Word Quotient Blog

Creative Writing & Web Presence Management

11 September

How to Create Imagery in Your Writing

The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine
- Robert Bresson

The power of written words when coupled with skillful and expressive thoughts is unquestionably mesmerising. It is imperative that writing creates a perspective and stirs opinions in the process. In essence, this relates to ‘imagery creation’ in your writing which connects the reader, treating fiction towards reality.

Writing is a kind of conscious dreaming. A writer crafts his words in a way that tangible expressions and pictorial phrases come alive. The writer creates a world, painting a vivid picture through words, in which the reader inadvertently finds herself pulled into. It helps in connecting the reader with the story and further making fiction more believable.

Ayn Rand, the famous author says, ‘With the exception of proper names, every word is an abstraction.’ Words can express the exact shade of meaning the writer wants. Creating that abstract world requires imagination. A work of fiction without imagery would be like a painting without colours. It depends, how colourful you want your painting to be.

Donna.A.Favors said, ‘A picture of many colors proclaims images of many thoughts.’ Few add-ons that can create an enriched imagery to your writing are:

1. Use of ‘colour noun’: To make your writing livelier and more specific, you can use colourful (descriptive) nouns than the generic ones.  A thesaurus helps in providing freshness and variety to the text.

2. Use of ‘figures of speech’: Adding similes, metaphors, analogies, personification, hyperboles, understatements etc. goes a long way in giving meaning to the description that the writer tries to portray. These figures of speech bring a semblance in the hypothetical scenarios that a writer creates. It takes the reader’s imagination to an entirely new level, where he/she compares and conjures up the situation, hence placing himself/herself right in the middle of the world created by the writer. Do not overuse them, rather use them judiciously and only where it is necessary. A good style is one that conveys the most with the greatest economy of words.

3. Sensory description:  Human beings are all about senses. The five senses that evoke emotions are sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. The combined effect of these senses in your writing makes the reader feel as if he/she is standing alongside the character, watching the events transpire. A feeling of involvement gets created, which makes the fiction more realistic. It helps in creating a sense of realism like a 3D movie. Although we suggest using these senses to complement your writing, rather than construct it.

The most essential skill of a writer is to show, not tell. This is an old adage but holds true as it captivates the reader’s attention like nothing else can. Imagery in writing connects the reader to the fictitious world created by the writer. The idea is to create a visual and aural world through written words, which is as exciting for your readers’ imagination as it is real for you, the writer.

09 September

4 Reasons Why Shakespeare is Forever

Is there a literate person today who has not heard of Shakespeare? Is there a student of the English language who has not read Shakespeare? Seems rhetorical, right? His works have influenced many a writer to become better. His stories have been captivating and his capture of human emotion is unbelievable! Indeed, as Ben Johnson has put it, “He was not of an age, but for all time”.

Yes, his writings have been relevant to his time then, as they are to our time now, and they will be for times to come. This is why:

1.    Expression of human emotions
Shakespeare was a master craftsman when it came to creating characters and their emotions. Each and every actor in his play, irrespective of the length and importance of the role was the closest portrayal of true human nature. His perception of humankind and their strengths and weaknesses is unsurpassed. Man will remain who he is and so will his emotions. Every essence of all human nature has been captured by the Bard in a very memorable way. T. S. Elliot has said of him, “I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.”

2.  Mastery of Language
Many a time we end up quoting the timeless phrases of Shakespeare to justify our emotions. His verses have touched millions of hearts across centuries and will continue to do so. His mastery of the language was such that he could write a complex sentence yet could be understood by a layman. It is poetic and yet simple. D H Lawrence sums it correctly, “When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder that such trivial people should muse and thunder in such lovely language.”

