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Career changing Publishing

Scene Setting

Scene Setting

Scene setting is important to know.

What is Scene Setting?

Basic scene setting is a fundamental skill which every writer needs to perfect. Let’s look at some ways to do it.

All the old familiar places

When your story takes place during the present day, you’re in luck! You can get away without going over basic information. Present-day Moscow has cars. Today in Paris, people used the metric system. Current day Kentucky has telephones. So your really basic information is already there. Don’t waste time or pixels or reader good will by explaining any of that, unless it’s somehow important. E. g. if your Russian character was raised in the sticks, maybe they never saw a car before. If your Parisian is a transplant from the United States, she might occasionally forget that most countries use different systems for weights and measures. And if your Kentuckian was deaf and now suddenly can hear (and also led a sheltered life) telephones might be odd things which now have a purpose they didn’t have before.

Familiar place, unfamiliar time

Then there’s the scenario where your location is close or familiar. But the time is now. So, what is it, the past or the future?

Forward into the past

If it’s the past, then you need to do some research. Wikipedia is not a good final source, but it’s not a bad first one. What I mean is, you can start there, particularly if you are unsure about names or parameters. But then you need to branch out. Hence if you are trying to determine whether there were gas lamps lighting the streets of Berlin in 1740, you might want to start with looking up gas lamps and moving on from there. If they were invented later, then your question is answered. But if they were invented earlier (I honestly don’t know), then you should be looking at other sources. You can check footnotes, or just do some creative Googling. I have found The Library of Congress has some great old images, but you may need to spend some time looking, as not everything is logically labelled.

Back to the future

For the future, of course you can invent what you like (and I will get into that with a later blog post). But it pays to do some research anyway. Get an idea of what’s coming. If, say, solar-powered belt buckles are being patented, then why not put them in your near-future story? However, if you are writing a deeper, later future, you might want to make them passé.

Familiar times, unfamiliar places

Is the place found on planet earth? Then do some digging. And don’t just look at touristy sites! I live in Boston. It’s not all Faneuil Hall Marketplace, not by a long shot . By the way, a public service announcement from me: Harvard University is in Cambridge, not Boston. And it is far from the only university in this city.

For alien places, consider what it means if the gravity is stronger, or weaker. What happens if the atmosphere is thinner? One way to make things easier on you is to research similar locations. The Andes or the Himalayas could stand in for a planet with thinner air, for example.

Totally alien

Consider not just the look, but what happens when you engage your other senses. Is the place hot? Smelly? Smoggy? Is the landscape muddy? Frozen? Sandy? Do your characters have to climb? Cross rivers?

Takeaways

Put the reader in the action by engaging multiple senses. Latch onto the familiar if you can. Analogize to give the reader a faster understanding of the place. Do the homework, even on the small almost throwaway scenes, so your readers won’t have to.

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Career changing Publishing

Genre Treatments

Genre Treatments

What are genre treatments?

Genre Treatments

When it comes to genre treatments, do you treat horror, science fiction, and romance all the same way? Or do you just stick to one genre and call it a day?

What are Literary Genres?

It might help to understand just what literary genres are. Let’s start with the short one.

Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction tells a story. Biographies and autobiographies are often more or less subsets. While it’s possible to relate a biography in a non-narrative form, that’s pretty rare. Essays are a form of short nonfiction. And speech is pretty self-explanatory.

Fiction

There’s a lot more here. Poetry is usually rhythmic (although it doesn’t have to be) and has evocative imagery. Drama is serious stuff, and it can be a part of theatrical performances.

Humor or Comedy?

Humor is of course the funny stuff. Don’t confuse it with comedy (although we use the terms interchangeably in common parlance). Comedy is just when the protagonist lives at the end of the piece. Contrast that with tragedy, which is where the protagonist dies by the end. But comedy, traditionally, does not mean something is funny.

By this definition, A Clockwork Orange is a comedy.

Fantasy or Myth?

Science fiction and fantasy are pretty close. While fantasy is generally more otherworldly, science fiction usually dovetails with possible science, no matter how far-fetched. Fairy tales, in contrast, are generally drawn from folklore. The more general term, folklore, goes beyond stories to songs and proverbs from long ago. Legends, on the other hand, often have a basis in fact. This can be the subject (a national hero, like El Cid) or the plot. A fable is often short, but it always contains a moral lesson. A short story is generally too brief for a subplot.

Realistic fiction is also fairly self-explanatory. It’s fiction which could be real. Historical fiction adds a historical dimension although it’s often also meant to be realistic.

