Define Your Writing Style
This is hard, this is meant to be hard. You don't just know automatically what your writing style is if you don't do this very often. If you write all the time, you might know immediately. Part of this comes from defining the kinds of pictures that you create. So, if I had to think about my images, I think they're pretty dark, atmospheric, melancholy, hopeful, these are all words that I would use to describe my art that might sort of cross over into defining my writing style. Now all of us in this room create different images. We've got horror images, we've got beautiful, soft images that evoke a very different feeling, I mean I feel like you guys sitting together are the best pairing, couldn't be more opposite of what your images make people do and feel. So, your image style will be very different. And it's kind of neat, because it actually kind of reflects your personalities quite nicely, too, which is exciting. (laughter) But that's for another day. So what is your style? Now there ...
is the visual style and there is the personality and we're going to talk about those things. The first question you want to ask yourself though is how do you want to be perceived? How do you want people to see you? You know how it's fun to play a game with your friends where you're like, OK, if you had to describe me in three words, what would you say, you know? Everyone plays that game with their friends at some point and then the friend is like, oh, let me think about the nicest way to say this, and then, you know, you try to describe the other person. I do this all the time, it's fun to like pick keywords for people and say, oh, this is you, this is me, this is this person. So, how would you want people to describe you, you know? If you asked me, if one of you guys came to me and you were like, could you describe me in three words? What would you want that person to say back to you? How do you want to be perceived? How do you want to make people feel? This is the question that is repeated over and over and over in this class, because it is, in my opinion, more important than how you want to be perceived. Because there's some famous quote that now, of course, I can't remember about how it's not the things you say, it's the way you make people feel or something like that. And I really believe that's very, very true, is that they're going to remember how you make them feel. They might not remember everything about you, what you look like, what your art looks like, but they're going to remember how they felt when they looked at that art, or when they read whatever it is you had to write about your art. And then, what words define your style? Now it is important to note that this can be split into two categories. Style is a keyword that means a lot of things. Is it your personality style, your persona that you're putting out there, is it your art style? How do you define your writing style if you're a visual artist? It's really, really hard to do and we're going to talk about that. But first we've got this image here, this image that people seem to love and hate, there's not a lot of middle ground, OK? Now it's important that we understand details about our work, visually about the work that we're producing. It's important that we take those details and we use a little bit of flourish to be able to speak about our work. Because nobody likes it when you say this is a picture. Yeah, OK, we all know it's a picture. But use a little bit of flourish, with the details of the image, to talk about it. Then you have tone, so you've got flourish, you've got the details, but what tone are you putting into that detailed flourish that you're describing your image as? So if we had to do this and use keywords these are the details that I would use to describe this image, ripped, stuffing, vulnerable, and these are just words that I think of when I look at this image, the keywords, the details of the picture, defeated, doll, spine, flesh. And those are, oh and dark and those are the keywords that I would pull out to say that's what this image looks like to me and that's what it feels like, whatever else. And if you guys would add anything, feel free to tell me. There might be another word that you think I missed and that's OK. So this is just a good, like I took maybe 20 seconds to write this list, the first things that popped into my head when I looked at this picture. So then I created a sentence based on those words, literally using those keywords to describe this image. Vulnerable, defeated, her stuffing spills from her ripped flesh. Those are very evocative words. For example, instead of flesh I could have said skin, a much more tame word that doesn't make people crawl as much, in their skin. OK, anyways. (laughter) So these are my keywords, so we've got vulnerable, defeated, stuffing, ripped and flesh. Like there are so few non-keywords in this sentence that this becomes very easy when we go back to that list, like 20 seconds I had all these words written down and then maybe another minute it took, to come up with the sentence. So it can be very, very simple to describe our images if we can work from a place of keywords, of the details that we put into the image. And we can do the same thing for this image. What keywords does it make you think of? So if you guys had to say, you're in the hot seat now.
Dark. Dark, what else?
Otherworldly. Otherworldly, I like that one, always liked that one. What else, one more.