3. Great and timeless stories
His stories are across genres. He has written on romance as well as jealousy, on revenge as well as politics. The plots and the sub-plots within each story have you gripped even before you know it. His writings transcend generations and are still loved. Many of his works have been made into movies with a modern context. His characters have stolen our hearts and captured our imaginations as no other has. They could as well be a walking encyclopedia of human emotions all battling with one other. He is the source of inspiration for many writers. Many have even been inspired by his characters, like the well known Moby Dick has shades of King Lear. Need anymore be said?

4. Invention of language
 He was probably one of the very few writers who felt so limited by the language of his time that he had to invent words and phrases to keep his story running. If there is a “cliché” that you use, it was probably invented by him. Unbelievable? Take a look, words such as ‘amazement’, ‘dexterously’, ‘assassination’, ‘premeditated’, ‘dislocate’, etc. are but a few words that he introduced into the language. If you still feel his writing “is all Greek”, then that is also his contribution. “Without rhyme or reason” if you have been “tongue tied”, then also you are using his words. It is estimated that close to 3000 words and phrases that we use today originated in Shakespearean verses and sonnets. You still think his writing is irrelevant?

If quality of English writing has to be improved, then somewhere along the way, study of classics is inevitable. Classics are classics for a reason. They are timeless and eternal. Their themes and characters will always be special not only to the language but also to the people who read the stories, no matter what era they belong to. Among all classics, Shakespeare stands like a giant. His writings are and always will be relevant, no matter what. As Ralph Waldo Emerson expresses, “Nor sequent centuries could hit Orbit and sum of Shakespeare’s wit”.

04 September

Reading Maketh a Full Writer

Being literate doesn’t make you a good writer. Developing into a good writer is a continuous and often meticulous process. Some are born writers while others mature as writers. The similarity however, lies in the fact that any writer worth his salt is also an avid reader.

Any writing is about passion – the passion to write on a subject, the passion to bring out ideas in the best possible way, the passion to research every small detail in order to write as an expert. Without passion any writing is dead. But we all know passion alone does not account for success as a writer. Needless to say, as a writer you also need to be fluent in the language with a good grasp of grammar and extensive vocabulary. Reading helps to develop an appealing writing style that makes for good and easy reading as well. Without being well read though we never will be the great writers that we so want to be. Here is why:

1. Expanding knowledge: Our writing, often enough stands testimony to our experiences, don’t they? True, travel would do us a lot of good. But for those of us who have not yet got the opportunity to travel far, books are a wonderful means of seeing new places and learning new things.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”
- A C Grayling, Financial Times

2. Information: Well researched, well-informed and educated views are better put across while writing than those without adequate research. It is therefore essential not just to read but also to read suitably and aptly. But remember that reading is also for pleasure and not a task. So when we read for pleasure we enrich our minds and open our hearts to better and newer thoughts. The great Confucius said, “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”It is a very ignorant writer who thinks she can write without being at least a little bit of a reader.

3. Maturity as writers: Not only does reading give us necessary insight into a thought, but it also helps us develop as individuals. The more we read, the more we grow, and the more we mature as writers. The noted motivational speaker, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones said, “You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Reading books is a shortcut to growing as a person and a writer.

4. Improving our writing style: The books and authors of our choice determine our writing style to a great extent. We tend to write like the authors we admire or look up to. Their work affects us subconsciously and in many cases we effortlessly write like them. The wider our reading horizon is, the more writing styles we are exposed to and definitely more creative our writing will become.

5. Better vocabulary and grammar: It is way more entertaining to use newer words each time than to repeat the same word over and over again to convey something, right? Reading improves our word building and vocabulary in a manner unsurpassed by any other means and it is all fun. Who doesn’t like to have fun while learning? Better still, who doesn’t like to have fun while working?

6. Inspiration: Happy indeed is the man who can make his hobby his profession and enjoy each and every moment of it. However, there will be times when we feel demotivated and not inspired enough to write. That is when books can come to our rescue. Every time we read a good book, classic or the current bestseller, we are inspired to write better. After all, any writer’s block is cured by a bout of inspiration- which may very well come from your all time favourite book!!!