Horror evokes fright and visceral reactions. Tall tales are overly exaggerated and are virtually the opposite of realistic fiction. Mythology is a traditional narrative with a religious or faith-based component. Mystery involves the solving of a crime or uncovering secrets. Finally, fiction in verse is much longer poetry which contains subplots and major themes.

What are generally not considered to be full-blown genres? Young adult, adventure, romance, etc. Hence the idea, for the most part, has more to do with length and execution than subject matter.

How Do You Treat These Genres?

First of all, consider pacing. Horror often slows down, and then speeds up. Mystery might take a while to build to a satisfactory conclusion. Furthermore, mysteries contain red herrings. Myths might contain repetition. Some of that comes from oral tradition. Humor is all about timing. Drama can often be slow and building. Traditional poetry has a sing-song rhythm.

What is your particular spin? Do you use short, choppy sentence to speed up the action? Do you also choose shorter words?

Consider your genre as you write.

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Career changing Publishing

Editing Tips

Editing Tips

Some editing tips and tricks for you, me, and all the writers we know! And don’t know, too ….

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Editing Tips
 

Because if you did NaNoWriMo this year, then now is right about the time you might start to thinking about attacking the editing beast. Or maybe you just don’t want to look at it yet. And that’s perfectly fine. However, you need to edit it eventually. Since professional editors cost money, it will pay for you to do some of the work early. Furthermore, if you have beta readers (and every writer should!), then you owe it to them to not waste their time reading an unpolished manuscript. Of course they should expect some issues as that is why you’re turning to them in the first place. However, a big garbage can full of word salad does no one any good.

Preliminaries

So first of all, before you do anything else, run spell check. While that sounds simple and obvious, I have beta read for people who didn’t do that first. Second, check your dialogue tags. So, what are dialogue tags? Dialogue should run one of three ways:

  1. She said, “I’m hungry.” Notice the comma before the first quotation mark, and then the period before the second? The first two words are the dialogue tag. The comma is mandatory in this case. And it’s the same thing if you move the dialogue tag to the end. So in that case, you would write: “I’m hungry,” she said.
  2. She patted her belly. “I’m hungry.” Notice there’s no comma this time? That’s because the initial sentence is an action; it’s not a dialogue tag at all.
  3. She growled, “I’m hungry!” The comma is back! And Grammar Girl (as usual) says it best: “Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing “said” with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.”

So make sure your dialogue tags are correct and your dialogue makes sense. And third, get into your scenes and anything (or anyone) else you need to describe. Too much description can bog down the action. And too little can leave your readers guessing. So here is where a knowledge of films can help. Current movies rarely show little transitional scenes like walking down a hall or driving unless something else is going on. And you should do the same. If your character starts off at school and then comes home, don’t show the character on the school bus unless that particular scene matters.

Takeaways

Do some basic editing, at the absolute minimum, before anyone else looks at your work. Respect others’ time and they’ll keep helping you.

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Career changing Promotions

Demystifying Facebook

Demystifying Facebook

How can demystifying Facebook help you, the independent writer?

Reviews

It’s not just for Candy Crush anymore.

Demystifying Facebook for Independent Writers

Like other small business persons (for that is what an indie author is, right?), you have two separate lives on any social network. One is as an individual. You have friends, you have opinions. You might play games or write about politics. Or you might post memes or videos. You have fun, you express support or sympathy. And, let’s face it, you give and receive attention.

Your other life is as a writer. A writer who might need help marketing. Maybe a writer who might to bounce ideas off other authors. A writer who might need some help with a plot, or at least a sympathetic ear. You might want to talk to others who have been where you are. Plus you might want to connect with people who can help you improve your craft. Those are beta readers, cover artists, and editors. They might be writers you admire, or even publishing houses which interest you.

Demystifying Facebook and Socializing

As a writer, there is no reason for you to stop socializing online. On Facebook in particular, hanging out with other writers is a great idea.

But Why?

Because writing is, by definition, a solitary pursuit. Even collaborators and co-authors don’t trade the article for the noun for the verb for the adjective for another noun, or sentence for sentence or paragraph for paragraph. Instead, collaborators will generally write their own portion of a work and then give it to their partner, as the partner does the same. They beta read for each other and combine the pieces, whether those are chapters or sections or the like. The details may differ, but it’s pretty inefficient to hang out together for the actual writing process (although they may get together to discuss plot).

