Week in Links: Brainy Writing

7 Ways to Use Brain Science to Hook Readers and Reel Them In – WritetoDone

In the same way that food tastes good so we’ll eat it, stories are entertaining so we’ll pay attention to them. But for writers the real breakthrough is the discovery of what triggers that delicious sense of enjoyment we feel when a story hooks us.

Lisa Cron, the guest author of the above post, is well on her way to earning an place of honor in this blog. I’ve been seeing really goddamned awesome guests posts from her ever since her book, Wired for Story, was released in July. She’s no doubt trying to promote her book by writing excellent guest posts, but that’s okay because did I mention how goddamned awesome her guest posts have been? They’re so awesome that I actually bought her book the week it was released. You can get a taste of what her book is about by reading the above article, her post titled Why We are Wired for Story at Writer Unboxed, and her blog wiredforstory.com.

HipType Provides Detailed Analytics for eBooks – LitReactor

Levy and Prasad aren’t the first to create a product to give detailed eBook analytics, but others require publishers to go through a specific eBook store, which is limiting. HipType’s only limitation (and it’s a fairly big one but one that should sort itself out over time) is that the plug-in works with any HTML5 device (so iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.) but not with eReaders that use e-ink (standard Kindle).

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love calling out techno-babble tools like this that can help self-published writers. The article mentions this too, but tools like HipType put analytics and data collection into the layman’s hands and allow for testing alternative versions of a book on readers to see what they respond to the most. And that’s an awesome thing. Unless you spend too much time fiddling with data collection and not enough time making solid stories. Then it’s a not awesome thing.

National Geographic‘s Aaron Huey on Digital Collaboration and Community Storytelling – 10,000 Words (Mediabistro)

There is great value in having an outsider tell the story of a people or community, and put the pieces they find into a beautiful, objective narrative. But returning for many years to Pine Ridge meant that I had to look back into the eyes of the same people again and again after they had seen themselves on websites or in the pages of magazines, and they all wanted to know why I couldn’t tell more of the story. They wanted to know why it all had to be about poverty and violence and alcohol. They wanted to know why it couldn’t be about success stories and good students and sober families.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation project that Aaron Huey and Cowbird are partnering on, but this is the first link-worthy piece I’ve found. You’ll find a really dense interview that’s worth your time for Huey’s thoughtful discussion about giving voice to a community and the limitations of traditional journalism.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.

Week in Links: Stop Being So Damn Nice

Jonah Lehrer continued to commit career suicide, and that dominated most of the linkage and articles this week. Yet I somehow managed to find a few gems tucked under his turd fest. You’re welcome.

Against Enthusiasm: The epidemic of niceness in online book culture – Slate

As if mirroring the surrounding culture, biting criticism has become synonymous with offense; everything is personal—one’s affection for a book is interchangeable with one’s feelings about its author as a person. Critics gush in anticipation for books they haven’t yet read; they <3 so-and-so writer, tagging the author's Twitter handle so that he or she knows it, too; they exhaust themselves with outbursts of all-caps praise, because that's how you boost your follower count and affirm your place in the back-slapping community that is the literary web.

This article tries to make an argument for being more critical of books in online communities (primarily Twitter and Tumblr). I’m all for being critical to sensitive souls like writers. So stop being so damn nice, people. Let’s bring those published literary hussies to tears.

Update 8/13: Pop Culture Happy Hour (an awesome NPR podcast to which you should subscribe) critiques this article and brings up some really solid points about social media and today’s “book culture.” The discussion starts at 19:21 and ends about 34:10, which you can listen to on their blog post Pop Culture Happy Hour: On Fall TV And Whether Criticism Is Too Nice.

The only list that matters – Melville House

A body cannot live each day like it was their last. Our best moments gain their worth, in part, because they are surrounded by dross. But seeing numbers like this, doing the math, makes a person wonder: should that book about feeding your dog the paleo diet be one of those vanishing few?

Melville House dared write a post that combined math with books, but it works. I’m not sure the universe can handle this imbalance.

This dude just wants an eBook – New York Times Blog

I felt like I was in a Monty Python skit. “Hello? Would anyone like some money? Anyone? I’ve got money here—no?”

This exemplary human writes a tech blog for the New York Times (I know, exemplary + technology + New York Times is an unholy union), and decided he needed an eBook version of Bourne Identity for his minion. Problem is, the publisher is too incompetent to provide eBook versions. So this dude did what any other human would—he went to a bit torrent site. But THEN this magical, godly person mailed the publisher a check! Oh holy hell, I don’t think the universe can handle this much strain.

Bonus: Joshua Ferris is my nemesis – Salon

We’ll call my nemesis Josh, since that’s his name. He goes by Joshua now — Joshua Ferris — but calling him that makes me uncomfortable, so for these purposes I’m going with Josh.

Can be summarized succinctly with one word: hilarious. After discussing how inhumane and horrible her MFA program was, and how her nemesis (now a published writer) is a hard worker, the last few paragraphs bring us to the groundbreaking moral that being an unknown writer gives you more freedom and less pressure. Enlightening.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.