Writing puts us in our element. We constantly try to become better writers and we observe and try to learn from every small thing that comes our way. Though experience and observation lend a great deal to our lives as writers, its reading that maketh a full writer!

01 September

The Lifecycle of a Freelance Writer

Writing without effort in essence translates to reading without pleasure. Although writing is a private initiative, it ultimately opens up to public scrutiny and has the power to transcend borders and knowledge barriers. Freelance writing, like other written endeavours, is not only an exciting combination of analytical thinking, creativity, language proficiency, marketing skills and perseverance but as a key differentiator provides better opportunities towards ‘work-life balance’ and multi-tasking.

Not all freelance writers start as beginners but based on broad trends we can presume that most of them are beginners. The lifecycle of a freelance writer and the progression therein makes a fascinating study:

1.    The ‘Introspecting’ freelance writer: At this stage the writer as a beginner dwells upon the strengths and weaknesses in her field of interest and gauges her writing style on the following parameters:
a. Genre of writing: This can range from fiction to screenplay to serious writing.
b. Style of writing: Depends upon the target audience that the writer feels will form bulk of the readership.
c. Long term objective: Post establishing as a freelance writer, what is the writer’s outlook in the long run?

2.    The ‘Amateur’ freelance writer: This is the stage when the writer starts taking roots and begins to grope her way in terms of finding opportunities and creating a foothold in the literary world. The writer also comes face to face with objective feedback on her writing skills and hence is able to validate her own presumptions with real time opinion. This helps in reviewing the strong and weak points in her writing skills.

3.    The ‘Professional’ freelance writer: This is where freelance writing actually becomes the ‘bread and butter’ option for the writer. The writer is able to carve a niche for herself. Stabilising her stand in terms of better reach and equity with relevant stakeholders like clients, publications etc. helps the writer in taking up freelance writing as a full time career.

4.    The ‘Expert’ freelance writer: The writer has matured now in terms of her standing in the literary world, is seen as an opinion maker in many cases and is in a position to create new business opportunities and revenue streams due to her freelancing skills and networking over the years. The writer also has the ability to impart her knowledge and be a guide or mentor to the ‘introspecting’ or ‘amateur’ freelance writers.

5.    The ‘Transitional’ freelance writer: This stage may or may not overlap with the life cycle of a freelance writer and hence is optional. Here the writer may switch from being a freelancer to a full time paid professional depending upon myriad factors like the need for change, a feeling to do something different, a tempting career offer or the association with a big brand.

Freelance writing is catching on as a phenomenon slowly but surely. People with the right skills are increasingly looking at it as a full time career option, especially those who have constraints of time and movement. They would love to work on their own and from their homes.

No wonder, the world of freelance writing is witnessing a more structured marketing approach by freelancers in terms of creating visibility for them through networks, websites, blogs, word of mouth etc. It is hence not surprising that today a good number of young freelance writers across genres and writing styles are making a mark and name for themselves.

25 August

How to Write an E-learning Module

The best road map you can follow while writing an e-learning module is to go down the instructional design route. Instructional design methodologies are systematic and the results are worth the effort.

Stages involved in writing an e-learning module

Stage 1 - Analysis
The analysis phase is the first stage in the development of an e-learning module. Typically a training needs analysis is conducted to gather data on the goals for the course to achieve, the need for the course, the needs of the learners and the target audience profile. This data is used to formulate the terminal or high-level objectives of the module. The objectives essentially form the desired outcome of the module.

Stage 2 – Design
In this next phase, the design for the e-learning module is created. The data collected in the previous stage is used to develop the macro design of the e–learning module that includes the recommended instructional design solution and the assessment methodology. Post client approval of the high-level design, the micro-design for the module is prepared and the secondary objectives are written.

Stage 3 – Content gap analysis
At this stage, a content gap analysis is done to flag off and plug any missing content that may be required during production of the module. A prototype of the e–learning module is usually prepared at this point to give an idea of the look and feel of the course and its functionalities. A storyboard is prepared for the prototype based on the objectives.

