct movies made from their scripts. He co-wrote several films with Charles Brackett, including Ninotchka and Ball of Fire.
Wilder’s career as a contract writer with Paramount began four years after his arrival with the film Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (his first movie for Paramount). The movie studio head at the time was German–born filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch, who had directed Wilder’s script for Ninotchka.
Wilder’s work covered a wide range as revealed by his films Ace in the Hole, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sabrina, Some Like it Hot, Stalag 17, and Sunset Boulevard.
Billy Wilder’s Screenwriting Tips
When he was interviewed by James Linville for The Paris Review, Wilder said, “Sometimes when you finish a picture you just don’t know whether it’s good or bad.” Nevertheless, in Conversations with Wilder by the screenwriter Cameron Crowe, Wilder shared his screenwriting tips, among them:
- Remember that the audience is fickle.
- Know where you are going with the plot.
- Grab the audience by the throat from the beginning, and do not let up until the end.
- Allow the audience to add up two plus two to win over the audience forever.
- Give the main character a clean line of action.
- A good screenwriter capably hides the plot points.
- Add to what the audience is seeing in the voice-overs, not what is being seen.
- The end of the movie is triggered by the event occurring at the end of the second act.
- The third act builds the action and tempo until the final event.
- If there is a problem in the third act, the root is in the first act.
- Do not leave the audience hanging at the end.
One of Hollywood’s great writer-directors, Wilder maintained that writing gave the movie its direction. He preferred to write with a partner and co-wrote each one of his twenty-four films. He began writing with a partner because of his limited English but continued it because he liked it.
Raymond Chandler introduced a new kind of detective hero in The Big Sleep, his debut novel published in 1939. Philip Marlowe was a regular guy who was smart, witty, and often spoke directly to the reader. Unlike Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of him in the movie, Chandler’s creation was funny and literary. Perhaps his literary bent was influenced by Chicago-born Chandler’s early life in England. He wrote poems and reviews in England before leaving for America.
Realism in Fiction
Before he started writing books, Raymond Chandler wrote stories in pulp fiction magazines and developed his writing style before his foray into books and screenplays.
In his 1950 essay The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler wrote that the old novels that appeared stilted in his time were realistic for people of the day. However, crime novels of the past and present were too often not realistic. Chandler was not a fan of most of the crime fiction that was favored by mainstream publishers in his time.
At the time Chandler entered the detective story genre, the genre was dominated by the English formula, which did not impress him although he complimented it for its “more sense of background” details. But he said that these novels were “too contrived, and too little aware of what goes on in the world.” The English-style writers of detective fiction loved by the publishers didn’t write about the “kind of murders that happen” nor “about the authentic flavor of life as it is lived.” Chandler wrote about such murders.
Despite that, according to confessed detective story addict W.H. Auden, Chandler’s books were “works of art.” Auden discussed Chandler and detective fiction in his article, The Guilty Vicarage, published by Harpers in May 1948. Chandler’s crime novels covered gritty subjects, and he had a keen eye for details himself which, according to Judith Freeman who wrote a book about him, gave them their authenticity.
Plots Should Stand Up to Scrutiny
Chandler valued books that did not have implausible, unrealistic storylines. In The Simple Art of Murder, his takedown essay of a praised work by A.A. Milne, The Red House Mystery, Chandler reveals what is wrong with the crime novel.
Aspiring writers can take heart that Chandler acknowledged that when it comes to plotting, “(e)very detective story writer makes mistakes.” He himself failed to identify the killer of the gardener in The Big Sleep. But mystery fans continue to like Chandler because his “story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth,’ with a hero “fit for adventure.”
Chandler revolutionized crime writing and influenced generations of crime fiction novelists after him. Read The Simple Art of Murder to learn more about his likes and dislikes.
Knowing your target audience is a vital element of successful copywriting. This affects the information contained in the messaging, its tone and voice, and the type of marketing materials used to target the different types of potential customers. Selling to business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) target markets takes their differences into account.
Differences between the B2B and B2C Target Audiences
Potential B2B customers expect some industry terminology and understanding of the specific industry being targeted. They feel comfortable with material that reveals familiarity with their language and industry.