Hangouts for Indie Writers

For independent writers, you have a few places on Facebook where you can hang out.

  • NaNoWriMo group online – if you compete to write 50,000 words in November or April, then this is your scene. The group is large and generally friendly, although there are sometimes stretches of people stepping on toes. It’s best to hang back at the start and see how things go before you plunge in. There are also groups for local NaNo groups.
  • Wattpad – if you belong to Wattpad, check them out on Facebook. While this is a games page, you can still get a handle on who is who. Befriend fellow Wattpadders? Why not?
  • Queer Sci-Fi and other specialty genre groups – do some research; these can have varying activity levels.
  • Services trading groups – your mileage will vary. Some are more active than others. And some might be more spammy than others.
  • Advertising groups – these tend to be bottom-feeding. If they are just a bunch of ads, and no one is liking or replying to the ads, then you know how effective they are.

Have I missed any groups? Add them in the Comments section!

Of course there is a lot more to demystifying Facebook. I’ll get to it soon. Stay tuned!

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Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Bad Reviews

Bad Reviews

Reviewing – Bad Reviews – lousy reviews are tough to write! However, you need to write the occasional less than wonderful review in order to establish and maintain credibility. Not every novel is a stellar one. Not every effort is perfect and pristine.

This blog post is about reviewing badly-written works. But if a work is out and out plagiarized, then have at it. That’s just plain wrong, and it may be copyright infringement.

Soothing Hurt Feelings and Maintaining the Relationship

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Bad Reviews
Cry tears of joy even when writing bad reviews? It can be done …

Let’s face it. A less than glowing review is going to engender some hurt feelings. Plus there is every possibility a friendship will end over it. That’s not someone being a prima donna (at least, that isn’t necessarily the case). Rather, it’s that you just told someone their baby was ugly.

Yeah. It’s like that.

So, what do you do?

I believe one reasonable response is to essentially perform a cost-benefit analysis. Not everyone is a critic of any sort. Consider how hard it is to get your own work reviewed at all. It’s work! And people like to be pleasant, plus they want very much to be liked. They may be a part of the community and hoping for positive feedback in return. Or they might be friends or family. Hence we are all essentially graded on a curve. Know that going in.

One thing you can do is, delay and defer. Maybe that’s weasel behavior. But it will soften the blow if the negative review is not the first one anyone sees when researching a book. If someone already has 100 reviews, then it won’t be quite so noticeable. Of course, lots of indie writers never get that many reviews. But you might be able to delay a bit.

Another idea is to go fast. Detail and length are not your friends here, so make it quick.

Consider the Audience

I suggested this for middling reviews. But it holds true here as well. Who is likely to read your review? If the writers asks you to review on Amazon, then you are going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you are being asked to review on an obscure book blog read by sixteen people, then the impact will not be as great. Plus you can initially post your negative review only on the obscure book blog. Once the writer sees the review, I doubt he or she will push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Providing Constructive Criticism

While this is a good idea in theory, it’s not really what someone is looking for when they request a book review. Instead, rather than hearing that they should learn dialogue tags by checking out this Grammar Girl link, they want to read about how their book moved you.

However, you still might be able to slip in some constructive criticisms, and write things like I would love to see this book with shorter chapters; it might benefit from another round of edits or some strategic splitting. Or I was hoping for a less challenging mystery. This one was hard. You’re not damning with faint praise but you’re also not putting lipstick on things.

A Few Escape Hatches

Preface a bad review with some escape hatches which will help the writer. After all, you’re not there to trash them, right? Here are a few ideas:

  • I am not the intended audience for this work or genre. – If you’re over 50 and asked to review YA, you probably aren’t in the intended audience. Maybe younger folks would be big fans.
  • The work is unique. – Unless it’s plagiarized, this is honest and accurate.
  • It is a good freshman effort. – This is straying into the realm of damning with faint praise. But it’s not a horrible thing to write about a work. Most people are not going to do well with their first novel. And that’s okay.
  • I really liked this one thing and think you should have written a lot more of it. – Liked one of the supporting characters? Enchanted by the setting? Think the plot was a good idea but poorly realized? Then this is for you. Of course you are not rewriting the piece for the writer. But your suggestions might just become helpful plot bunnies for them for later. Maybe they really will write a sequel or prequel, or revisit the scene, or rework the plot in another piece.

Salvaging the Relationship by Privately Reviewing

You might be able to save things by privately telling someone – you don’t want me to post this review. There are review sites which will do this, and will often give the writer a choice. If a writer really wants reviews, they might be okay with a less than wonderful one.

