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Thursday, October 28, 2010

WR 6.1.Annexes- The write stuff.

ANNEX1. The write stuff


WARNING: This column contains humorous material that could result in sudden laughter. Please note that sarcasm, hyperbole and other cheap literary devices are employed. The reader accepts these risks and the dangers thereto, hereunder, whereupon and furthermore.
I'm just back from 10 days in Los Angeles and it's a miracle that I survived, given all the dangers that surrounded me. Everywhere I went I saw warning labels telling me I was at risk. It started the instant I stepped off my plane and saw a sign saying "Beware! Floor may be uneven!" It continued through endless warnings on every coffee cup and pizza container saying "Danger! Contents are hot."
When we visited Universal Studios, my son's amusement rides posted so many warnings that I should have brought a lawyer. For instance, the Jurassic Park water ride warned visitors not to "experience this attraction" if they had any of a dozen conditions including: "Heart problems, abnormal blood pressure, or if you have experienced motion sickness, dizziness or claustrophobia."
Even the escalators sounded scary with warnings that said: "Caution: step onto centre of step, while facing forward. Do not sit. Do not face backward!" It's a wonder anyone gets off them alive.
Behind all this caution is the fear of frivolous lawsuits that are launched every day by armies of U.S. lawyers who sue first and ask questions later. They sue doctors for wrong diagnoses or restaurants for food that's too spicy.
The growing warning mania also fits right into our modern paranoia about the dangers lurking behind everything from toys to playgrounds. The result is an epidemic of labels that treats us all like we're idiots - from sleeping pill bottles that warn "MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS" to fishing lures that say "HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED."
Many of these weird warnings can be viewed on a website run by the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch.Last week the organizers announced the 2006 winner: a washing machine label that warns: "DO NOT PUT ANY PERSON IN THIS WASHER."
Among my favourites are an electric drill that warns: "This product is not intended for use as a dental drill," and an iron that says "Do not iron clothes on your body." Also, a Superman kids' costume that says: "This cape does not enable wearer to fly!"
Canada doesn't have as many lawsuits but warning label mania is rapidly spilling over our border anyway. Every electronic product I buy, from my shaver to my camera now says stuff like "Do not immerse in water."
Even your basic ladder now comes with more warnings than steps, starting with "Place on solid ground and unfold before using."
Frankly, I don't think the world is getting any safer as we label it with more warnings. If anything, it's getting more dangerous as we all tune all these warnings out. At L.A.'s amusement park, everything sounded lethal, from the escalators to the "fog effects," so I just I ignored all the warnings. The fact is when everything is dangerous, nothing is dangerous - because the word itself becomes meaningless.
So no one is better off, except for lawyers.
NOTE: If you are experiencing nausea or fatigue STOP READING immediately and consult a physician. These may be symptoms of column overdose.
BE ADVISED that no animals were killed or mistreated during the writing of this column. Nonetheless, do not swallow this column or attempt to drink it - especially if you are sensitive to fog effects. [Full text at]

Annex 2.
The write stuff (By Josh Freed - The Gazette / oct-2001)
The following is adapted from Journalism in the New Millennium (Sing Tao School of Journalism,’98).

WARNING: This essay contains irony, honesty other cheap literary devices. The reader accepts these risks and the danger of irritation therein. 100% SMOKE FREE.

THERE ARE TWO REASONS for the above paragraph. First, it’s true and you might as well know it. Two, it’s a way of getting you to start this essay by letting you know it could be fun.
Writing is also a way to entertain readers, and the same time to enlighten them. I think a strong opening, lively imagery, humour and good writing are critical elements of good text whatever medium you work in, because they encourage the reader to read your story. And most texts should be aimed at an audience, not at posterity.

Much as we’d like to think the reader has an obligation to read our story given the time, thought and serious research we put into it, "serious" doesn’t count for much these days. In fact, it counts for less and less as people have more choice over what they read and watch.
But you don’t necessarily have to be agreat writer to liven your stories up.

For me, the best stories combine style and content – giving the reader something to reflect on in a way that’s enjoyable to read. I think what’s often forgotten in teaching the five W’s is that they can be helped out with a sixth. Along with who, what, where, when and why, it’s nice to say, "Wow! This is a great read!"
good writing is critical – the backbone to any good story.

Finding a good angle
Half of every story is the spin you give it, a fresh angle that makes you see an old subject in a new and interesting way. If you’ve got a good subject, or a good angle, the writing and telling is always easier.

The art of the opening
A good story is a bit like a seduction in which you slowly pull readers in with your wit and charm –they might be a little more tolerant of your flaws.
Every journalist knows the process starts with the "lead," the crucial few words, sentences or images that get a reader hooked.
Why not be a bit more creative? All you really need is an original thought or a catchy line that grabs the audience’s attention.

Writing to be read
Just because you’ve captured the readers’ attention doesn’t guarantee they’ll stick around. Even after a sizzling lead, many stories get thick and hard to get through, filled with dense sentences.

The simplest way to get your point across is with simple sentences. They’re easy to read. They encourage you to get to the point. Most important, they force you to separate your ideas and figure out what you’re trying to say. A long sentence can be a fine literary thing, but it requires you to know what you want to say and think through your sentence structure in advance, so your point doesn’t get lost in your sentence’s long, tantalizing striptease; the longer the sentence, the more likely you are to get to the end and forget what you were saying when you began, and by that time you’re often too rushed by deadline to go back and figure it out and, well, you get my point.

Imagery helps, too. Metaphors and similes take work to find, but they’re usually worth it because they let readers involve their own imagination in the story.
Tiny, telling details are part of what makes good journalistic writing. You need to use your senses to see, hear and sense small things that reveal personality and make up a scene: the photographs on someone’s desk that show him posing with important people, the books on the wall, the framed letter from Mom.

Humour helps
I hesitate to talk about because it can kill the magic as surely as a magician explaining his tricks. No matter what medium you work in, a smile is a wonderful way to help readers/viewers keep going. But a little humour can give readers a break that allows them to keep reading. I’ve always thought a smile is worth 100 words: it gives people renewed energy to keep watching another minute, or reading another two paragraphs.
The nice part of journalism is you don’t even have to be amusing; you can let your subject be amusing for you. Much has been written about the art of the tough question, but some of the nicest moments in interviews are the small spontaneous times when a person lights up with a smile or shares an infectious laugh that makes you join in.

The finish line
One of the most disappointing things in a good story is to get all the way to the end and suddenly be cut off in mid-stride by an abrupt or lazy ending – to be left stranded in emotional midair. In fiction it’s an accepted rule that you close dramatically, then give a little time for the readers/viewers to let it all sink in. The same should be true for journalism. A skillful closing adds a finishing touch to any good story. It should cast light on everything you’ve read, make you think, or sigh, or just smile.
Yet while most journalists are obsessed with the lead, they sometimes give little thought to the closing. There are many reasons for this: journalists who are used to editors who cut from the end of a story; journalists who have just run out of time. Or energy. Or ideas.
A good ending is to a journalist what a good dessert is to a chef. It’s the last thing your customers will remember. If you’ve put a lot of effort into your appetizers and the entrèe, why not leave your patrons dreaming about the next meal instead of disappointed by an unfinished flan?

The above suggestions are ones that have worked for me and some other journalists and cannot be guaranteed. There is, I repeat, no formula for How to Become a Great Writer. But if you do come across one, please send it to me via the publisher and I’ll send you three payments of $29.95 (plus shipping and handling costs). I’m always looking for new tricks.

PS: In 1995, Freed won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, one of Canada’s most prestigious awards, for Fear of Frying and other Fax of Life, a published collection of his columns in The Gazette.

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