Release. Release, OK, so I went through and did the same thing. And I want to know how can we use those in a sentence now? So it was smoke, dark, release, otherworldly, was that it? Smoke, dark, release, otherworldly. Think for just a moment about how you would use those words in a sentence, not all of them necessarily, but some of them. She released her darkness with the smoke of her soul into the otherworldly atmosphere, how about that? Just something quick, I mean I don't know if that even makes sense. I need paper to write it down but, so, I don't know if that makes sense, but it was so easy to do. Because you're just filling in the words that don't really, that aren't very interesting, you know, like she, it, the, those words that have to fill in to make an actual complete sentence. I do this and then I rewrite it three times when I'm writing captions or things like that for my images. So I'll come up with all my words, I'll go ahead and write down a little blurb using some of those words and then I'll rewrite it three different times to make sure that I've properly expressed what I'm trying to say. Now this is an exercise, this is where people don't want to exercise. I mean the word exercise means that you are practicing something, that you are doing something and that's where people are like, nope, I did it once, I don't want to do it again. I mean they say that the majority of writing is rewriting and it's true and it's true for this as well. If you want to cultivate the right tone for your work, particularly since most of us will be sharing on social media, and we want to really put our best selves forward, you have to rewrite and make sure that it makes the most sense. So these were the words that I came up with for this image, rebirth, darkness, evil, control, power. Now let's put them into a sentence three different times. This was my first pass at this, the first thing that I thought of. Her rebirth will awaken an evil world, darker and more powerful than ever. I wrote that and I was like, OK, I successfully used my keywords, but that's really not what I'm going for here. Like I don't want to create an image about the evil and darkness of the world coming into power, that was not my goal. So, OK, rewrite, so I rewrote it and this is what I came up with the next time. Darkness will be buried under her ashes and from them will rise a new world. Closer to what I want, evocative in the language, but still a little bit like evil, like it sounds too like a dark fairytale movie or something. So this is my final one. She released control of her own darkness and in that rebirth found her power. Way closer to what I want to be saying here, way more. And if I had just taken the first one and been like, that sounds cool, I used my keywords, I'll just use that, it really wouldn't have been the right message that I'm trying to send, rewriting is so powerful, heh, heh. This is an image from one of my best friends, Lindsay Adler, I love her to pieces, I also love her imagery, we could not be more opposite human beings ever that existed. But I wanted to use this as an example to just mix it up, do something a little bit different than look at my images, which we have now sat through many, many, many presentations of my images. So what if we have this image, which is totally different, it's not meant to be directly a storytelling, narrative storytelling image like mine, if you just step back. This is clearly an image that's trying to tell a story. This is primarily a beauty image, a fashion image. So, how can we do this for an image that isn't trying to tell a narrative story? Now let's, I haven't even thought about this in depth yet, I'm waiting to do this with you. So if we had to just take a fresh look at this image, what words come to mind?
Stare. Stare, OK, that's good, what?
Futuristic. Futuristic, yeah, I like that, too, what else? It could be emotions, it could be whatever, you know.
Submerged. Submerged, perfect, I would say icy.
Powerful. Powerful, very powerful. Now, if we take some of those words, how would we describe an image that isn't trying to tell a traditional story? So what were some of the words again, remind me, I already forgot, I have no memory.
Icy stare. Icy stare, we didn't even say water, we should've said water, that would have been a really good one, huh? OK, OK, so how about her icy stare dominates something, something, something, can you guys finish that sentence? I'm losing that one, but that was a good start, her icy stare, right? I like that, because it describes literally what she's doing, but also the way that the image makes you feel, which is icy and cold, in a way. Well, so, we can work on it later, homework. But it's really interesting to take images that aren't yours and just ask yourself, how would I describe this? What does this make me feel? How is this artist giving me the information that I need to describe this picture verbally? It's really a challenging thing to do in a lot of ways, but it comes with practice. I write about my work all the time. You would think that I was some crazy narcicisstic person because of how frequently I write about my own work, but we have to, we have to practice these things to get better at it. So here's how I would describe my photography, which I won't make the distinction is different from who I am as a person. My photography I would say dark, and now remember how we talked about keywords and how if you have a keyword that you feel strongly is associated with what you do, you should definitely tell people all the time, so that they start to catch on that that's how you want them to describe your work, so, dark. I want my images to be dark. I want you to think my images are dark. I don't always succeed at that, I produce a lot of happy images. We could argue that this is not a dark photo necessarily. It's not like creepy or anything, it's not sad, but I'm still telling you that it's dark, so believe it, even if it's not true in this situation. Whimsical, two totally different things, surreal, painterly and square. Now these are just some ways that I would describe my work. So, that's the photography part. Now what about my writing, am I going to use the same words to describe my writing? In part yes, in part no. I would say that my writing, this is just objectively looking at what I've put out there into the world, is hopeful, honest, inspiring, motivational and storytelling. Very different from my photography. My photography is dark and atmospheric and sad and all those things and then my writing is just the opposite, hopeful, honest, motivational. So how do you reconcile those two things? My writing is me as a person, my photography is my alter dark ego maybe. I don't know where that person came from, but there we have it. So how do we begin merging those two things together? We come up with our three keywords, three words that you can use again and again and again to describe your style. Now, I would say that my writing and my images are atmospheric. I would say that they're atmospheric in slightly different ways, but that's one keyword that might describe both. If there is one keyword that describes my photography that I feel is very, very important, I might keep that keyword, even though it doesn't influence my writing as much. Whatever your three keywords are, use that directly in the verbiage that you're putting out there. April, you're an interesting case, because I think that your photography matches your personality more than perhaps anyone I've ever met in my life, which is great. It's like extra easy for you now, because you've got one set of words to work with, instead of two, totally different personas. So I would say soft, beautiful, maybe even slightly whimsical, like a little bit, like you have to kind of look at it for a second, abstract maybe? Yeah, there are really easy keywords for you to pull out, because you match so well, which is great. Yeah, others of us might have a difficult time with that. So what are your three keywords? Start thinking about that now, because they're going to be extremely helpful when you begin to put your blurbs together.