You are presumably friendly or at least cordial with the writer. Give them a break and give them the option.

By the way, negative reviews can often help a new writer. Not only do they give the writer what could end up being really valuable feedback, they can even boost sales. For consumers considering taking a chance on a new, unknown author, a rash of 5-star super-perfect reviews can seem suspect. But a few poor reviews can give the whole thing more credibility,

How about Bad Reviews for Famous People?

If you only write 4- and 5-star reviews, then you are probably selling everyone short. Just like bad reviews can give a writer more credibility, they can also give the reviewer more credibility.

But if you don’t want to hurt your friends’ feelings, what do you do?

One idea is to review all sorts of books. Review classics where the writer is long dead. Or review popular works with hundreds or thousands of reviews where no one will notice your review much, anyway. Did you hate reading The Scarlet Letter? Then go ahead and trash it on any review site you can find.

It’s not like Nathaniel Hawthorne is going to rise from the grave and complain, right?

Er, right?

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Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Middling Reviews

Middling Reviews

Reviewing – Middling Reviews – fair to middling reviews are harder to write. Because there is definitely a skill involved. But you are probably going to write more of them than any other type of review. Why? Because truly superlative works are uncommon.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Middling Reviews
This is what happens when you have to write middling reviews.

As always, kindness should be your guide. The work isn’t out and out awful. It just needs some help. Mid-level reviews can be extremely helpful. They can provide valuable feedback for a new author. Because it is sweetened with praise and other positives, it is more palatable.

Consider the Audience

But who is most likely to read your review? If you review on Amazon, then anything you write is going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you review on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great. So what happens if you post your middle of the road review only on the obscure book blog? Once the writer sees the review, he or she might not want to push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. Or maybe the author will want to see your review spread all over the internet. It’s hard to say. Your mid-level review may be the best one they get.

The value of middle of the line reviews

For a new author, potential buyers are often suspicious of 100% stellar reviews. Hence if the 5-star reviews are peppered with some 3-stars, then potential buyers tend to feel more comfortable that they are seeing accurate reviews that were not bought and paid for. Furthermore, if the author has enough reviews (the number seems to be ten or more), Amazon will sort them by most helpful positive and most helpful negative. If your middle of the road review is the most helpful negative review, that can actually help the writer.

So, how do you get started?

The Shit Sandwich

Yeah, you read that right. Since this is not going to be a wholly negative review, you can split it into thirds. This makes it feel less unremittingly negative. The first third should be the smallest or smaller positive thing you have to say. In the middle is the negative thing you need to say. Finally, end with your strongest positive.

But why am I suggesting this particular order? Let’s look at some examples.

Consider these examples

  1. The Cowardly Lion character was fantastic and very credible. The Tin Woodsman was dull. Dorothy was okay.
  2. The Dorothy character was all right but could have used some work. The Tin Woodsman was hard to take at times. My favorite character was the Cowardly Lion.
  3. The Tin Woodsman was terrible. Dorothy was passable. The Cowardly Lion was amazing.

In the first example, you might think it’s a purely positive review. It’s easy to forget the negative in the middle when the positive starts off so strongly. In the third example, the writer is put on the defensive nearly immediately. The review feels negative, even though the end is positive.

Further, in the second instance, the first part is generally positive albeit with constructive criticism. The middle part is negative. But it gives a specific reason for the reviewer’s negative reaction. This is also something the writer could potentially build on and fix in later works. And the final part adds a positive personal touch.

Of course you would never write such a simplistic review. Plus you are reading this blog but you are not the author of The Wizard of Oz, so these quickie reviews are not personal to you. So substitute your own work, and consider how each review would make you feel.

Length

Because this is not a negative review, you can add some length to it. But because it’s not unremittingly positive, it does not have to be lengthy. The ideal length is about 50 to 100 words. If you want to say more, contact the writer in private. For self-published works, editing and republishing are usually pretty easy. Hence if you find a glaring translation error, the writer can fix it. You can save the day with your review.

Ending on a High Note

End with a positive. Seriously. Don’t lie, but there is no reason to be nasty. Be encouraging; so many indies suffer self-doubt. This is your opportunity to be kind. After all, next time, you may be in the hot seat.

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Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Positive Reviews

Positive Reviews

Reviewing – Positive Reviews – these are the lifeblood of any independent author. We live for them! But how can you make them even better?

Caveats

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Positive Reviews
Positive reviews should melt your heart – and the writer’s!

