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I watch movies for different reasons. I like plot and characterization, yes. You can sell me a movie with those.
You can also get my attention by putting an invented language in it (bonus points for hiring a real linguist). You got that, I don't care if it has plot.
Then my masculine side likes to see people blow shit up. Do they need to be talking for this? Not really. I'll watch explosions on documentaries or making-of shows too.
Awesome special effects such as dinosaurs, outer space, magic, or exploding magical dinosaurs in outer space may also interest me if you pour enough awesome sauce on them (say, if you hired ILM or Weta).
It looks like something I've seen before? Probable yawn.
It sounds like personal shit people have bitched about in my living room? *cover ears, run screaming* I don't care how much plot that one has, I so don't want to see it.
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Q: "I wish I could get invited to [events] but I haven't published any 'authoritative' articles or books."
Well, there are different ways, including...
* Make friends with people in your target field. So then when folks are in charge of organizing an event or activity, they think, "Gee, who do I know that might be willing to do a presentation for this?" and might think of you.
* Attend events, go to activities, and again talk to people. Make insightful comments. You get known for being interested in the topic and having smart things to say about it; people may invite you to be a presenter.
* Watch for events. Contact the organizers and just offer to do a presentation. This is usually easiest at medium-sized events: small ones only need a handful of presenters, while large ones get swamped with volunteers and can afford Big Name Pros.
* On the topic of volunteering, go to an event and just say, "Hi, I've got a couple of spare hours; is there anything you need volunteers for?" This is a brilliant way to make friends with overworked organizers, and you never know what you'll wind up learning. There's a non-zero chance of getting plunked into programming at the last minute, if you've got public-speaking experience -- people do get sick or miss their plane.
* Build your credits. Maybe you could offer to do a talk at your local library or college. Or you could write an article for a magazine, a well-known blog, or some other venue that's relatively easy to break into.
Q: "How do you write about stuff that is obvious to you?"
That's one of the things that comes naturally to me, though apparently it's a rare skill.
* Often, I start with a question from somebody, like the one above. Other times I think about what people have repeatedly asked me, or what things I've tried to look up and realized there wasn't a good concise reference for.
* Then I look at what I do. I break it down into parts. I think about how best to organize the parts -- chronologically, spacially, topically, etc. I start sketching an outline.
* I also try to think of mistakes that can be made, and how to avoid them; and subtle points that can save a lot of work or trouble if you do them.
* I consider my intended audience and their level of understanding with this topic. Are they totally new? I have to explain everything. Are they already doing it, but want to do it better? I need to look for things that the usual guides don't cover, or explain poorly. (My book Composing Magic included basic to intermediate instructions on "how to write" and was consistently praised for being more clear and useful at that, compared to whatever of the bazillion other writing books the reviewers had read.) Are they coming from a different but related field? I need to show what carries over and what doesn't.
* Sometimes it helps to gather information, input, or feedback from other folks who are doing whatever I'm writing about. I might ask them questions, ask for quotes or examples, show them a partial draft, etc.
* I write a rough draft. Then I read through that to make sure the steps are small enough, there are few or no unwritten assumptions, and everything is in a logical order. (It wasn't until I'd been writing my own recipes for a while, and then looked at some commercial cookbooks, that I realized how badly some writers do at just putting things in order!) This makes sure that when somebody reads the piece, they get the foundational data first and then they can go through the steps and actually do what I'm describing, without having to double back too much. This is also a good time to check vocabulary -- if anything might be too obscure, it needs an inline definition or (if the piece is long enough) a glossary. </span></span>
This poem came out of the April 6, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by zianuray. (Yes, you can sponsor poems from a previous Fishbowl! If there's one you want, ask me and I'll let you know if it's currently available.) This one is for all the parents out there ... and the world's little futures.
The hope of the world
arrives on pattering feet,
trailing giggles and squeals,
demanding to know --
"Master, what does the field think
when the plow turns it?"
"Mistress, do you know
whether water likes fish?"
"Master, do trees tickle the wind?"
And the mages kneel down to say,
"Why, I don't know, child!
Let's go ask them."
Baby mages are as full of thoughts
As kittens are full of mischief,
And neither peasants nor nobles
Know how to raise them right.
So they are sent to the mage schools
To be raised by mages, taught how to
Ask and answer questions, cast spells,
And save the world at need.