Why there is no such thing as the general public.

Okay, so it’s a long title…but don’t shoot the messenger!

This is not my own writing, but that of Elmore Leonard, author of ‘Get Shorty‘, the television series ‘Justified‘ and over 40 novels.

 

elmore-leonardBy most appraisals, Elmore has long dethroned Raymond Chandler as the greatest of American crime writers. Many critics argued that, if anything, the reference to genre slighted his contributions. Martin Amis described him as “a literary genius,” and “the nearest America has to a national writer.”

Elmore died over three years ago, on August 20, 2013, but it was his wish to be buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Birmingham, Michigan, a little over a mile from his house in Bloomfield Township. It took three years, but Greenwood finally opened up new plots, allowing Elmore to have his wish and be buried there.

Elmore’s ashes were interred at 10:30 AM this morning, in a brief ceremony lead in prayer by Monsignor John P. Zenz, Pastor of Holy Name Church in Birmingham.  In attendance, under a red canopy, were several members of Elmore’s family.

Elmore grave marker gives his name and the years of his birth and death.  At the bottom, is the inscription, “The Dickens of Detroit,” a phrase used to describe Elmore over the years that he actually found a bit puzzling.  In a 1997 article in the San Jose Mercury News, he said about the tag: “That has more to do with alliteration than truth, … I wonder what they would have called me if I was from Buffalo?

For those of you planning a visit, Elmore is buried in Section G, Lot R, Grave 2.

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So lets get back to this post and its long title!

Why there is no such thing as the general public

Do you ever have conversations internally about who it is you’re trying to reach with key messaging, only for someone to say that your target audience is “the public?”

How do you respond to this?

There is no such thing as the general public. The information wants of young parents are different to those of retirees, just what a healthcare professional needs to know is different to that of the person they are caring for.

Effective communications means understanding who your niche audience is. Only then will you be able to speak with them in a way that is appropriate, relevant and useful.

Questions you might ask to allow you to define who that audience is include:

– What is it you want your audience to do?

– Are they young or old, male or female, rich or poor?

– Where do they live and what do they do for a living?

– How knowledgeable are they about your cause?

– Are they looking for power and status, excitement and adventure, or an opportunity to enhance their skills and expertise? Are they time poor?

 

It may seem easier not to bother establishing defined target audiences, but this is a false economy. It is impossible to speak to everyone equally and in the same manner. Failure to define target audiences will result in wasted time, energy and resources, and a diluting of messages that will ultimately not resonate with anyone.

For example, if you are only concerned with raising the profile of your charity among ministers or industry leaders then you needn’t bother targeting women’s lifestyle magazines. Equally, if you only operate within a particular region of the country then your priority is likely to be on building relationships with your local media rather than focusing on the national press.

Once you have defined your target audience, you then need to know as much about them as possible. What they think, what motivates them, which websites they visit, which newspapers they read and how active they are in social media, etc. At its most basic level, this means using common sense and some desk-based research. More thorough and therefore more accurate audience research would involve polls and surveys, focus groups and paid-for data from research companies such as YouGov, Ipsos Mori, Kantar and others.

We think a really good example of knowing your audience comes from Macmillan Cancer Research whose fundraising for World’s Biggest Coffee Morning went through the roof after it changed its communications to focus not on what women over 45 could do for it, but what the charity could do for them.

Or another example would be Cancer Research UK. When it wanted to target young people with messages about skin cancer, it did so via a beauty campaign rather than a health campaign. By teaming up with models and skin clinics “R UV Ugly?” highlighted how sun bathing can damage your skin and speed up the ageing process – the intention being to target younger people who were concerned with their appearance and unlikely to pay attention to messages purely focusing on the health impacts of sunbathing.

We’d love to know about more great examples of really excellent audience profiling and the impact it has had on your communications, as well as ideas for sharing information about the nuances of your audience with colleagues.

***

Clearly we all have our own views and personal beliefs about how best to go about promoting and marketing our books. But I cannot ignor this form of advice from a writer who has, to a certain degree, been successful (by anyones measure)

I hope you have a great day.

Paul.

Want to know more about what I am up to just now? Then come on over to my website and have a mosey around.

Everyones welcome.

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How to write better… by watching more movies.