Don’t provide a positive review in exchange for a positive one you just got. And don’t provide one in the hopes that you’ll get one in return. Personally, I very rarely give out five stars. A book has to truly leave me sock-free. I can enjoy a book immensely but still not give it five stars. However, I give out a lot of 3- and 4-star reviews, particularly to indie authors. And if my review is a positive one, I spread it to as many places as I can.

Length

Just saying you loved a piece is not enough. It’s better than nothing, of course. But you, too, are a writer. You can do better than that! While you don’t have to hit an actual word count, it is more helpful if you give the review some time and attention. Naturally, if you are pressed for time or you have to do a lot of reviews, then you will not get into things like you would if your time was more open. Plus it does not have to be a novel. A 50 – 150 word review should do nicely, unless it is a blog post. In that case, best practices for blog posts is 300 or more words. So adjust accordingly.

Specificity

Writers often get crippling self-doubt. Imposter syndrome is common. Generalized reviews don’t help much. Be clear about what you loved.

Scarlet O’Hara was a strong female character in a man’s world. What is most impressive about her is the fact that she was written in 1936. Hence Margaret Mitchell was almost revolutionary in writing her. While today we might scoff at some of Scarlet’s machinations, she still manages to be a memorable and memorably flawed character. Her motivations are clear and logical. Her endgame is satisfying.

While the author is no longer alive to read my praise, the paragraph still gets across my admiration for the work (I do, for real, like the book, although it’s not one of my absolute favorites). This is also a meatier review than just “It’s great!” The review does not just make the writer feel good; it also provides vital information for potential readers.

Spoiler-Free

Please don’t give away the ending! My above review snippet about Gone With the Wind does not give away the ending. In fact, it gives away just about none of the plot at all. I would write a longer review (the above bit is really just a part of it) where I would probably mention the US Civil War and Rhett Butler. I might get into Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton, particularly if I were writing a blog post and needed to make word count.

Spread the Love

There are several online places which take reviews.

Amazon reviews most directly affect a writer’s sales and potential sales. If you provide positive reviews on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great. You can also review on other countries’ versions of Amazon (UK, Canada, etc.), GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Call to Action to Read the Author’s Other Works

A call to action is anything from ‘click here’ to ‘buy this’. It is a statement online whereby you are asking someone to do something. It does not have to feel like a hard sell. Instead, you can write things like:

  • This book was fun and I can’t wait to see what else the writer has written.
  • I hear there is a sequel and I can’t wait.
  • I checked out the writer’s Amazon page (provide the link) and they are blogging there. I’m excited to read what they have to say.

Above all, you are really doing someone a solid.

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Career changing Inspiration

Writing Better Accents

Writing Better Accents

Accents can be tough to write. However, not to worry. Because New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward has some wonderful advice amidst the humor.

Distinguishing Each Accent

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Writing Better Accents
Writing Better Accents will improve a lot in your writing.

So, can you tell the difference between someone from the Bronx and someone from Brooklyn? And what about Chicago versus Detroit? Or Swedish versus Norwegian? YouTube has a number of videos about speech and speaking details; just conduct a search. However, I caution you that the information is not always correct. Hence, listen to several videos and try to split the difference, unless you know for certain where the speaker hails from. Because sometimes a person is just trying to practice or mimic the way others speak and they don’t always do such a great job of that.

Respecting the Speakers

If your southern American characters sound like Gomer Pyle, and your Mexican characters sound like Señor Wences, you are probably not doing such a hot job with depicting their accents. Same with a British character who ends up sounding like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Just, don’t.

Furthermore, areas of the world have variations when it comes to speaking. And it’s not just with word choice (e. g. Bostonians call a sandwich on a long roll a grinder whereas that same sandwich is a po’boy in New Orleans and a sub in New York City); it also has to do with sounds. Brooklynites tend to broaden their vowels and can often drop an ending g or an r. For example, a Brooklynite from the area called “East New York” (such as my own mother) will call Barbey Street “Bobby Street”. Yes, really – true story – I didn’t know the correct name of the street my mother grew up on until we went there and I saw the street sign for the first time.

In addition, a county does not have to be as large as the United States for there to be differences in speech. England is notorious for this. Go to Liverpool and they speak far differently from how people speak in Cornwall.

