Showing posts with label storytelling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label storytelling. Show all posts

Children, the Environment, and Storytelling

Children, the environment, and storytelling: a few simple words yet when combined can become a powerhouse for teaching children the importance of taking care of our planet.

I belong to a number of writing groups and was a moderator of a children’s writing critique group. What I began to notice is how we as authors are missing the mark. I began to wonder why more authors aren’t incorporating conservation tidbits into their story telling.

Writers have the perfect format for teaching and molding children, and the perfect opportunity. From picture books to young adult novels, conservation and the environment are topics that authors should be thinking of writing about, or at least weave into their stories.

The saying goes, “you are what you eat,” well children become what they learn whether through their environment, including schooling, or reading. If young children are afforded reading material that paints a picture of the benefits and consequences of conservation in simple and entertaining stories, what better way to instill a sense that they can be part of the solution and help protect our environment.

If those same children, while growing up, continue to read fiction and non-fiction stories that make mention of conservation and our environment, how much more will it have an impact on them and become a part of their lives.

While most authors may not want to devote their time to writing books about the environment, just a sentence or scene woven into a story will certainly have an affect. It can be a subtle mention. For example, if it’s a scene with a couple of friends hanging out or on their way somewhere, one or two sentences in the scene might be:

Lucas held the soda bottle in his hand, aimed carefully, and tossed it right into the trash can.

“Nice shot, Lucas, but that goes in the recycling pail,” said Thomas.

This would be the extent of the comment or mention of conservation in the story. It’s short, almost unseen, and yet it becomes a part of the reader’s experience.

Isn’t this what writers want to do, leave an imprint in the minds and hearts of their readers? And, it’s all the more gratifying if it’s a child’s mind and heart that you're helping to develop and mold.

Why not make our lasting words take root in an impressionable child.

In addition to entertaining through our books and stories, we can make a difference in our future, our children’s future and the planet’s future.

I took advantage of using storytelling to engage children and bring awareness about our environment with a three-book picture book series: The Adventures of Planetman.

The first book is published: The Case of the Plastic Rings.

It's a great book for any children's home library and school library. Check it out to see how you can weave tips and awareness into your books.

And, you can check out my Books' page on my website for information on the second and third book in the series.

This article was originally published at:

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and successful children’s ghostwriter/rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can connect with Karen at:

And, check out Karen's newest picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings


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How to Use Multimedia Fiction to Market Your Book

Contributed by Silvia Li Sam

Authors must adapt to new technologies and trends to reach their audiences in today's ever-changing world. With the internet, there are so many new and innovative ways to reach potential readers. One of the many new trends in storytelling has been multimedia fiction.

What is multimedia fiction? It's a visual short story that adds images, pictures, or even audio to the written word. Websites like Commaful that are dedicated specifically to multimedia fiction have become incredibly popular, and attract more readers every day.

Is it possible to use multimedia fiction to help market your book? 

Not only is it possible, but it might also even be the boost you need to actually reach the public you've been aiming for.

Extend your novel's universe

Short multimedia stories are ideal for today's fast-paced world. People tend to have a short attention span, and so offering them shorter options to sink their teeth into is a great way of catching their interest. This is especially true for young adult audiences.

Sharing short stories in a multimedia format can both attract new readers to your books and build excitement amongst existing fans. The wait between books can be a long one and short multimedia stories can be a huge boost in excitement and fan engagement.

This can be true even after a novel’s series is over. JK Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, for example, releases short stories occasionally on the site Pottermore. She has also released multimedia versions of the previous novels, filled with illustrations and interactive elements. 

Multimedia fiction can also help you expand your character's background stories or create new paths and possibilities. Perhaps it could open the chance to write a new book series, if the first one turns out to be a success, focusing on other characters or even new adventures or mysteries altogether. Disney has clearly done well with that with all the spinoff stories and movies they have.

Because many sites that offer micro-stories and multimedia stories are also hotbeds for fanfiction, this is also a great way to get fans to interact with your universe and build fandom around your books. For example, Commaful has a fanfiction page that is dedicated to all types of fanworks around books, movies, and more.

Don't be afraid of trying a new type of storytelling to expand your novel's universe.

Offer snippets from your books

You may also use the material you've already written to promote your books.

Offering potential readers and influencers a sample of your writing can boost your book's sales. This is especially true if you sell an online version since you can add a link directly to the website that offers the full text.