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 I for one love to read ‘the book’ rather than watch ‘the movie’. The reason is, I want to let my own imagination create the world the book has drawn me into.

I want ‘that’ character to evolve as I see him or her; guided by the author’s words, yes. But I do not want it forced upon me, in such detail, there is no room for my own mind to fashion form.

The pity is, there is no choice when watching a movie. A film shows the actress’s face and how the character’s voice sounds.

There is very little left for one’s own imagination.

Yet, I have formed some of my [best?] writing techniques from watching movies. Well, not just movies but TV dramas, plays, even commercials. Almost anything, in fact, which contains moving images.

Now, you may think, from what I have written above, I am contradicting myself by making what seems, at least on a superficial level, contradictory statements.

So I shall, in my normal ‘Rambling’ way, try to convey exactly how watching moving images has enabled me to hone my skill as a writer of words.

It is mostly to do with the film’s editing, a lot to do with camera work and a bit to do with stealing the director’s viewpoint.

However, before I can start on that, I must tell you when I am watching a film or TV with a ‘writers eye,’ it is not the same as watching for enjoyment or pleasure. Even if sometimes I cannot help but notice things when I have no intention of thinking about writing. (But that is my cross to bear, not yours. At least not yet, not until you have finished reading this!)

 

Ok. The Director’s viewpoint. This is probably the most obvious, yet, in this great scheme of things, the least important.

Imagine the opening shot of a film scene.

The camera slowly pans across a room, it is dull. Dust mots hang in the air, highlighted by faint shafts of light streaming downwards through a window. As the camera pans the_room_is_dark_and_empty____just_like_me_by_potpoorri-d5pvf7b.pngfrom the window, a small figure of a young girl wearing a white cotton nightdress is revealed.

This is gold dust to me.

The scene, altered to suit my style and the storyline I am writing, is something I can use.

NO… this is not plagiarism.

I would not copy it, but use the imagery as a base to create my own, dull room in which I could slowly reveal a figure of… someone.

My room may be a log cabin, a large warehouse or a compartment in a submarine. The light source could be from a fireplace, daylight filtering through a damaged roof or the ‘red’ lighting used on ‘that’ submarine.

The figure I reveal may be an old man, a dead body lying on the cold concrete floor or maybe the ghostly spectre of an old sailor.

BUT…. all this has come to me from watching the opening shot of the movie; seeing it, not from the ‘viewer’s’ eyes, not as a member of the ‘audience’, but from my imaginary ‘director’s chair‘. To have an understanding of the atmosphere the director was trying to create when he shot the scene and how the darkness, the light and the slow reveal assisted him in conveying the mood and ambience to those watching.

Recognising the director’s intentions and methods, simply leaves me is to translate the scene, or my version of the scene, into words, imagining it over and over in my own mind like a movie, so as I write, the ambience and timing of my own story is just as cohesive to the reader.

 

Secondly. Camera work.

While the above scene clearly needed the aid of a camera to record the director’s instructions, all of the actual imagery in a film is down to how things enter the lens. Yes, some of this is to do with lighting and the type of film used, but here I am speaking of the camera alone.

Firstly, the angle, the position of the camera to its subject. Not forgetting its height. Generally, a low shot, ground level, is used to enhance the perception of speed. Think about car racing or chases. How the tyres almost run over the lens or rock the camera as the vehicles flash past. (Yes, depth of field and all that matters, but it is not important here).

4240A high shot, from a boom, tall building, a crane or drone, one which looks down on the subjects, can give expression of vastness, loneliness or being lost.

Next time you go to the movies take note of where the camera is situated to get ‘the shot’. I do, it enables me to hold the moment, the feeling of vastness or loneliness, in my mind while I write my next paragraph.

Reading my words back to myself, I am hoping they evoke the same feelings; if they do not conjure the right imagery, as when watching the film, I will re-write, over and over, until I get it right.

 

Lastly, but for me the most important, is the Editing.

Now, I am not talking about editing words, but editing film, which is a totally different beast.

I cannot help myself with this…

When I have my ‘writers head’ on, I am constantly, without any self-control, watching for the ‘cuts’. Often more intently than whatever I am viewing. I know it is sad, but it is the truth… maybe I do need to get out more?

For those of you who may not be familiar with the terminology,  a ‘cut’ is an abrupt, but usually trivial transition from one sequence to another, usually, without breaking the flow necessary to keep an audience engaged with the narrative.

