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Latest News in Writing – Nov. 2015 Edition

We’re going to be starting a new post series called ‘Latest News In Writing‘ where we highlight some of the most interesting current writing-related news content that we personally curate. Without further ado — here is the first edition!

mockingjay book proofreading movie

The last film installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy of books released this weekend to a $101m box office, which was apparently a “disappointment”. Forbes wrote an interesting assessment of why, essentially concluding that the series of films (and books) lost hoards of fans after the glitz, glamour and violence of the characters competing in the Hunger Games ended and the real, gritty, slow war with the Capital began — “What if much of the appeal of this politically angry and unconventionally cynical fantasy franchise was merely embraced as a crowd-pleasing example of the things it most detested?” Alanis Morisette would be pleased.

unpublished charlotte bronte peom discovered

An Unpublished Charlotte Brontë poem has been discovered and is being sold for $300,000 to The Brontë Society. “The poem was found along with a sliver of prose, folded into a book that belonged to the author’s mother, Maria. The book had been on a boat carrying her belongings that was shipwrecked off the coast of Devonshire, England, in the early 1800s. It was one of the few artifacts belonging to Maria Brontë that survived.”

robert galbraith jk rowling career of evil book cover

J.K. Row–Ahem– Robert Galbraith released a new novel on Oct 20, the third in a mystery/crime novel series, called “Career of Evil”. J.K. Rowling is finally doing interviews to promote the books, since the whole world is well aware of her pseudonym (and we have been for a while now).

 

author book news editing service

Three YouTube stars are now bestselling authors. Yes, you read that correctly. YouTuber “PewDiePie” has over 40 million subscribers (regular viewers) to his channel. That’s more than most print magazines, and most TV shows. Every video that he puts out immediately has about a million views.  YouTuber Shane Dawson has only 5 million subscribers, but that was enough to land him a bestselling book.

 

book shonda rhimes year of yes

Shonda Rhimes is awesome. Yes, this is news. As if creating 3 critically acclaimed (and wildly popular) TV shows while raising 3 children as a single mom wasn’t enough, she said yes to everything for a year and then somehow found time to write a book about it.

 

Mastering the Complex Language of Meme Speak

Over the past few years, internet users have experienced a growing phenomenon called MEMES. Even if you’ve been living under a rock and you’ve never heard of a “meme” (pronounced meem), you’ve probably seen one and just didn’t know that’s what the kids are calling them. It’s given rise to a brand new language — “Memespeak” or “LOLspeak” — the use of intentional misspelling to covey humorous improper pronunciation of the content.

For instance, the phrase “Oh my God” might instead be spelled “Ermahgerd” on a meme, because when sounded out, it sounds much funnier than saying it the normal way, almost like you’re saying it with food in your mouth. This type of meme speak (yes, there are different types) was inspired by Cartman’s voice on the TV show South Park. Arguably the first meme to use this type of meme speak was the “Ermahgerd” girl, who was recently interviewed by Vanity Fair about what it was like to be the face one of the most famous internet memes of our time.

memespeak writing

If you’re still lost, here’s a translation: Gersberms = “Goosebumps”, “Mah” = My, “Fravrit” = Favorite, “Berks” = Books.

When saying “Yes” in memespeak, one can either say “Yis” or “Yas”. Added letters convey more excitement or satisfaction, illustrated beautifully by this meme of an owl being stroked by a human being:

memespeak yis owl

“Yisss” = I strongly approve of this.

There are also sub-languages within meme speak, such as “LOLcat” and “doge”.

meme speak lolspeak writing book editing

There are plenty of memes, including LOLcat memes, that don’t alter the English language. When English is used properly in these memes, it’s meant to denote that the speaker is of superior intelligence and intellect than average. Take for instance Grumpy Cat, who speaks in perfect English, but in the short, catch-phraseology of meme speak.

Doge is particularly interesting. Basically, seemingly random words are stuck on a photo, almost like thought bubbles, to convey speech or thoughts in the apparent incongruent, spastic way that dogs think (like the dog in Pixar’s “UP”).

lolspeak meme speak doge editing service

Where and when did all of this start, you ask? It all began with the infamous “I can has cheezburger?” meme. I Can Has Cheezburger? is the name of a weblog-format website featuring videos (usually involving animals) and image macros. It was created in 2007 by Eric Nakagawa (Cheezburger), a blogger from Hawaii, and his friend Kari Unebasami (Tofuburger). The website is one of the most popular internet sites of its kind. It received as many as 1,500,000 hits per day at its peak in May 2007. ICHC was instrumental in bringing animal-based image macros and lolspeak into mainstream usage and making internet memes profitable.

book proofreading humor

ICHC was created on January 11, 2007, when Nakagawa posted an image from Something Awful of a smiling British Shorthair, known as Happycat, with a caption of the cat asking, “I can has cheezburger?” in a style popularized by 4chan (a huge online message board). It is from this image that the site derives its name. After posting similar images, Nakagawa then converted the site to a monetized blog.