It's essential to select extracts that can immediately catch the audience's attention and make them wonder what will come next. Also, try and use all the multimedia format's benefits to your advantage.

Add eye-catching pictures or photographs, play with the formatting, and make it as attractive as possible. Offering portions of your book with new and engaging short stories can make the potential readers feel a connection to your characters and have them aching for more.

Think carefully about how to integrate multimedia

To really take advantage of the format, aim the pictures you select at the right target audience and genre.

If you write horror novels, then utilize bone-chilling photos and images, to keep the reader on edge.  If it's a romance book, then try and find pictures that will fit your character's appearances and the general tone of the story.

Multimedia fiction is more than just the text people read. It's also about visual and audio elements that make the story a whole new experience than traditional literature.
Examine the audience's reactions.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! If a particular attempt doesn't work out as you hoped, try new ideas and see what happens.

Sharing multimedia fiction is a great way to get quick feedback as the stories are short and fun to view. If you have some followers already, this is a really quick way to test out an idea. This will allow you to adapt and improve your style according to what your core audience enjoys the most.

It's free market research, and it will help you both improve your writing skills and discover what people enjoy and dislike about your style.

So, what are you waiting for? There are readers out there waiting! If you like trying new things, multimedia fiction might be precisely what your book needs to become a huge success.

About the Author

Silvia Li Sam is a storyteller, blogger, writer, and social media expert. You can connect with her on her LinkedIn.


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Writing - Are You an Outliner?

Are you an outliner or a pantser? I don’t know if there has been a study of how many writers prefer each, but I know there are many in both camps. You know the saying, “different strokes for different folks.”

But, before I go on, the definition of an outliner is a writer who creates a written (or typed) outline of the plot of their story. A pantser is a writer who creates the story as she goes along – no outline. The story unfolds as she is writing it.

If I had to take a guess though, I’d say the majority of writers/authors are outliners (plotters).

The reason?

Creating an outline of a story before delving into it provides a foundation. It’s something to build upon. It’s like a map. You mark out your driving route. You know you’re going from Point A to Point B. You see the highways, roads, and so on between those two points. And, they’re all written out in your outline.

It’s interesting to know that there are different kinds of outliners. Some create full detailed accounts of getting from Point A to Point B. Some simply have a rough outline of what the story will be about – possibly that John is at A and has to get to B.

Jeff Ayers (a top crime writer), in his article “Doing What He Loves,” in the May 2009 issue of the Writer, says:

“Outlining allows me time to think. Does this ever happen to you--you're in line at the market, some pushy person cuts in front of you, you mumble something ineffectual or stupid, then when you're 10 blocks away the light bulb goes off, and you think "That's what I shouda said!" Well, outlining gives me the 10 blocks to think of something better.”

I think this is an excellent explanation of why writers use the outline method of writing.

In the article, Ayers explains that he spends lots of time outlining. In addition to coming up with ideas, it allows him to get better acquainted with his characters. This more intimate knowledge allows him to bring them to life.

As I mentioned earlier, outlining is like using a map. But depending on how detailed you make your outline, it can be more like a GPS. It can lead you street by street from your starting point to your ending point.

Even if you run into a detour that was unexpected, as in writing can happen, you have a guided system in place to get you back on track. And, if it’s very, very detailed, you even know where the rest stops are, where to eat, where the scenic sites are, and so on. It doesn’t leave much to chance.

Knowing every step, every detour, all the characters . . . there is a comfort in this method.

I’m much more of a pantser, but I have used outlines now and then. And, it certainly does offer a sense of security. But, with that said, I love to watch my story unravel before me. I love to watch characters develop and move forward. This comes with the pantser method.

It seems though that no matter which style you use, it’s not a guarantee of success or failure. Gail Carson Levine has some good advice in regard to this, “Quality comes from word choice, plot, characters – all the elements [of a good story].”

Which writing method do you use?

Outlining vs. Pantsing

This article was originally published at:
The Outline Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, successful children’s ghostwriter who welcomes working with new clients, and an author/writer online platform marketing instructor.

For more on children’s writing tips and writing help, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
Be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.


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Storytelling vs. Writing a Story

A children’s publisher commented on the difference between storytelling and writing. She explained that storytelling involves visual aids, whereas writing does not.

Granted, children’s picture books do provide illustrations in the form of
visual aids, but they are not the same as storytelling’s visual aids.