Cuts are noticeable when two characters are holding a conversation. Each time one character speaks the viewer sees who is talking. So, say firstly you see a boy speaking. When he stops the girl starts to speak and you see her face. That change of viewpoint, from him to her, that is a cut.

In fast moving action scenes and in most advertising, where time is at a premium, you will see many ‘cuts’ per minute. Chances are you will not have been aware of them… until after you have read this, when you will be unable to watch anything without trying to count how many ‘cuts’ are involved, even in the simplest broadcast. (Sorry.)

I hear you asking, how the devil can that help me write better?

Truth is, it may not help you.

But it helps me. This is how I utilize ‘cuts’ when writing.

For this explanation assume I am writing an important part of my stories plot, one where I need to get the emotion and feeling soaking into my reader’s psyche. This is one part of my book where I must get the reader totally immersed in the story, where they must believe they are living in my fictitious world.

I have already written the basic scene, it is in outline form, a rough, very rough draft. Now I need to build it, develop it, into a masterpiece.

Going back, to the early shot of the young girl in the dull room. Let’s say the story is of a child longing for her dead mother’s return.

This time, instead of using the scene as an opening, we will use it as a scene somewhere within the depths of the book, a part which needs far more input to make it ring true.

It is here I will start bringing in those [film] ‘editing’ tricks.

I shall still start with the description of a dull room, but this time I will place the reader at a set viewpoint, say, they are looking into the room, through the doorway, from an even darker hallway.

Once the reader has that firmly in their mind, I will ‘cut’ the shot.

Now the reader is looking down from above. (Remember this viewpoint conjures a sense of loneliness and being lost). This allows me to ‘open up’ the scene, to use words which reinforce the atmosphere I am creating.

I will employ words which carry connotations and suggest the values I desire. In this instance that could be, “a heavy shadow” or possibly, “even the floorboards seemed to weep with sadness as I crossed the room.”

I want the reader to envisage a large empty room, a figure, the introduction of my second character, walking across it towards the young girl. I want the floorboards to creak, to give an impression of neglect, of loss or of foreboding. (This can be used as a form of foreshadowing.)

The words ‘heavy’ & shadow’ both work well individually and better in combination.  With ‘sadness and weep’ I manage to blend the sound of the floorboards as they are walked upon without saying ‘creek‘ or ‘crack‘, which are ‘harsh’ words and far too direct to covey the correct ‘mood’ in this scene.

Cut.

sophia_blog1Now I use a close-up of the young girl. For the first time, we see her face, the way the “sallow light settled on her fair skin” or “her pale blue eyes, damp with tears yet unformed.”

Again using simple words which are descriptive of the girl character, but also in the context and reinforcement of the mood of the scene.

Cut.

Now… the viewer sees both characters together, giving a juxtaposition of size and age, hints at the relationship between the two. One speaks to the other… Etc.

The second figure could be a sister, a social worker or nurse, maybe the step-mother or even the ghost of the girl’s maternal mother.

Cut.

Now the viewpoint is of both of them looking out of the room, into the darkness of the aforementioned ‘darker hallway’; they have just heard a noise… “their heads snapping around, towards the sound…”ZGPIAp

Cut…

This is how I write many of my scenes. by watching a movie inside my head, in the darkroom of my mind. Personally, I find it helps me construct a whole, comprehensive section of my plot. It stops me rushing, stops me skimming over sections which deserve more care.

Please note, when I say ‘viewpoint’ in this essay, I am not speaking of the ‘narrator’s viewpoint’, but that of my imaginary camera/ cameraman I carry within my mind. Sometimes this may be in harmony with the narrative viewpoint, but more often is not.

Mostly I write a complete scene from a number of these converging angles, such as in the brief example above. But the stories narrative perspective is kept constant.

This is not to say I do not need to edit or re-write, far from it, but each time I do, I use the same technique to make ‘tweaks’ until the scene works. Editing and re-writes purely allow you to correct the detail and flush out unnecessary and often misleading words and to hone the cutting edge of the stories mood.

This way of writing may not work for you. It may go against all you have learnt about writing, or just not suit your style.

But then again, it may be worth having a go, maybe a short story or even a piece of flash fiction to start with. You could even employ it to write an Electric Eclectic book, why not have a go?