Reference articles (because this is serious stuff):

Writing a Novel vs. That Movie in Your Head

Does this sound familiar to you?

You watch a lot of movies and TV. You have a great imagination. For fun, you close your eyes and make up your own stories, seeing them play out. You might even listen to some music for a soundtrack. You grab your favorite actors for the roles of the heroes and villains. You make up big action scenes in slo-mo. You use fighting moves from your favorite video games.

At some point, you realize the movie you’re making in your mind is actually pretty good. You’ve got some original stuff in there that other people might like. You’ve got some twists and turns. And so you think, “Hey, I’ll start writing this stuff down.” Finally, you think, “This is going to make a great novel.” You might even think, “I’ll make a fortune selling the movie rights.”

There’s only one problem. (Well, there are hundreds of problems when you’re writing, but there’s only one I’m going to talk about right now).

Writing a novel is more than transcribing that movie in your head.

We Have More Senses than Seeing and Hearing

When people read a book, they want to feel they are “there,” living the story. A sure sign a writer’s got a movie playing in her head is that all the imagery in the novel is visual and auditory.

We smell, taste, have a sense of balance, feel, experience pain, get thirsty, itch, and a lot more of the same in our lives. While visual and auditory information take up a lot of our attention, we are easily distracted by a toothache or growling stomach. A room can look like heaven and smell like hell (especially when I haven’t cleaned the cat box).

Writing that only uses two senses can never feel like life.

You Cannot Recreate Movie Effects in a Novel

gaston beauty and the beast reading book

The movie in your head might look fantastic. It might run like a video and be exquisitely detailed. But you must remember that your ultimate product is a bunch of words on a page. Watching something explode and reading that something exploded will not produce the same effect in an audience.

Moreover, you are writing a novel, not a movie script. Slo-mo, distorted sound effects, lens flares, rack focus, and other such techniques are made to produce a super-heightened reality for a story told in two hours on a huge screen in Dolby stereo while the audience downs oversized buckets of popcorn.

The words on the page are the only tools through which the reader experiences the story. They should not be tools to remind us of movies we’ve seen.

Too Much Detail Kills

The experiences of reading and watching a movie are different. While a busy and well-filled screen can make for an immersive experience, it is a strange quality of writing that often less is more. Writing should fuel the reader’s own imagination by providing just enough detail and imagery. A single phrase on the page can build a universe in the reader’s mind.

And I’m not just talking about literary classics like Hemingway’s “The Killers,” which is a masterpiece of using tight writing with specific detail to tell a story of great emotional impact.

I also mean something like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. The scenes where the dinosaurs attack people have short, direct sentences, quick and vivid descriptions of action, and terse dialogue.

Giving too much film-like detail and direction, no matter how beautiful it is in your head, actually stifles your reader’s ability to make your story their own.

A Novel Has No Soundtrack

A pet peeve of mine: stories that use lyrics to popular songs in an attempt to simulate a soundtrack. A couple is dancing in the rain, and the radio is playing, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. But I look around me and I see it isn’t so.”

Blech.

More to the point, music is used in movies to set mood and drive pace. Good soundtracks do this well because, most of the time, we don’t notice. Movie scores work best when the audience takes it in unconsciously, helping their heart to race or their tears to swell.

Reading takes conscious effort. When a novel mentions music, readers don’t start playing the music in their heads, set the tune to “unconscious,” and then keep reading. They think about the music and wonder what it’s about. Then they stop thinking about the music and think about the next words on the page.

It’s All About the Words

Let’s take an example of great writing.

Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

(“The Dead,” James Joyce)

At first, yes, this could play out as a movie in your head: see the snow falling, see the bog and the water, see the churchyard.

But the passage does so much more, and what it does a movie can’t. The repetition of the words and the soft sounds of “f” and “s” mimic the sound of falling snow, not like music but like thoughts. Look at how well we are put inside the character’s head here. We experience the wandering of his mind across Ireland to Furey’s grave. Look at how the reader is invited to get more meaning from the “barren thorns” than just an image of thorns covered with snow. Look at the grace notes. It reads like a poem.

Words and words alone make novels. That’s what makes them so great and, for better or worse—depending upon which art form you favor—so unlike movies.