I had never thought of this before, but once this was said I could see it clearly.


Storytelling allows for the use of visual aids, which includes facial expressions. There is also voice tone, word pronunciation, along with word or phrase stressing that help aid in conveying sadness, anger, fear, and an array of other emotional sediments. This is also known as voice inflection.

Along with facial expressions and voice inflection, the storyteller can also take advantage of movement.

Imagine telling a group of children a spooky story that has the protagonist tiptoeing around a corner to see what’s there. As a storyteller you can actually tiptoe, hunched over; and exaggerating the movement enhances the suspense. Visual aids are easy to use and are powerhouses of expressions.

Another example might be if you are telling a pirate story to a young boy. You can use toy props, such as a toy sword or pirate’s hat, while limping with a pretend wooden leg. These visuals enhance the story experience for the child without the storyteller having to create the imagery with words.


Writing on the other hand depends solely on the writer’s interpretation of what the facial expressions, voice, mannerisms, image, and body movement of the characters might be. And, that interpretation must be conveyed through words that preferably ‘show’ rather than ‘tell.’

If you think about it, storytelling is much easier than writing a story. But, most of us authors are writers, not storytellers, and as writers we need to convey emotions and activity through showing.

In the storytelling examples above, how might you write the scene as an author?

For the first scenario of a spooky story, one example might be:

Lucas grabbed his little brother’s hand and pulled him close. “Shhh. Don’t make any noise. It might hear us.” They crept along the wall, barely breathing, until they reached the . . .

While this passage doesn’t have the advantage of the storyteller’s visual aids, it does convey a feeling of suspense and fear.

In regard to a pirate story, as an author you might write:

Captain Sebastian grabbed his sword and heaved it above his head. “Take the ship, men.”

The pirates seized the ropes and swung onto the ship. Swords and knives clanking, they overtook their enemy.

This short passage clearly conveys a pirate scene with Captain Sebastian leading his men into a battle aboard another ship. No visual aids, but it does get its message across.

You might also note that while trying to write your story through showing, you need to watch for weak verbs, adjectives, and a host of other no-nos. In the sentence above, the words, “barely breathing” might need to be changed if it reached a publisher’s hands. Why? Because “ly” and “ing” words are also frowned upon.

So, knowing the difference, if you had your choice, which would you prefer to be, a storyteller or a writer? Let's us know in the comments!

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and ghostwriter. For more tips on writing and book marketing and to check out her services, visit: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi

And, be sure to connect with Karen at:

Twitter / Facebook / Google+ / LinkedIn 

This article was originally published at:


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Getting Rid of Tattletale Words in Your Résumé

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of
The Frugal Editor: Do-it yourself editing secrets for authors:
From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller

People in all walks of life work mightily on perfecting their résumés and other career-building documents and then forget one vital step. An editor. Preferably an editor versed in all the elements of writing including grammar, punctuation, storytelling…wait! Storytelling?

Yes. And some other surprises like marketing—and a little knowledge about psychology won’t  hurt either.

The list is long but it can be shortened by thinking “experience.” A broad range of experience. So, no, your high school English teacher may not be your best choice. Nor, your mother who “did really well in English.”

There are a whole lot of tattletale words you shouldn’t use in your résumé or related documents like biographies, proposals, query letters, and media kits. All of these documents are designed to convince the reader of your ability to do the job—your expertise—and to nudge your career (or product) toward success.   

So what are those words? And how do they relate to storytelling?

Ambitious is one of the most frequently used tattletale words. It seems like a wasted word doesn’t it. A couple more that mean little because of overuse or are downright laughable are highly motivated or responsible. That you are writing this document is an indication that you are ambitious.

This is where that storytelling thing comes in. You tell a little story that subtly shows the responsible, ambitious, or highly motivated aspect of your work habits. Using the age-old writers’ motto, “show, don’t tell,”  will keep your reader from asking—often with a touch of irony—what makes you ambitious. King Midas was ambitious. Maybe your reader assumes your father got tired of seeing you playing video games and you got ambitious only when it looked as if the couch would no longer be a good place to park yourself.

So what is your story? Tell about the upward movement in your chosen career or even between careers—how one informs the other and gives you knowledge and a dimension that no other applicant is likely to have.

Hardworker and go-getter seem as useless in a résumé or query letter as ambitious. It’s like tooting your own horn. The person reading it might ask, “Who says?”

