What an Orangutang Can Teach You About Scene Writing

Posted By on December 12, 2015

It’s a small moment but in terms of emotion, that coin of realm of all great scene writing, the orangutang of the Barcelona zoo delivers the goods.

I’ve watched this clip via The Guardian’s US enews multiple times and it still makes me laugh. That’s rare in this cynical, jaded age so I thought I’d talk about why this little video packs a lot of power in :41 seconds.

We Are as Surprised as the Orangutang

It’s a simple scene and set-up with no fancy camera tricks. A young man sits on the edge of the organgutang cage at a zoo and he’s engaged the attention of the orang. The magician does a simple “now you see it, now you don’t” magic trick that allows the audience to see what the orangutang doesn’t: Mr. Magician switches out the object he put in the styrofoam cup when it goes under the man’s knees. There’s immediate tension because we see the bright eyed orang watching carefully. We see his long-lashed eyes move up and down with the action in the cup and we’re wondering what he’ll do when the trick is revealed.

Unalloyed Joy and Hilarity is Catching in Scene Writing

It takes a beat (comics would congratulate the orang on his excellent timing) and then the orang endears himself to his audience by opening his big mouth, letting loose a belly laugh and flopping to the floor. You can feel the hilarity and the spontaneity of his reaction in his body language. We’re both surprised and delighted at this unguarded reaction

There’s no Tedious Explanation. The Audience Makes Our Own Conclusion

No laugh track. No commentary that interprets what we’re seeing. We’re left to make our own conclusion about what this intimate and surprisingly tender glimpse of the animal mind tells us.

Who knew orangs had a sense of humor? You’d be hard pressed to write a better dramatic arc.

Photo Tip for Bloggers: Framing Brings the Viewer Closer, Keeps Them Longer

Posted By on September 23, 2015

photo tip for bloggers shows how to frame a portrait with a foreground of a rotting wall

Any frame heightens visual interest. The frame asks the viewer to step inside and that means you have their interest for longer.

Being your own photographer these days is almost a requirement if you blog. I’ve found that shooting my own images sets my blog apart and photography contributes to my creative and writing life in a way I’d never imagined. A very simple photo tip for bloggers is to frame your photos if you want to extend the time that viewers spend looking at your images.

Almost any Frame Will Direct the Eye


Dementia Erases Storytelling

Posted By on June 29, 2015

demented woman's face encourages storytelling

All you need for great storytelling is the spark of a great face. Don’t you wonder what this woman’s life was like?

You’ve probably noticed that my continuous streak of blogging once-every-week for four years came to a halt in March.

I spent three tough months in Texas with my dying 91-year-old aunt, Winifred Louis. Habits like bathing and blogging fell to the wayside during extended care giving that I shared with my sister, Monica Jenicek. (more…)

Blogging and Web Design Inspiration: Start with Who You Are and What You Care About

Posted By on March 24, 2015

It’s the little things that count. We hear this everywhere pertaining to everything. I’ve got news: It’s true in web design and blog design especially. Spot-on, “hell-yeah!” web design inspiration hinges on small choices: colors, patterns, fonts, graphics, templates. These seemingly small elements work together to make your design pop, wow, zing. However, they can also cause your web design to miss its mark. You can spend hours futzing, tweaking and fiddling , then realize something’s is off. Here’s a tip that will help you figure out what isn’t working.

Invariably, Your Design – Although Technically Correct – Isn’t Conveying “You”


In Search of Whoosh: How to Boost Your Blog Design

Posted By on March 10, 2015

author Rebecca Hoch demonstrates rowing whoosh on Lake Stevens in the early morning

Rebecca Hoch demonstrates rowing Whoosh on Lake Stevens and design Whoosh in her blog.

Whoosh… It’s a fun word to say. It conjures speed, power, movement. It implies going beyond the ordinary. As an avid rower, whoosh equates to effective, purposeful rowing mechanics. It springs the boat forward, increases speed, pushes you over the finish line. Blogging has its own version of Whoosh: effective, purposeful design.