Or maybe you are struggling with a scene or section of your work in progress and I have now come along with this amazing and brilliant idea, one which gives you the next international bestselling book this millennium, or a Booker prize-winning novel?

If this proves to be the case, please keep me in mind when you receive that big royalties cheque.

Honestly, I hope you can glean something from this Rambling, whatever it might be.


 I am, as always, open to feedback and comments.

Oh, if you have not done so yet, please ‘follow’ this blog.

Thanks for reading, Paul.

You can read some of my short stories HERE

or visit my website HERE

where you can see my books, my blogs and what I am getting up to right now.

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Why would you even bother reading a book?

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    Believe it or not this was said to me today in a general conversation. Needless to say that the person who spoke these particular words did not know I was an author; I did not enlighten them either!

    However, for my part these simple few words started a chain of thought that, as the day progressed, continued to reoccur in various forms. This post is the result of some of the fleeting impressions these musings have left me.

    By the way I am solely writing with regards to reading fictional books, as this was the original topic of discussion this morning.

    For those techno-loving geeky types, I am not separating e-books from their paper counterparts as they were not distinguished as separate entities during the debate.

So on with the post…….Firstly, why read a book when we are surrounded by a plethora of various media platforms, allowing access to just about every form of entertainment available by a simple click of a mouse, a push of a button, or a touch of a screen?

My answer to this is that all forms of moving picture media leaves very little exercise for the mind.

Once again I will say ALL forms, whether it is a chick-flick or shoot-um-up film, a drama, play, soap opera, or another genre.

Each and every one spoon feeds the viewer the information required and therefore leaves very little, if anything for the imagination to create.

However involved the viewer may become in the plot of the programme he or she is watching, their mind is purely focused on the screen, watching antics and listening to the words of the actors alone.

Do not get me wrong, I enjoy a good film as much as the next man; I love watching plays and intriguing dramas, and yet no matter how well directed, produced, or acted they may be, such simply cannot begin to compete with a well written book.

What is so special about reading is that it can do something that no other form of entertainment can possibly achieve.fit-girl-working-out-fgp9n

A book can give your mind a ruddy good workout, a neuron enhancing, cognitive improving gym session like no other.

Allow me to explain……When you watch something on a screen you are seeing a story through the eyes of the director, via a screen writers interpretation of a story that has most probably been adapted from another medium, possibly that well written book I mentioned a short while ago.

Therefore what you are seeing is actually a director’s vision, of a third of fourth hand edited version of an original work. Doesn’t seem so good now does it?

Another downside to watching a screenplay is when one of the characters, (which will be the actors portrayal of the watered down interpretation of the directors version of that original piece of work), walks across the car park and drives away in a dark shiny car, you will see exactly from which direction the actor enters the car park, see how the parking lot is lit, know what model car he climbs into, and just how fast he drives away.

That is okay, but it is hardly fascinating, is it?

However, within those magic pages of a book all that action is yours, and yours alone. No one else will ever see the same man walk through the same car park and slide behind the wheel of that car. Only you know how the parking lot smells, which lights were dim and flickering. Only you can sense the suppleness of the leather seats and watch through the windshield as he drives, tyres squealing, up the ramp and out into the….daylight / darkness of a rainy night?

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Now you are beginning to see why I love reading.

Everything conjured up by the words on the page are designed to stimulate your mind, not only by guiding you through the storyline, the plot, sub-plots and twists to bring you to a conclusion, but to excite every cerebral nerve in your mind to create entire worlds where you can escape to for hours on end.

It is your personal world, an exclusive world, where every drop of rain, each blade of grass, the people who inhabit it, the scents, the very texture of material are all yours, and yours alone. A semi-mystical fantasy world where love, hate, lust, passion, jealousy and forgiveness can be experienced without fear.

There is no other form of entertainment that can even come anywhere close to that which can be delivered by a good book.

As I have said above, I love reading, I enjoy the escapism it provides. Which is also why I enjoy writing; when I write I hope to give my readers the same experience, the same satisfaction that I get when I’m deeply lost, in my own netherworld, following the storyline of a Novel.

Even if you do not read one of my books, please buy one, even two of somebody else’s and start reading straight away. I know you will enjoy.

Thanks for reading this!

Paul.