Takeaways

Be sure to listen to people who have the accents you want to write about. Do so in person if you can, or at least online with a reliable source. And particularly pay attention to how people say the name of the place they come from. Finally, respect accents and don’t automatically assign intelligence or stupidity based upon them.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from TV shows

Getting inspiration from TV shows

TV shows can be a great source of inspiration. And they can go beyond TV Tropes and even into something (almost, let’s not kid ourselves, folks) profound. So, what do I mean?

TV Shows

For the most part, we see three kinds of television programs:

  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Nonfiction
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from TV shows
Have you ever gotten inspiration from TV shows?

And then they subdivide, e. g. comedy divides into sketch shows like Saturday Night Live, or sitcoms like Will and Grace, or most cartoons. And drama divides into genres such as police procedurals, westerns, etc. Furthermore, reality television is really drama, by the way. And finally nonfiction comprises the news and documentaries, but also educational programming for children. While a few potential outliers (such as music videos), or hybrid programs with both drama and comedy (e. g. Desperate Housewives) exist, most shows hit one of the big three categories.

Inspiration

Because everyone is inspired differently, consider how fan fiction grabs you. Very often, you watch a program but feel it’s incomplete. Or you might want a different ending or to gender swap the characters. By doing this with all television, and not just your own personal fandom, you can garner a ton of inspiration. Naturally, you need to stay out of copyright infringement territory. However, there’s no copyright on basic ideas, just on their execution. Consider all the fish out of water comedies. Or think of episodes with people caught in a freezer. They exist because those situations work. And all the writers do is add a different spin on it all.

Authentic Experiences

In addition, consider the characters and their portrayers. Why is a character of African descent? Is it because they are having authentic experiences, or an attempt at diversity, or is it tokenism? When Jewish characters (for example) are on the screen, does the audience get more than an occasion reference to Chanukah? Or do they just get a surname, or a trope? Are LGBTQ characters defined by their sexuality, or are they stereotyped, or is it no big deal? And look at the smart characters, the dumb ones, and the evil ones. Do characters have any sort of depth at all?

Takeaways

You can get great inspiration from television viewing. Look at shows with a critical eye and consider how you’d improve or change them. Mash them up and make these ideas your own.

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Career changing Inspiration

Speculating about the future

Speculating about the future

Speculating is fun. However, future predictions can be notoriously inaccurate. I’m still waiting for my flying car, for example. However, some predictions have been eerily on the nose, such as cell phones, which are a lot like Star Trek’s communicators. So here’s a few idea on how to essentially build your own crystal ball.

Extrapolation

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Speculating About the Future
Are you speculating about the future?

The easiest way to speculate and predict is to take what currently exists, and then extrapolate from that. For example, consider transportation. Your car gets a certain degree of fuel efficiency and has a particular top speed. It holds a certain number of people. And it has a particular styling. So what happens when you stretch those characteristics? And so you can consider a car that can go faster yet safely. Maybe your futuristic vehicle is self-driving, or a robot ‘drives’ it. Since parking can be a pain in a lot of places, why not think up a car which can park itself, or can fold up so it doesn’t need a conventionally-sized parking spot? Maybe your new car is partly powered by solar or nuclear fusion. And how sleek and aerodynamic should it be?

And you can consider other basic areas of life. Let’s look at communications next. Because many of us already have cell phones, think about the trends. Sometimes, phones get smaller, and are more lightweight and compact. However, at other times, they become larger and almost could be thought of as tablet hybrids. What do your characters need? And what are the limitations on either scenario? How small can the phone become? How large?

So what about food? People still starve. However, that’s usually due to distribution problems rather than enough crops being grown or the existence of enough arable land. Hence how do your characters (or your setting) solve this problem?

And so you can look at any basic area of life, from finding love to consuming entertainment or purchasing clothing. See where extrapolation takes you.

Off the Wall

And then there’s the somewhat pie in the sky, kinda crazy stuff. For example, let’s think about the second Back to the Future film. Doc Brown uses fusion power to make the DeLorean go, but one of the things he grabs for fuel is a discarded banana peel. What a brilliant off the wall idea!

So let’s look at, say, fashion. Maybe it’s the opposite of today, where everything is covered up but genitalia. And what kind of a society would support that? Or maybe everyone wears a uniform, but the uniforms look really odd.

Cars could be six stories tall. Communications could be facilitated with chewing gum. Maybe you vote telepathically. The sky, as always, is the limit.

Takeaways

Depending on your genre, and how much room there is for humor, your ideas about the future can go in any number of directions. Decide on how plausible you want everything to be, and don’t forget to take into account professional predictions like Moore’s Law!