Overblown adjectives. Words like exciting and amazing—even when they describe results or projects—are anathema. They have the same problem as hardworking above. I call this the awesome syndrome. They are words that tempt a reader to scoff. Instead tell a story about the extra effort you put into a project and the difference it made. Or quote one of the rave reviews you received from one of your supervisors in a periodic assessment, recommendation, or endorsement.

Team player has been a cliché for decades.. Instead choose a group project you’ve worked on and tell about your contributions. Or just list some of the ways you might have helped another department or division. And, because human brains have been wired for stories since we sat around the fires we made in caves, make it into an anecdote if you can.

Think out-of-the-box is also a cliché-ridden no-no. It’s storytelling time again

Microsoft Word. I’m proud that I can produce an entire book using Word from its Contents to its Index to its Footnotes. I love that I don’t have to spend time learning another program. But there’s no point in telling people that I’m an expert at Word. Everyone is. Of course, I can use it prove another point like how well I have managed to adapt its features to new, advanced project and tell how much time I saved by doing that rather than learning a new program. I might mention how much more professional it looked even as I saved that time. And I might mention that my project got rave reviews.

Some frequently used words like synergy have become a way to insert some humor into a résumé and that has become as much of a cliché as the overuse of the word. Marco Buscaglia picked this word out of the hundred (if not thousands) of popular words I call business-ese. You can avoid them by reviewing your copy and purging anything that sounds officious including most words with more than three syllables.

Think in terms of relationships, colleagues in other departments, associates in competing companies, respected academicians, mentors beyond your teachers. Though a good story can take even that kind of mentorship out of the humdrum and into an Aha! Moment.

Before you send off your paper, go over it. Find all the weak verbs—is, be, do—and use your thesaurus to strengthen them and to make them more accurate.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson was an instructor for UCLA Extension's world-renown Writers' Program for nearly a decade and edits books of fiction and poetry. She  is the author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including The Frugal Editor  and The Frugal Book Promoter. They are both USA Book News award-winners and both have won several other awards. Her How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Her The Great First Impression Book Proposal is a booklet that can save anyone writing a proposal time reading tomes because it can be read in 30 minutes flat.

Carolyn is the recipient of the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and was honored by Pasadena Weekly for her literary activism. She is also is a popular speaker and actor. Her website is


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The Power of Video Marketing - A string quartet

Okay, maybe I'm acquiring a bad habit. I watched another video that made me want to share.

I happened across this video on Facebook. I really try to avoid watching videos because they're kind of time consuming. But, this is another great one with a story and marketing elements.

In a few minutes, a really short clip, a story emerged of one-upping, competition, and determination. And, it's all done in a funny and extremely talented and creative way.

I don't know the name of the video, but it was posted originally by Brandon Williams. You'll see what I mean about it's power when you watch it. It's definitely worth the few minutes.

So, how is this great video marketing?

Well, I can think of at least two reasons:

1. If this were a music school. Would you join up if you wanted to learn a stringed instrument?
2. If they had a performance coming up, wouldn't you be motivated to get a ticket?

And, all from the power of a short video clip.

If you watched it, please let us know what you thought of it!

If you're not creating video yet, start today. Create something simple, right from your iPhone or iPad. Get it up on YouTube, optimize it, and publish it.

You can even create a PowerPoint presentation, turn it into an MP4 and put it on YouTube.


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Do Writers Need Brands?

To brand or not to brand? That is the question.

If you are a writer, branding might seem to you like the most disturbing proposition.

After all, you are not a box of cereal residing on a shelf, fighting for consumer’s loyalty and attention.

Some time ago, when I was working in an ad agency, my creative director said to me “Products live on shelves; brands live in people’s minds.”

And this is where branding starts to get interesting for writers.

Brands live in people’s minds because they are nothing less than good stories.

Dear writers, it is time to for you to acknowledge that of all business professionals out there you possess the most rare and dangerous of talents – writing good stories.

Now, to go back to the “branding yourself” question – this is where branding starts to get challenging.

Yes, writers can design good brands (or write good stories) for other businesses, but can they do the same for themselves?

And most of all, do they need to?

The answer is it depends. It depends on how aware of yourself or rich and famous you want to be as a writer.

It is important to note here that branding can bring you more awareness of yourself without being rich and famous, but it won’t make you rich and famous without the awareness.

