Friday, July 06, 2007

Living in DC: The Macy's Experience
I bought a new suit today, the first in many years. I bought it at the Macy's in downtown DC, after I saw online they were having a huge sale. At the store itself, Alvin (the suit salesperson) not only steered me in two seconds to the rack with my size, he suggested an alternative to the in-store tailoring. He also guided me to another Macy's employee, Lucy, who could "hook me up with the best shirt and tie combination you've ever seen. She's the best." Lucy was indeed the best - she suggested some combinations I would never have thought up, plus she paid attention to my wallet. The first shirt we looked at she dismissed. "Not on sale," she said, and then took me to the bargains. All told, I ended up spending $300.00. But that was before the extra discounts, which got me down to $200.00. Seems that today, the only thing they inflate are their Thanksgiving balloons.

Now all I need is another job interview.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Screenwriter Secrets of Effective Storytelling!
Part 1: The Language (continued)

#3 - To [adverb] or not to [adverb]
Adverbs ("The part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb") are used in screenplays, but sparingly. Used well, they can provide sparks in the reader's mind. Used badly (aka "too often") they're mud caking up on your boots. Weighing you down. Bringing "what happens next" to a halt.

Many storytellers, especially those of us seldom called upont to exercise our skills, can rely on adverbs to give extra emotional weight to the story. But what we don't realize is very often the facts of the story carry a significant amount of that weight already. Just by telling the simple, unadorned story itself, we can create the most compelling pictures in the reader's mind.

The problem with adverbs is that they dictate one way of looking at an incident, and remove the audience's ability to provide their own vision. Used heavily, adverbs limit the reader's creativity. They weigh you down.

In the "Aliens" example, there are two well-placed adverbs: blindingly and silently. And they aren't used metaphorically. They actually describe the effect on the audience's two senses - seeing and hearing.

Earlier, I said I fall into this trap too. I did in this post. In the sentence beginning "Many storytellers..." I first wrote "can rely heavily on adverbs..." When I proofed the post, I took my own advice, and deleted "heavily." And I think the sentence is all the better for it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How Green Is My H2O
12 Ways WASA Can Help DC Break Its Bottled Water Habit - and Improve Our Plastic Container Environmental Impact

Fast Company's fascinating analysis of the bottled water phenomenon ("Message in a Bottle," July/August 2007) inspired me to come up with some more ideas for improving WASA's public outreach (see my previous post on the subject - 7 Ways to Improve a Municipal Water Report to DC Residents.)

According to Fast Company, America's water supply is "impressively safe," yet we prefer to spend billions on a substance we can get for free (or at very very very low cost), not to mention the environmental cost of all those plastic bottles.

I think this provides a great opportunity for DC's Water and Sewer Authority to take back their main product and reposition it in our lives. How to do this? Some examples:

1. Publish a "Did You Know..." series focusing on
- how much money we can save by filling our water bottles from the tap
- tips and facts about water's health benefits
- how municipal water purification is not that far removed from bottled water manufacturers' water processing systems
- why using DC's water is better than using bottled water.

2. Create a fact sheet itemizing all of WASA's benefits to DC residents (sometimes these things need to be spelled out, even the ones that can be termed "common sense.")

3. Design a snappy DC water system logo that looks less governmental.

4. Provide DC households with a free plastic gallon refrigerator water jug - prominently featuring the logo. Make the jugs, as well as reusable individual water bottles (adult and child/aquapod sizes) available to DC residents for a small fee.

5. Revamp
the consumer sections of WASA's Web site to better represent the DC water "brand" and upgrade the graphics, writing style, and user information.

6. Start a DC water blog, highlighting facts, short tutorials, and breaking news around DC's water supply. Plenty of opportunities for puns here, which I won't burden anyone with at this point.

7. Develop a "Save the Water, Save the World" campaign, which encourages residents to keep track of the money saved through bypassing the purchase of bottled water, which they can then donate to charity (like WASA's S.P.L.A.S.H. Program.)

8. Conduct taste tests at community gatherings (farmer's markets, flea markets, neighborhood festival days) at a newly-upgraded WASA exhibit, which pit DC water against the top bottled water brands (and give away t-shirt sporting the new WASA logo.)

9. Create
a school science curriculum showing the extensive water reclamation system and its component technologies.

10. Collaborate with DC's Department of Public Works on a program that encourages residents to lower the amount of plastic we throw away by reusing water bottles for DC tap water, and informs us on how much garbage we currently produce with bottled water.

11. Launch a "develop your taste for water campaign."

12. Combine
forces with DC's Health Center on a "Water Fights Obesity" campaign that shows the positive health benefits of DC water (when combined with healthy eating and exercise.) Identify (and facilitate) some neighborhood "Jareds" (a la Subway) as spokespersons for the campaign.

Extra Added Attraction! Dumb Little Man offers "9 Reasons to Drink Water, and How to Form the Water Habit."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Screenwriter Secrets of Effective Storytelling!
Part 1: The Language (continued)

Off the Beaten Path
Just one more example supporting the “Level III Diagnostic” storytelling problem I describe in my previous post. In "What do you do with your blog on the weekend,” Problogger states:

“The weekend is here and I’m looking forward to some fun. You see today is my Son’s first birthday party (his actual birthday is next Friday) and we’re getting together with family and friends to celebrate his first year…”

I do this all this time, and I hear others doing it too. Even Problogger, who has an awesome site, falls into the trap. He lets us know that today is his son’s first birthday (a very cool detail), then he backtracks to tell us his son’s actual birthday is next Friday. It of course matters to him, but it doesn’t matter to us. Repeating the information breaks the story. Providing more info on the birthday (even if it's just clarifying) starts us thinking that the story's going down a different path, even though it's not.

I have a friend who does this so often while he speaks, that he often forgets the the point of his story, since he’s wandered so far off the topic. I have to tell him “go back to the original subject of your story” (that is, if I remember what it was.)

Bottom line: leaving out some details, even if they further clarify or even reveal a truth, is sometimes OK to do.

If I'm guilty of it in this post, I apologize.