Category Archive: proofreading

Mar 28 2013

Writing Scenes, Settings & Descriptions Using the Film Director Method

director2I like to invent crazy methods for writing, and the film director method of writing descriptions is one of them. I’m assuming no one has claimed this method before, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had. Anyway, it’s easy to apply a method for crafting, especially if it works. Methods are an easy way to remember how to do something and do it well.

So, what is the film director method of writing scenes, settings and overall descriptions? And how can it help you write great descriptions?

What is the Film Director Method?

 

First, it is exactly how it sounds. We all dreamt of seeing our book played out on a movie screen, and this method involves doing exactly that.

According to Wikipedia, a film director is the person who “visualizes” the script while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision. In this case the “actors” are your characters and the “crew” is your writing skills. So in other words, a film director sees the film played out in their heads or on storyboards, etc., before they align actors (characters) and crew (writing skill) in order to portray that visual onscreen. This is exactly what you should do when writing your story so readers can visualize your scenes in their minds. A lot of the time, writers tend to see the story played out in their heads but fail to portray that vision onto paper. We tend to forget that the reader needs a lot of information, given in the right way in order to stimulate their senses and make them feel like they’re a part of the story. I’m going to show you how the “author” becomes the “director” with this method.

 

How to implement the method (the right way to stimulate senses):

 

When writing descriptions of settings, scenery, or even character description:

  1. Remember which character’s point of view (POV) you’re writing in and use their own words to describe what they see. This way it would feel true to life and true to that character.
  2. Use descriptive wording or verbs that match the tone and mood of the story. For example, the metaphor, “the boulder dropped out of nowhere like an anvil from a Looney Tune’s episode,” may be considered too cartoonish for a post-disaster tale.
  3. Use all of your senses. Putting the reader in the story is not just about describing what the characters see but also what they hear, smell, feel, and taste. This way you create an experience for the reader and not just telling a story.

Use the 5 senses: Showing vs. Telling. The film director method

 

If you’re wondering the difference between showing or telling, imagine “showing” is similar to using a camera to show the moment onscreen like a director, and imagine “telling” as the actual script telling how the moment should be portrayed onscreen. Readers want to “see the film” not “read the script.”

Show = Camera. Tell = Script. With that in mind, here’s how to use the five senses to describe settings, scenes and characters in your story.

  • What do you see? Not just a concrete floor or a small room. Show your readers by thinking like a film director. Imagine holding the camera yourself as you capture the scene. What color is the concrete floor? Does it look smooth or rough? What makes it look smooth or rough? The cracks and chips flaking off the surface? The way the character’s feet slide effortlessly across as she walks? Show what the camera is picking up. Is it zooming in on a particular spot of the floor? Where and why? The floor in the corner of the room stole your character’s attention because of the puddle of water that has collected there.
  • What do you smell? Is the water leaking from sewer pipes that give off a foul stench? Is it stagnant water from the previous evening’s rain? Or by the smell of it, is it something else entirely, gasoline, urine, oil?
  • What do you feel? Heat? Cold? Moisture? Static or tension in the atmosphere? A breeze? Motionless air?
  • What do you hear? Trickles of water, paint chips from the walls as they fall to the concrete floor, an uneasy silence?
  • What do you taste? Can you taste the bitterness in the air from the smoke coming from the burning pile of hay outside the barn?

Remember, everything that happens in the story including the things the characters sense must be important to the story. Even if the purpose is to show how dirty a place and its residence are, or poorly a place has been taken care of, or how maintained, etc. Everything in fiction happens for a reason and have to make sense in the overall scheme of things.

Using all the senses in description is how to get comments from readers about how they were immersed in the story and felt like they were in the book right alongside your characters. By simply envisioning yourself in the director chair and by writing down the words which describes exactly how you see your story unfolding on a big screen is how to get one step closer to providing that immersion experience for your readers.

Do you have a method you want to share? What do you think of my method?

Mar 15 2013

Proofreading Tips: Kindle and Microsoft Word’s Text-to-Speech

proofreading

While proofreading one of my blog posts for correct spelling and grammar on my Kindle, I’ve found a helpful little tool. Kindle’s text-to-speech may be under used for the reading of e-books, however, I find the feature great at finding misspelled words and misplaced punctuation.

How exactly does it help?