Being technical will not lose potential customers; technical information helps distinguish the product or service being offered from comparable products in the market. It also helps the purchasing customer persuade superiors about the value of the product or service being offered. Copywriters should check to see how comparable products and services are being marketed.
The B2C audience includes a diverse range of potential customers, who are more or less knowledgeable about the product or services being marketed. The marketing material should accommodate the diversity of potential customers in this market. Typical language should be easy to understand by readers with an 8th or 9th grade reading level. The National Adult Literacy Surveys in 1992 and 2003 revealed that average adults read at 9th grade level. The 2013 data revealed little change from 2003.
The B2B and B2C Target Audience Viewpoints
B2B marketers and copywriters should take into account that potential buyers are on a budget. The marketing of products and services should present how beneficial (compared to competitive products/services) and cost effective they are.
Unlike B2C customers, B2B readers are not impulsive buyers. They want to have good reasoning to support their purchase decision because they may be answerable to superiors. A copywriter for a client serving the B2B market needs to provide copy that clients believe will reflect well on them with their employers. The marketing material should answer as many potential questions as possible to make it easier for purchasers to justify their choice.
Potential B2C marketing customers make their own decisions and are not answerable to others. However, they also want to get value and have budgetary limits. Marketers understand that customers can make emotional decisions. Even with a discretionary product or service, marketing material aims to persuade potential customers they need or would benefit from what is being offered.
However, despite the general differences, B2B and B2C marketing approaches do have something in common. In both contexts, it is individuals who make the decisions. Copywriters need to write copy that appeals to potential individual consumers in either the B2B or B2C markets.
There is value in writing well. Even if you are a multi-tasking, frequently-under-stress executive, making time for better business writing is worth it. It is not frivolous or tiresome; indeed, communicating effectively will benefit your career. See below for some tips to get you started.
Think First and Write Afterwards
Your communications need to be engaging and plain-spoken, so that your style of composition does not burden busy people. Effective writing is a cultivated skill. Do not write prematurely; think first about what you want to communicate. People who think as they write do not convey their thoughts clearly. Their communications lack structure. Be thoughtful, and avoid haste. Consider what your reader (or readers) should think or know after receiving what you sent.
Do Not Bury Your Point
Present the main idea first. Impactful business writing has clarity. Summarize your point in the beginning regardless of whether you write a memo, proposal, or an email. It will help you better craft your argument/communication. You will save your audience’s time, and your writing will stand out by being direct.
Avoid Padding Your Message
Emails should be brief, clear, and specific. The beginning sentences should let the reader know about the rest of the message. You will capture the attention of busy professionals by giving them a brief summary of the contents in the opening of your message.
Each word should matter. Be concise. Get rid of filler words and phrases. Grandiose language reflects verbosity, not intelligence. Convey the objective clearly. Use stronger action verbs, and remove prepositions for more direct language.
Avoid Acronyms and Jargon, Where Possible
Industry-specific jargon and acronyms may be necessary sometimes, but when used frequently they indicate laziness and bore the reader.
Write with a Natural Tone
Writing that is either stuffy or overly casual hits the wrong tone. Be natural. Write the content quickly, and edit it later.
Review and Edit the Text
Go over what you write. Read your writing objectively, and remove unnecessary words and content. Readers pay less attention to verbose content. When appropriate, ask for feedback from colleagues, especially if you are writing a proposal, report, or an important memo. Other viewpoints will help you improve.
If your business writing is not as clear as it should be, then focus on how to improve it. Put yourself in your recipient’s place, and consider whether what they will receive is what you wanted to convey. If you have the time, read some books about improving business writing.
The IAPWE is excited to announce that our new blog is now live. The IAPWE Blog will serve as an additional home for news and updates relating to both the IAPWE as well as other local organizations that are helping to support writers and editors in their communities.
We will continue posting content on the blog on this site as well, however, for more frequent updates and information on local events throughout the world, you will want to check out our new IAPWE Blog.
Fifty-four percent of B2B marketers and fifty percent of B2C marketers identified content production as their greatest challenge in the 2015 annual report of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). This is good news for capable content writers looking for business in this market.