Blog design with Whoosh pops the moment you open the page. It evokes smiles, oohs and ahhs, maybe a small delighted laugh. The reader’s curiosity is piqued. How can they not stay on the page and explore? (more…)

How to Target an Audience, Texas-Style

Posted By on February 26, 2015

how to target an audience with heather tessmer, billboard that reads "Ever Argue with a Woman"

One of the most common mistakes in marketing is to assume that your product appeals to everybody. It doesn’t. Especially in the early “unknown” phase when very few people recognize your brand. You are far better off learning how to target an audience by figuring out the most likely people you think will buy what you’re selling than appealing to the masses.

Let’s explain this idea with a sassy out-of-the-box billboard for a divorce lawyer in San Antonio. (I’m in Texas taking care of my 91-year-old aunt which could be the subject of a new novel.) (more…)

Content Writing Needs “Presentation Pizzazz” to Keep A Reader’s Attention

Posted By on February 3, 2015

I am on a plane. The flight crew is going through the standard pre-flight emergency routine: the exits are over the wings, seats are floatation devices, if the oxygen masks deploy, put it on and breathe normally. Yadda, yadda, yadda… Oh yeah, and buckle your seat belt. Not one passenger is paying attention. This is vital information! It could be the difference between life and death – literally! And we’re all tuning it out. Why? Boring presentation.

Your message may not be as vital as pre-flight emergency instructions. However, it is vital to the life of your blog and your business. You need your readers to pay attention, focus, absorb and hopefully respond. Is your content writing formatted in a clear, engaging fashion that’ll keep your readers with you? Does it keep them coming back for more? (more…)

Content Writing Tips from the Beast of Boom

Like everyone else in Seattle, Seahawk and Super Bowl fever has infected me. This is pretty funny because I hadn’t watched an NFL football game for 35 years before I saw the NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and the Packers.

Back in my twenties, I lived with a betting-obsessed football nut who used to watch ball games like a roulette wheel, spinning the TV remote between four or five or even six games in an afternoon. By the time we broke up in 1980, I thought I was cured of football forever.

It’s not my intent in this business and content-writing blog to parse the amazing NFC finals game that the Seahawks won in the last five minutes. It is my intention to apply some great sports writing examples to the business of content writing in order to convince you that great writing—even if it’s about Marshawn Lynch—can help you put a Legion of Boom in your pen. (more…)

Why The Best Creative Marketing Ideas Are High Concept

Posted By on January 21, 2015

Creative marketing ideas up-end expectation by showing not a scantily dressed women but a flabby and hairy researcher who doesn't spend much time at the gym.

Dice, the recruiting agency, goes high concept with this creative marketing idea. Their outdoor board featuring Matt, the tech hottie, was placed at the entrance to South Lake Union, or Amazon Gulch in Seattle.

When I started my career in advertising in the late ‘70s, a “concept”—the creative marketing idea behind the headline and image—was the Holy Grail. Every copywriter and art director (we always brainstormed in teams) spent hours on assignments from lowly direct mail post cards to :30 TV spots, trying to come with that magic combo that hooked, surprised and stuck with our readers or viewers.

Today, in a world where so much content blasts audiences from so many more places, the idea of High Concept has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo. (more…)

When to Upgrade Your Blog Design? Three Questions to Help You Decide.

Posted By on January 15, 2015

side-by-side comparison of two blogs: before and after

Notice how much cleaner and crisper the After version is compared to the Before. So much easier to read and navigate. The photo is more personal and therefore more engaging. We want to read to find out who these people are and what they’re doing. The format changes contribute to the blog’s content.

In Design Land, the goal is to create logos, brands, and marketing collateral that are meaningful, memorable and lasting. Designers are trained to do this. They love the challenge. But you are not a designer. You’re a writer, blogger and if you’re like most Two Pens readers, a business owner. As such, maintaining your blog’s “look” while keeping up with current design trends can be befuddling.

Every 12- to 18-months, new web tools and designs become available making your blog look out-of-date. You must upgrade your blog’s design regularly. But when? And which components? Do you revise the whole blog or small pieces of it? The new year is a great time to evaluate for change. Not necessarily big changes, but changes that reflect where you and your message are now. (more…)