Digitally Enhanced Writing?

In digital art forms, such as illustration, animation, music, and photography, computer software and digital equipment can enhance, if not help construct, the final piece of art. Layers, algorithms, synthesizers, filters, and more transform the artist’s unadorned input into a polished masterpiece. Simple adjustments to values such as saturation, bass, speed, and coordinates can likewise reshape the nature of the work.

What goes into the digital never comes out the same.

Although the artist’s skill with the software or equipment determines the quality of the finished product, the software or equipment itself undertakes a good portion of the artistic work. The computer analyzes, calculates, processes, renders, and converts according to the parameters set by the artist. In many ways, digital editors can simplify the process of art creation;  in many other ways, they can complicate it.

Digital editors can, in other words, help artists create art that they would not be able to on their own.

No such digital enhancement exists—yet—for writing. Yes, word processors can insert, delete, and move text with ease, and spelling and grammar checkers can inform writers of errors, and computer programs can analyze writing for plagiarism, but none can transform writing in the same way that digital editors can transform other art forms.

Storyshop

Imagine: Storyshop, a piece of software that can read and understand an author’s writing and alter it by way of style adjustments. The software comes loaded with preset genre, theme, and effect packages that can be customized to the writer’s liking. The intuitive UI is easy to use and includes multiple forms of data input, from sliders to numerical values to text highlighting.

Story not scary enough? Apply the Horror Filter to increase the tension in scenes, amp up the atmosphere, and add more shock and surprise moments. Is your romance too raunchy, or your teen novel too mature? Use the Innocence Slider to rid your piece of risqué action and decrease the level of explicit language.

Changing technical aspects of your writing is easy, too. Highlight passages and apply the Perfect Past Tense Mask to change the present tense action into flashbacks. Select one character’s name, type in a new one, and watch as all instances of that character’s name switch to the new name. You can even change the gender, physical appearance, or speech habits of a character in one passage and apply the Mirror Throughout Effect to reflect those changes in the rest of the story.

Storyshop: rewriting has never been this easy or this fun.

Digitally Enhancing or Digitally Cheating?

If writers could use a program such as Storyshop, at what point does the writer stop writing and the software take over? Is the Perfect Past Tense Mask a convenient digital enhancement, but the Horror Filter a cheat? If Storyshop can insert text that mimics the writer’s style, is the program doing the writing, or is the author doing it by proxy?

Could writers produce stories with Storyshop that they could never produce on their own, without digital assistance? Is the writer still the creative and talented genius behind a Storyshop novel, or is the software the genius?

There is no denying that digital assistance, be it equipment like digital cameras and synthesizers or software like Photoshop and RenderMan, helps artists produce art that is not possible by nondigital means or produce art that is stronger than nondigital art. The quandary is whether this digital assistance takes over some of our artistry and makes us less or more of an artist as a result.

Thursday Boggle #97

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Boggle 97

Kill My Adverbs–Loudly, Quickly, and Harshly

Over the weekend, I was browsing through some short stories I wrote four years ago. I like to review my past writing on occasion to see how my style has changed and (hopefully) improved over the years. One of my old writing habits that I found across several stories made me cringe: overusing adverbs.

In these old stories, I had relied on adverbs to sharpen the intent and image of my verbs. I had thought that, on their own, many verbs did not carry clear or strong enough meaning and needed an extra descriptor, the adverb, to deliver a smashing image. I held to the notion that if my readers did not know how, why, or in what manner an action was done or experienced (i.e., if the verb was not modified), they would not comprehend the entirety of the action.

This concern that readers would not understand or picture the action as I had intended was in truth a concern that my writing was weak. In an ironic twist, plunking down adverbs alongside any verb I was uncertain about made my writing weaker.

I produced redundant sentences:

…she gripped the glass cup in her hands tightly…

I made tongue-twisters that were also redundant:

Hesitatingly, the girl slunk away to the front door.

I hid weak verb choices:

Callie hung the last pot on the rack forcibly…

And I overstated my meaning:

Wayne purposefully stomped off to his office…

Now read the above four phrases without their adverbs. In all cases but one (“Callie hung the last pot on the rack forcibly…”), removing the adverbs does what I had thought adding adverbs did: strengthens the verb. Without an adverb, the verb stands on its own with a distinct meaning that other verbs cannot capture.

(In the case of Callie’s sentence, a different verb should be used in place of “hung” to demonstrate that she used force in placing the pot on the rack. Reworking the sentence with more detail might also be useful. For example, “Callie slammed the last pot on to the rack hook, causing the pot to clatter against the other hanging pots and pans.”)

Adverbs should be a last resort. They signal poor verb choice and lack of detail and can create awkward, redundant, and silly phrasings. The solution, however, is simple. Cross out the adverbs, select more precise verbs, and include more detail if needed. Your writing will transform from immature to mature—immediately, instantly, easily!

Status

Update: I Am Moving

Greetings, fellow speculators! Just a little update here to let you know what is going on with me and thus, Speculosity.

I am in the process of moving to another city for new employment. Because this opportunity fell upon me in short order, I am frantic organizing all the details, and not-so-small details, of the move. Consequently, I may or may not be able to write new posts every Monday and have Boggle posts every Thursday for the next few weeks.

I will try my best to produce new content for Speculosity, but I make no promises. Thank you for your understanding, and I will see you on the other side from my soon-to-be new home!

Thursday Boggle #96

Give it your best go, and share your score and most epic word below!

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Boggle 96

My Next Reads

In lieu of yesterday’s non-existent post (my apologies!), I’ve done up a list of the next books I will read. Unfortunately, after pleading for suggestions for more classic spec-fic titles, I did not receive a single suggestion to kick off my reading list. (It’s not too late to suggest a book!)

I did my own research and came up with some titles that may or may not be “classic” classics and may or may not be true speculative fiction. (Is American Psycho more crime than spec-fic? Is The Bell Jar too autobiographical? And must I read Moby-Dick; or, the Whale?) It was surprisingly difficult  to judge whether or not I should classify a book as speculative fiction when its speculations are not of the obvious fantasy or science fiction nature.

My reading list is below. Please do share your thoughts and book suggestions.

My Next Classic Speculative Fiction Reads

  • The Picture of Dorian Grey (Oscar Wilde)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  • The Magician (W. Somerset Maughum)
  • The Trial (Franz Kafka)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (Charles Dickens)

Looking Ahead

In truth, I am more excited to move on to classic children’s spec-fic (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be fun) than to finish up this last bit of adult classics. Children’s books are easy reads, yes (and after reading so much Verne, I could use a lighter read), but they are whimsical and imaginative, and just as engrossing as any adult book. I am continually finding more and more children’s books to add to my list.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, though. I have a lot of books to read in order to reach my personal goal of reading all the classic speculative fiction novels. I haven’t even mentioned the hoards of classic science fiction books, like The Time Machine and Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, let alone the classic fantasy books, that I will need to read through following the children’s spec-fic.

For every book I cross off my reading list, I add two or three more! It’s awesome and awful all at once. Looks as if I won’t be reading new releases any time soon.

Thursday Boggle #95

Give it your best go, and share your score and most epic word below!

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Boggle 95