Why You Should Check Out the B2B Writing Market
With rates of $1 per word or more, the B2B writing market is worth checking out due to the growing appetite of businesses for increased content. CMI’s Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends survey for 2016 revealed that seventy-six percent of marketers intended to produce more content in 2016 than they did in 2015. Fifty-one percent intended to boost their budgets, and for sixty percent content production remained their top challenge.
This indicates a booming market for writers who are skilled in writing content to sell services and/or products to other businesses and to write engaging copy about business problems.
Understanding B2B Content Writing
Since the target audience represents their employers, writers need to have the information required to make the purchase decision and/or compare the offered service/product to other comparable services/products. Potential purchasers need information they can use to justify their selection among companies. This may include background about the supplier, the price, technical specifications, and any other relevant information.
The B2B audience values information, including statistics, about the return on investment from purchasing the services/products being offered. This audience receives information today through a variety of mediums. B2B writing involves press releases, ads, and other marketing materials including articles, white papers, case studies, and blog posts on the company’s website or wherever the potential audience can be reached.
Each kind of for-business writing has a standard format and best practice within its genre. Using social media to connect with the target audience is part of the process.
Skills of Successful B2B Content Writers
Desirable B2B writers know how to write convincing content that is relatable, engaging, and readable. They know how the leadership, marketers, sales force, and customer service departments collaborate to serve the interests of the business.
B2B writers are comfortable with internet-based research. They know how to search online to find relevant information and familiarize themselves with the terminology used by businesses in specific sectors.
Writing search engine optimized content to attract online traffic, including basic knowledge of SEO keywords, is part of the skill set that effective writers need to become successful in this niche market.
With hundreds of thousands of U.S. businesses having websites and/or marketing budgets, there is no shortage of potential clients for interested content writers. If you have the chops, go ahead and pitch your talents to prospective companies. If you are new to the market, learn how to develop your B2B content writing skills before you approach potential clients.
How do playwrights effectively write their story for the theatre? There are many steps to that process, and the most important is understanding the medium. This is because the play is the production version of the text as interpreted by the director, choreographer, actors, set, sound, lighting and costume designers, dancers, musicians, technicians, and any other collaborators who participate in realizing the blueprint created by the playwright.
Presentation Exceeds the Written Content
The theatrical presentation of the play is much more than the actual content of the play. The written text contains the characters’ dialogue and some directions about the characters’ actions. The collaboration of the theatre professionals with the playwright presents the text in its theatrical form for viewing by an audience.
The playwright’s vision controls the play, but the production is a collectively created product. The content of the play provides the foundation on which the theatre professionals base the live experience. The director usually leads the coordination of this creative effort.
While the written content does not change, the performance can change as it is of the moment. This can lead to innovative interpretations such as the audience participation (immersion) in a 2013 adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial at the Shoreditch Town Hall in England. In fact, live theatre adopting aspects of the video game industry’s immersion technique is an innovation we will likely see more of in the future.
Before Becoming a Playwright, Immersion in the Medium is Important
If you are thinking of writing a play, get to know the limitations of the theatre. Experience the process of creating theatrical productions. Watch rehearsals; participate in a production; take a course, if you can. Familiarize yourself with the many limitations of live performance in this medium, including time and space.
Most Plays Are Used by Ensemble Groups
Your play will have more chance to be performed if it has no more than six characters. This is because ensemble groups that have small budgets and few actors perform most plays today. The setting should be easy for limited budgets.
Lighting and Movements Can Create/ Suggest Moods
Lighting is one of the tools used to highlight mood in the performance of a play. Blocking and movement can also be used to depict moods.
The more you know about the dynamics and elements of the theatre, the better prepared you will be to write for this medium. Becoming familiar with the theatre setting will help you deftly write content that fluidly comes to life in the theatrical production.
Aspiring writers should understand the difference between a novella, novelette, and short story. Each form has a specific structure and varies by word count. Some stories are best when they are brief; others require a bigger storyline that can still be finished in one sitting. The idea behind a novella may require more layers and plotting to do it justice.