Week in Links: Tchotchkes, Zombies, and Book Mazes

Tchotchkes Made Significant Through Stories – Marketplace.org

We had this hypothesis that you could actually add value to an object by completely making up a story about it—a completely fictitious story….The stories were good, but I think that there was something about the project that people wanted to participate in. They wanted to be part of the story, and they wanted to tell their friends about it…

This fascinating project proves that even a turd can be polished into a gemstone with the help of a good story.

Zombie Nouns – NY Times Opinonator

Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them “zombie nouns” because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings.

Read the above article to learn why zombie nouns are not cool. And then make sure you beat those bastards with a cricket bat when you next encounter them.

London Maze Made From 250,000 Books – LitReactor

An enormous labyrinth made of at least 250,000 books is being created at Southbank Centre as part of the London 2012 Festival. The aptly titled aMAZEme project is spearheaded by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pup…[who] hope visitors will “discover new textures, images and emotions while being immersed inside the world of books.”

I’m a sucker for things like gigantic mazes constructed from books, and I’m an even bigger sucker for interactive, community-based art projects. This project will not only be built by volunteers, it will also host live author readings and other events inside the maze, and visitors can take a book from the maze when they leave. So. Damn. Cool.

Write ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books Through This Clever HTML5 App – Fast Co.Design

Who hasn’t, at least for a moment, thought a Choose Your Own Adventure book would be fun to write? It’s like making a game out of words. Branching narratives are a surprisingly natural approach to make books interactive. But they’re a logistical nightmare. Multiple storylines? Converging plots? How could you keep even a simple story straight?

A company called inkle appears to have figured it out…[and] is making their internal compositional software available to the public free as an HTML5 web app called inklewriter. So, without any coding expertise at all, and without much preplanned plot, either, you can simply start typing an interactive novel.

Anyone who didn’t love Choose Your Own Adventures as a kid is a soulless, kitten hater. I tested the inklewriter app already, and it is very easy to dive right in and use. So get to it, people. We no longer have excuses to ignore this beloved art form.

I Hate This Book So Much: A Meditation – Time

I cannot stand this book I’m reading right now.

It’s a novel. It’s by a writer who is generally described as Great, but who I’ve always personally felt is Pretty Good When He’s Really On His Game, Which Was Like For One Book, But Generally Speaking He’s Really Not That Good At All. Like For Example Right Now.

The comments section for Lev Grossman’s article and his Twitter feed have turned into a guess-the-book game. But the point is that anyone with a brain and their own thoughts have “great” authors they absolutely hate. For me it’s everything ever written by Franzen.

Inside the Quest to Put the World’s Libraries Online – The Atlantic

The fascination with completeness is as timeless as it is ingrained. In the last decade, the Internet has made the ambition of universality appear closer to realization than ever before: What is the Web, if not a vast collection, and an accessible one? But as with any new frontier, formidable challenges attend exciting possibilities—and nowhere has this been more apparent than in the efforts of the Digital Public Library of America, a coalition spearheading the largest effort yet to curate and make publicly available the “cultural and scientific heritage of humanity,” with a focus on materials from the U.S., by harnessing the Internet’s capabilities. The DPLA hopes to create a platform that will orchestrate millions of materials—books from public and university libraries, records from local historical societies, museums, and archives—into a single, user-friendly interface accessible to every American with Internet access.

Long and thoughtful piece on the DPLA and all of the potential pitfalls and challenges they face with a project of this massive scale. Nothing really snarky I can add here, sorry.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.

Week in Links: The Swedes Augment Reality

Ikea Adds Augmented Reality to 2013 Catalog – Mashable:

Ikea has added augmented reality to its 2013 catalog with new features that let consumers access films, interactive experience and photo galleries with their smartphones.

Mashable has uncovered one more way that the Swedes are taking over the world. Ikea’s yearly catalog is already my grown-up version of the Sears Holiday Wish Book, and this is going to drain more of my time (and iPhone battery power).

Geeking About Storytelling with Joss Whedon – i09:

Joss Whedon is in the unique position of being both a cult icon and a huge mainstream creator, thanks to projects like Firefly and The Avengers. But both halves of his success spring from his ability to create addictive stories, that leave you desperate to know what happens next.

The Geek God, Joss Whedon, answers some interesting questions about transitioning stories between different mediums (film to TV to comics). But what I really wanted them to ask: Why is Dr. Horrible and Firefly so good while Dollhouse left me collapsed on the floor in a pool of vomit?

The Silent History: New Digital Story Project Inspired by “The Wire” – Melville House Books:

The former publisher of McSweeney’s, Eli Horowitz, along with Russell Quinn, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett have a new digital reading platform called The Silent History, which is designed with the circumambulatory nature of storytelling in mind, more so than a straight-forward linear format.

I haven’t been this excited about an interactive story since I first heard about Zombies, Run! a year ago. The fact that readers can add their own supplements to the story via “Field Reports” makes this project sound even more amazetrain.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.