When you upload your file to your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD and turn on the text-to-speech feature, by tapping the screen once and pressing the “play” button the female voice will start reading from the top of the current page. I find that following along with the voice as she reads helps find the errors easier than reading it myself. Why is this? Because you’ve written the words so you already know what it is supposed to say. So when you reread the same scene, your eyes may sometimes scan over the misspelled word and your brain computes it as the word you intended instead.

For example, I only found that I had misspelled the word “through” several times in a manuscript after reading along with the text-to-speech feature because it was only when she said it aloud did I realize I had been spelling “though” and mistakenly reading it as “through” even when reading it aloud myself (which is a well-known tip in proofreading).

Reasons why it could improve your proofreading experience

Like I mentioned above, there are many tips out there already, especially the “read your text out loud” tip. It’s a great tip, but text-to-speech takes it a step further and has someone else read it to you without literally having someone else read it to you. Here’s other ways it can improve your experience:

  • She pronounces the words exactly how it’s written, so if it’s misspelled or not as emphasized as you’d like it to be you can highlight the word or text to fix later.
  • She uses inflections at the end of sentences ending with a question mark, pauses appropriately at commas, semicolons and periods, making it easier to measure your sentence flow.
  • There’s slight variations with quotes that gives her a little personality and helps with the story flow. (Now, I argue about this “fact” with my hubby because he claims not to hear a difference while I like to think he just doesn’t notice, which would be a good thing. However, when she reads multiple back-to-back quotes without tags, we both seem to keep up with which character is talking and when. It may vary for you.)
  • She uses a slight breathy tone when reading to make it sound like a human reading and not a robot or computer-generated … but not always. This also helps with the flow and clarity.
  • Whenever you find a mistake, simply hold your finger over the word and highlight or make a note so you can return to that specific spot later and fix your error.

Some possible downsides

  • Kindle Fire HD only has one text-to-speech personality. It features a U.S. English speaking female voice only.
  • You can choose how fast or slow you want her to read, standard is at 1x but ranges from 0.7x to 4x. This could be a positive but I find it difficult to hear her pronunciation of words clearly or the inflections with punctuation if it’s set at anything beyond 1.5x, and too slow for me at 0.7x. At 0.7x her breaths seem to drag and she sounds bored, as if she’s on the brink of yawning. Not good.
  • Making a note of your error stops the reading. When pressing play, reading begins from the beginning of the page no matter where you left off.

Uploading files to your Kindle

You can email your Kindle Word and PDF files, here’s how:

  1. Find out your Kindle email address by logging into your Amazon account.
  2. Scroll down to “Digital Content” under Digital Management and click “Manage your Kindle.” It may prompt you to sign in again.
  3. On the left under Your Kindle Account click “Manage Your Devices” and it will tell you to Send to Kindle Email Address and provide you with that email. Each Kindle you own will have a different email address.
  4. Simply attach your file(s) to an email and send it to that address. Your file should appear on your Kindle within minutes if not instantly.

Activating Text-to-Speech

Now that you opened your file on your Kindle here’s how to activate the text-to-speech feature:

  1. Tap the screen and press “Aa Settings.”
  2. Tap “On” located next to Text-to-Speech.
  3. A play button will be present at the bottom of the screen on the reading progress bar when the text-to-speech feature has been activated. Press play.
  4. You can change the speed on this progress bar by pressing the 1x button and toggling the different speeds. The 1x button is located at the bottom right while the progress bar is displayed.

Microsoft Word 2013 Text-to-Speech

I think it’s best to use Kindle’s Text-to-speech feature for novel-length manuscripts or lengthy documents. For proofreading shorter works like blog posts or short stories, for instance, I’d use Word’s text-to-speech feature. Here’s how for Microsoft Word 2013:

  1. Open a blank document
  2. Under the File tab go to Options
  3. Click on the Quick Access toolbar and choose “Popular Commands”
  4. Find “Speak” and add it to your customized toolbar
  5. Save. And find it at the top of your toolbar as a quote bubble with the play button
  6. Highlight the text you want it to read and press the quote bubble

Other info you should know:

  • Kindle Paperwhite does not have the text-to-speech feature
  • Earlier Kindle versions have options to toggle between a female and male voice
  • Some e-books and some files like PDF files do not have the text-to-speech feature
  • Microsoft Word’s feature is a male voice and sounds more computer generated compared to Kindle’s feature
  • For more tips on reading on Kindle fire HD and text-to-speech visit Amazon.com help center

 

I hope you find text-to-speech a helpful feature as I do. Have you used this feature to proofread your works? How was your experience? Leave a comment below and please subscribe to my blog for more tips on proofreading and more.