No Standard for Differentiating Each Classification by Word Count
There is no universal standard for the different classifications. However, standards established by organizations such as the Science Fiction Writers of America provide some guidance. For the SFWA, a short story is up to 7,500 words, a novelette is more than 7,500 and up to 17,500 words, a novella is more than 17,500 and up to 40,000 words, and a novel is 40,000 words or more. Page counts vary, as formatting influences page counts.
Brevity Does Not Diminish Quality
Making a living out of selling shorter works is possible: with the advent of e-books, writers are frequently able to sell works of shorter lengths. Busy readers find it easier to read shorter works of prose. Some writers have found that selling stories individually is better than selling collections because it is easier for readers to choose what interests them.
About Short Stories
Well-written short stories are not inferior to longer works of prose. Every word counts in a short story, and for some writers that is one of the challenges of writing in this shorter form.
In the era of e-readers, short stories are becoming more popular, and their writers are being recognized with major literature awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Man Booker International Prize.
Novelettes Allow More Details than Short Stories
Novelettes help authors improve their craft. The writing style, plotting, and character development are displayed in this short form of fiction that is more structured than a short story. A novelette helps authors boost their readership by piquing the readers’ interest in a more compact form than lengthier works.
Novellas or Short Novels
Many beloved and influential books have been novellas. Famous novellas include Animal Farm, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Of Mice and Men, and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For publishers, shorter debut novels provide a lesser time commitment that encourages readers to get to know a new author. Longer works are subsequently less of a financial risk for publishers after an author has developed some recognition in the market.
Every story finds its ideal length when it is neither underdeveloped nor diluted. A piece of fiction should be as long as it takes to tell the whole story. Writers should not try to limit their story’s content and should allow the story to determine the word count.
However, size matters in publication. Writers should research the market and find out the specific parameters of publications, publishing houses, editors, and agents regarding word counts. Then they should submit the manuscript that shares the same structural parameters.
Children’s literature is not a poorer form of fiction. Writing for children connects authors to the most enthusiastic readers and impacts their lives. A 20-year study has revealed that books at home increase the potential level of education of children later in life. If you are considering writing for children, you will be rewarded by your choice.
Children Read More Books
As revealed at the Nielsen Summit in 2015, 11 of the 20 top-selling books in the country between January 2014 and September 2015 were children’s books. Children’s literature is booming internationally as well. Kids are voracious readers. They read more books than adults. The publishing industry’s dominant growth sector in 2014 was the children and young adult category, according to the Association of American Publishers.
Reading Improves Children’s Brains
It is rewarding to know that your work has a positive effect on your readers. A study of 17,000 people in England, Scotland, and Wales revealed that reading for pleasure boosts intellectual progress. Those who read books frequently at age 10 and more than once a week by age 16 earned better test results. The impact of reading was found to be almost four times greater than having a parent with a post-secondary education.
Moving Fan Mail
Young fans’ sincerity and their sharing of how meaningful books have been for them makes this genre a special one for writers of children’s literature. Children’s book authors love and treasure their fan mail! To give you an idea, the chroniclebooks.com blog on February 18, 2015 presented a sweet collection of fan letters received by authors for Letter Writing Month.
Making a Living from Children’s Books
Advances vary for children’s book writers. According to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, the advance for a standard project ranges between $8,000 and $12,000. However, as this amount is shared with the illustrator, the writer may end up receiving between $4,000 and $6,000.
Royalties are paid after the book sales earn back the advance amount. Royalties vary but typically range between three and a half and six percent for a picture book, and otherwise between seven and 10 percent.
The payment rates are different if a writer is employed to write a book. In this case, payment is made either per word or per hour. Per-word rates range between $1 and $5, with $3 per word being the average, according to Writer’s Market. Hourly rates range between $50 and $70 per hour, with the average around $63 per hour. In addition to writing, speaking fees for children’s book writers range between $1,000 and $2,500 per day.
Books that sell well also sell in bulk because schools and libraries are ready customers. It is hard work to write something that engages children and holds their attention, but the hard work of writing pays dividends.