Personal branding has become quite the buzz word lately. Personal brands are similar to product brands in a sense that they undergo a process of simplification and systematization (which is why many authors abhor the “B” word as the antithesis to everything complex and meaningful).

However, personal brands differ from product brands on one fundamental level – spiritual alignment. Many large corporations suffer misalignment with their product brands for a variety of reasons – failed promises, poor management and customer service.

Solopreuners, on the other hand, have to be able to live the credo of their personal brands. You, as a writer, are not a product. But you can offer products. In fact, you get to define your products consciously, and carry out their messages with conviction and elegance on an everyday-basis.

Three years ago, the Financial Times published a study which showed that only 9% of professionals have a job in line with their personalities.

Personal branding will help you align your talents with your services.

Apart from elevating you to a place of high awareness, branding can work other wonders for you as well. It can make you more money. But remember, the order in which it works for personal brands is: awareness first, money next.

The reason why I stress personal awareness so much is because it will help you carry out the following commitments:

1/ Financial commitment:
In order for your brand to truly graduate to adulthood you will need to treat yourself as a business operation. If you as a writer are content to live from a project to project and take whatever job comes your way, then branding shouldn’t concern you as much. Many freelancers set up shop literally for free, in order to be flexible and “bail out” easily if needed. On the other hand, brands invest time and money into their operation and expect serious return on that investment. They also develop systems of marketing, bookkeeping, sales tracking, strategic planning and graphic design.

2/ Focus commitment:
If you want to be perceived as “THE ONE” in a certain area of writing style or expertise, then by all means, start thinking about a brand. That means one specific expertise, one audience. Do you want to be known as the ghost writing specialist, the “underdog” writer, the “high-brow intellectual” writer, the fresh opinion writer, the journalist? Yes, I am talking about a niche.

Because the modern marketplace is such a crowded room where nobody can hear each other, the simpler and focused you are, the easier for clients and audiences to find you and trust you.

Authors with a particular focus of work are Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jodi Picoult, Malcolm Gladwell, Joan Didion, Seth Godin just to name a few.

These commitments could be very trying and stringent for creative people like writers indeed. Some of you simply won’t have the upfront capital to invest in business and personal branding. Some of you may have already started to invest, but have stopped because of depleted resources. Or you might think that applying the principle of one niche kills the creative instinct. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re right. Branding is a reductive, and therefore quite limiting in its choices endeavor.

But most businesses fail not because they didn’t undergo the rigorous schooling of branding, or because they didn’t hire an accountant, or an expensive graphic designer for that matter. They fail because they lack the awareness seed, the alignment with the product or services they offer.

So don’t sweat about the technicalities of branding. But do sweat about that story which you will center your brand and services around. If you have an idea about the story of your personal brand, then everything else will fall into place.

Ignite your passion of storytelling, your intimacy with the journey of the archetypal heroes that have been populating the human mind for centuries. Pick an archetype for yourself, try it on, and see if it fits. The Hero maybe, or the Sage, the Trickster, the Mentor, the Sapeshifter, the Threshold Guardian.

Switch them around. You can evolve as a personal brand just as often as any hero of the writer’s journey.

Recently a famed journalist writer with a distinguished brand, Gene Weingarten, wrote an article “How branding is ruining journalism.” In a curmudgeonly manner, which has become his signature, he denounces personal branding and likens it to marketing Cheez Doodles.

“Newspapers used to give readers what we thought they needed. Now, in desperation, we give readers what we think they want. And what we seem to think they want is happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff.”, he says.

As a graphic designer and a writer I had to disagree with him, until I read the last line:

“When I was a hungry young reporter in the 1970s, I thought of myself as a superman, an invincible crusader for truth and justice… My goals, however, were unambiguous, and heroic: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. Note the order. First came the work.”

I realized that what he fusses and wails about is not the creative act of brand-making. He revolts against the insidious results branding has on society when performed without spiritual alignment.

It also makes sense that Gene Weingarten didn’t have to fight for the spotlight of his brand back then. Back then the marketplace was a different beast.

But I dare to imagine that who he is today has to do less with any external circumstances, and more with that “superman” journey he adopted on the first place.

Fani Nicheva is a graphic designer and a writer. She co-founded Bigfish Smallpond Design studio
with her partner in Santa Cruz, CA. Creative branding, typography, book design, comparative literature, mythology, storytelling, logos, websites, introspection and lollygagging are her favorite activities.

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