Stage 4 – Production
Once your client approves the macro and micro designs as well as the prototype, the production for the e-learning module begins. Storyboards are developed according to the instructional design approach and the approved micro-design. Typically, each storyboard includes elements like the learning objectives, the ‘teach’ and test items. If the e-learning module contains a scored assessment, the test questions need to be tied to the terminal objectives. Job aids, a Help section and a Glossary are usually scripted once the development of all storyboards is complete.

This process is most effective when it allows you to revisit a particular stage in case you are not satisfied with the results at the end of that stage. This saves both time and effort in the long run as it allows you to fix mistakes before they snowball and have a greater impact on your budgets and timelines. For example, it is easier to make changes in the structure of the course at the design stage rather than trying to go back to the drawing board and make those changes at the time of storyboard development.

The learner is the focus
While all these details are important and cannot be ignored, do not allow your focus to shift away from the learner at any point. The acid test for your e-learning module is to be able to satisfy the learner. A badly developed e-learning module impacts the learner more than anyone else. So step into your learner’s shoes and see if he/she would think your course was worth the seat time and the effort spent. If the answer is in the affirmative, you know that your course is a winner!

19 August

How to Write for Children

As the beautiful saying goes, children are like water – bottle them up and they stagnate, let them run wild and they make a mess, but guide them and they bring life to everything they touch.

Undoubtedly, books are one of the guiding forces in a child’s life. Writing for children is an exhilarating experience, which needs a lot of imagination, insightfulness and an optimistic outlook.

Sid Fleischman said, “The books we enjoy as children stay with us forever — they have a special impact. Paragraph after paragraph and page after page, the author must deliver his or her best work.”

The writing can be informative, hilarious, mysterious or romantic. Just remember when you write for children, don’t write for children but write for the child in you.

Know your audience

4-6 year olds
Children in this age bracket would rather enjoy colourful stories with lots of illustrations –basically material that can call upon most if not all five senses.

6-8 year olds
These children are likely to prefer folk and fairy tales, short and sweet stories with happy endings and of course moral stories in which the message is built-in.

8-12 year olds
They can be taken as a more curious and inquisitive bundle. So, one can go for suspense, mystery, fantasy and horror. At this stage kids get distracted very easily. So, the story should be gripping and captivating.

Finally, the 13-16 year olds
Ah! The turbulent teens. This audience is the trickiest; with all the teenage turmoil they need something really worth their while. They can afford to read something with a serious plot along with romance, humour, sorrow, fantasy or science fiction.

Whatever the age group may be, just remember one thing: you have to get into their shoes. When one decides to write for children, the best way is to relive one’s own childhood experiences – emotional to hurtful to scary to beautiful.

In an interview, Sandra Markel, child author, advised aspiring authors saying, “Write!! But also periodically read out loud and listen with a reader’s ear. Always remember, writing began as a way to record what people were saying. It is still the same.” Many authors have claimed that their own children have helped them in writing for a child audience.

Let’s summarise all this into four basic points….

Selection of the theme: Once the theme is decided, one should portray real children as characters of the same age group. Children tend to relate to them faster, though smaller ones also love fictitious characters with human nature.

Language of the story: When we write for children, we should use more active verbs and most of it should be in dialogue form. The language should be comprehensible and uncomplicated. Though, inclusion of new words is a must, they should be in such a way that it makes sense within the context.

Pace of the story: Keep the pace of the story at medium levels as anything too fast or too slow could hamper a child’s imagination. The story build-up should facilitate the child’s involvement as if he/she were part of the story.

End of the story: The conclusion should tie all or any loose ends together.

A child’s mind is like clay, it can be moulded into any form. As Astrid Lindgren, a famous child author says “I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children can perform miracles when they read.”

As writers it’s the least we can do for the gems of the future. Isn’t it?

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