Put On a Hat

The Six Hat Gang

Writing from the point of view of another personality can sometimes be taxing. Here is a technique taken from the wonderful world of training and human resources, significantly amended for literary artists:

Six Hats is a way of putting your mind into another mode. When a character in your story needs to be shown to think in a certain way, put on a Hat from below, as appropriate.

White hat – Facts & Information

These people make statements of fact, and are able to discern information from scant evidence, presenting the views of others in a factual manner.  Yes, they are boring personalities. In plot lines, these characters act as the neutral “announcer”, and can present details about your plot or other characters along with the background to events.  Where background info or character traits could take too many pages, a white hat person can be useful.  Absences of information can also be brought to the reader’s attention.

Red hat – Feelings & Emotions

Their feelings are in your face. They tell you their gut instincts.  In many cases these characters are foils against which ideas can be tested, and can be contrasted against other, more stable, characters.  While central characters may not be Red Hats all the time, they may express this side of their nature periodically.

This hat can be used to emphasize an empathetic response to a situation of other character.

Grey hat – Being Cautious

 These characters regularly identify barriers, hazards, risks and other negative connotations.  While some people may find his hat is natural to use, the issues with it are that some will tend to use it when it is not requested and when it is not appropriate, thus stopping the action of others.  Another issue is that some people will naturally start to look for the solutions to raised problems —they start practicing green on grey thinking before it is requested.

Yellow hat – Being Positive and Optimistic

These characters identify the positive aspects associated with any situation. This is the opposite of grey hat thinking. A Yellow hat looks for the reasons in favour of something.  They will look to justify statements in favour of the idea or other person.  Called the idea of “undecided positive”  -whereas the grey hat would be skeptical – “undecided negative”.
They may use statements regarding the benefits that exist, or positive statements about the likelihood of achieving the benefits, or identifying the key supports available that will benefit this course of action.

Green hat – New Ideas

This is the hat of thinking new thoughts.  These characters bounce from one idea to another like butterflies in a field of flowers.  They exist to identify new possibilities, some of which may be reasonable. Things are said for the sake of seeing what they might mean,rather than to form a judgment.  Because green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity, it can take many forms.

Blue hat – The Big Picture

This is the hat used by experienced people who assess all the possibilities and then set a course of action.  The blue hat organizes things.  What have we done so far?  What can we do next?  Who should be asked to do it? Which consequences need to be considered?

Why Are Sentences So Complex?

Oral versus written communication – which is better at conveying your thoughts?

This article has numerous, fascinating answers. Reading through to a few of them will expand a writer’s understanding of conversational writing.

The moral of the story is that Reading Is Good For You:


“More people now read—because they have to—but many probably still consume the vast bulk of their linguistic diet in spoken form and may have little patience for writing that is mentally taxing and reeks of snobbery. The need to make text accessible to a broader population, with a wide range of linguistic experiences, has created some pressure to bring the structures of written English more in line with spoken English.

“Still, the English language represents not a single ecosystem, but many. A bird’s eye view of the overall trajectory of English would miss some of the most dramatic changes occurring within its particular linguistic niches. That brings to the fore another key reason why language might gravitate toward streamlined syntax: the nature of the communities that use it.”

Is Your Story Compelling?

Compelling Stories

George Opacic

Respected literary artists writing fiction, whether they know it or not, usually employ techniques from musicians, weavers, painters and choreographers.

Compelling stories are a balance of the coherent retelling of a series of events, artistically peppered with elements of emotional content. View the result in your mind as a musical composition: it can’t be all crescendo, or a constant wail; the melody has to move up and down the scale in both pleasing and surprising ways.

Weave your story with characters that have their own personality. Place them within a landscape that is replete with colours and texture. Keep your readers’ interest with a smattering of the familiar, perhaps with an edge, but also take them off to fascinating places they wish they could experience in person. Maintain a reasonable reality, within the context of the genre, but push the details and nuances of your story to the edge of what the story-line will reasonably allow.

Construct the framework and background for the story separately, then use that blueprint as you build your tale. Add the elements of interest and intrigue. Craft your approach to unexpected plot twists by respecting the reader’s intelligence with not-so-obvious planted clues, then hit them between the eyes with it. They will think back and say, “Ah-ha!”

It should not be clear that the protagonist will save the day in the end. Conflict and struggle must spill onto your canvas. Move the characters through scenes so that they, and the reader, does not get bored. Cute antics or monologues unrelated to carrying the story forward will get you no marks from the reader. The framework is the place for the cute antics or philosophical monologues. If they really fit as connection points to the tale, they may be added to the manuscript. Otherwise, file them for another time.

Compelling stories are remembered because they form a strong emotional hook. That hook has to be connected to a physical line that is either immediately believable and comfortable, or transports the reader to a world within which the reader feels relaxed, jarred, angered, empathetic, horrified, vindicated… The emotion is what holds your reader’s eyes to the page.



Editing • Proofreading • Spell-checking

An Editor may be contracted to perform any of several functions. First, one must clearly define the type of work to be done. Is it intended to be “editing” or “proofreading”? Further, there are two broad considerations for a contract, along with several more within each path. It can get complicated!

A commonly-used term for a quick reading with corrections of basic spelling, grammar and minor suggestions is called “blue-penciling”.

Regarding definitions, editing may be a simple reading of chapters to confirm that each one follows the overall trajectory, and that locations, characters and concepts are consistent; more value-added editing is done by penciling in suggestions for elements like tone, story development, character growth, concept extensions, or chapter additions. Proofreading can be as simple as checking for spelling and appropriate grammar.

More formally, copy editing addresses the mechanics of the paragraph, highlighting grammar issues. Line editing takes that a step further by working on the tone, tempo and time-line. The more interesting and extensive form of editing is referred to as developmental editing. An analogy for these would be in the progression that an athlete would take. A runner might start by feeling good that he/she can run faster than the others in class; then an instructor could show some details such as stride length, pace and push-off; later, a coach could match training and practice regimens; next, the athlete’s career is considered in context, considering capability and competition. This is the same as development editing, where you step back to look at the overall product and make long-term decisions.

A contract may be time-based or lump-sum based. For instance, doing the least expensive version of proofreading would be done electronically via tools like MS Word’s spell-checker and grammar checker (which authors can do by themselves) for $25 to $50. There are online services that do this. Some services charge by the page, which may be between 50 to $2. Blue-pencil readings can be $20 to $50 for a one-hour session.

If the fee is time-based, it could be anywhere from $5 per hour to $40 per hour. This could quickly escalate to a very high cost. The lower the rate, the longer it usually takes to be completed.

A version of lump-sum contracts gives you the security of knowing what the final cost will be and that the reader is committed to finishing to a deadline.

Editing adds the real value. General editing will cost upwards of $500. This will be a process that includes a certain amount of back-and-forth discussion with the author regarding elements of the plot, characterizations, tone, style and intended audience.

Finally, the best end result may be obtained by engaging an editor who acts almost as a ghost-writer. If the author has great ideas but is not experienced in writing for the publishing market, this can be the preferred choice for the most professional outcome. Fees for this service may start with a down-payment, depending on the genre, of between $100 to $1000; with a monthly fee of $100 to $600. A fee reduction may be offered in exchange for a percentage of gross sales.

Another advantage to engaging the right editor is employing one who can convert the story to filmscript format. As this is a completely different way of writing, with many formal and stylistic changes applied to a story, the fee is negotiated separately.

Requests or comments?