Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 17 Creative Writing Assignment

Welcome back to our creative writing class! Hope you enjoyed last week’s assignment. If you have any questions, don’t forget to e-mail me. Quick reminder based on questions: you can cut and paste your assignment into an e-mail, or you can save it on your computer and attach it to the e-mail as a Word document--whichever one is easier for you.

Let’s look at some basic writing reminders:

*             The goal of writing is communication. As writers, however, sometimes we say a whole lot of nothing. We use too many words or “empty” words that sound impressive but don’t tell the readers much. We also tend to overuse words. For example, if I am telling you about a product or describing a person and I use the word “special,” what does that really mean to you as a person who may not be familiar with that product or that person? The word “special” has been used so much that it really doesn’t always mean a lot to the reader (unless you’re telling a parent, child or other relative that they are special, then that can mean a lot!). You have to tell us what is extraordinary about your product, person or belief rather than say they are special or extraordinary. Example: Mike is an extraordinary cyclist! Buy his book today to read about his wonderful adventures. (This is weak and empty writing.) Mike amazed the cycling community when he completed the 2,007-mile bike route in three months. Buy his book to read about his trek along the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. (This is specific and communicates details.)

*             Always think of your objective to decide if you are communicating effectively. Why are you writing this? Do you want to sell something? Are you explaining a belief or a thought that you want people to agree with? Do you want people to take a class or answer a survey? Are you writing something to entertain people or teach people? Do your words match your objective?

This week we are going to use two writing styles to communicate to your audience: persuasive and descriptive. Persuasive writing encourages the reader to do something (support an organization, donate money, buy a product, vote for a candidate, etc.). The language actively encourages someone to do something. Descriptive writing, however, uses words to paint a picture or relay a thought or feeling to someone. In descriptive writing, you may choose to use more adjectives or more emotions to tell your story.

Examples of persuasive writing:

Vote for John Smith!
Buy today while prices are reduced!
Donate online today or send your check to______.

Examples of descriptive writing:

“…the old, ivory piano keys and the brass harp from underneath the worn structure cried out the soft notes that her every finger touched within the seconds, her foot pressing lightly on the dampening peddle, making the notes she played even more forlorn…” From one of our student assignments from last week
“…a sweet and perky yet diva-like personality…” From one of our student assignments from last week

Assignment 1 for all students:

As a writer, you can’t just tell me that something or someone is special or extraordinary or unique. You have to choose descriptive words and active verbs to convey the same meaning. If you are in marketing (writing ads and website material), you have a limited amount of space to do this. Look at ads this week to see how effective ones use 5 to 50 words to capture your attention and sell an idea or a product.

Find one ad (in a paper or magazine or on a website) that caught your attention and seems to use effective communication to get an idea across. Send me the best quote from that ad. It doesn’t matter what the ad is for, and it doesn’t matter how short or long the quote is. This can be from a church ad or a nonprofit group flyer. It can be an ad for a product or asking you to support a person You can search a newspaper or a magazine or a website.

The more you read “good” writing, the more you strengthen your own skills.

Now to the next assignment for all students:

This assignment has two parts. First, think of your favorite homemade meal. This can be a dish you make or one that another family member cooks for you. (Take a few minutes to jot down notes on what you like best about this particular dish or meal.)

Part one: Now you have to market this meal or dish. In 60 words or less, tell me about your product and try to convince me to buy this dish as if you had it for sale in my local market or restaurant. This assignment will be persuasive writing.

Part two: Now you have to write about this dish as if you are including it as part of a short story or novel. In 100 words or less, describe this meal as if a character in your book is cooking it or eating it. Make the reader picture a scene with the food in the kitchen or just coming out of the oven, or write as if the food is already on the table with a character tasting, smelling and enjoying this food. This part of the assignment will be descriptive writing. (I don’t have to know anything about the character or your “book”--I just want to have the food scene.)

Notice how your objective will be different for each part of the assignment. In the first part, you are trying to market or sell your product. You want someone to take action. In the second part, you are entertaining your reader and drawing your reader into a story with specific details of a meal. Your word choices will be different in each part.

How does this help me at all? Each assignment helps you strengthen your writing skills overall by just getting you to write. As with any skill, the more you practice, the better you become. Also, this assignment helps you identify your objectives for writing. At times in life, you will need to use persuasive writing to convince someone to hire you or consider you for a scholarship. You might be trying to influence someone to publish your book or hire your band. At other times, you are going to be writing to convey an idea or entertain a reader.

This assignment also forces you to choose strong, active, specific words to convey your idea in a limited amount of space. If you write a newspaper or magazine ad, you aren’t allowed to use many words. Same thing goes for a resume or a job application--you don’t get much room to tell someone about yourself.

Quote for the week:

 “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” - Helen Keller

Example of persuasive writing from a university website:

“It's never too late. Increase your earning potential. Each year hundreds of adults complete their degree program at the University of ______ leading to increased salaries, better jobs and greater satisfaction with their lives. We're here to help you succeed. Let us show you how to reapply, help you decide what courses to take and, together, we'll map out a plan for you to graduate. For additional information about the Back on Track program, please contact …..”

Example of persuasive writing from another university website:

“_______University offers an intellectually challenging academic program with a commitment to continual spiritual formation while engaging the world. For more information…”

Both are very descriptive, with neither using “empty” words such as great, special or extraordinary. They give details that will capture the reader’s attention.

Designer’s note selling a kitchen design to a future homeowner or someone remodeling a home:

“Dark walnut cabinetry builds a modern foundation for this kitchen. Materials such as stainless steel, custom glass backsplashes and granite further the modern aesthetic while remaining elegant. Butter yellow hand-tipped leather stools add the perfect accent to a very monochromatic color palette. This kitchen is anything but cold.”

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