Over the summer, stuck in a van on a long trip, I started to dream up alternative personalities for the GPS system. I imagined that the navigation voice belonged to a bellhop sort of chap with a charming, effusive demeanor. Soon, he would introduce himself in my mind as, “Milton Murphy, here fo’ ya’.” A friend seated next to me chimed in with, “So, where do ya’ want to go to-day?” You might have had to be there to appreciate how funny we thought this was, but it’s not necessary to get my point.
Persuasive fiction must be based on plausible reality. Like many abstract creations, the persona of Milton Murphy is based on dozens of small fragments of memory that combine to generate a single living and breathing idea (not unlike the thoughts that go into defining a “brand” itself). In my mind, when Mr. Murphy came to life, he arrived complete with a full backstory.
Unanimous consensus is unrealistic, so try to write what makes sense, sounds good, and remains grounded in reality for the majority. Like Milton Murphy, “Here ‘fo ya’.”
- The importance of being well read. The more you know, the more you have to draw on when inventing a concept. Your imagination is only limited by what you limit it to. As described above, Milton Murphy represents an amalgamation of all the — sometimes real, sometimes not-so-real — people, places, and things that I’ve experienced. If you don’t have a wide breadth of these elements in your mind, you won’t have them in your writing.
- Creativity doesn’t happen in a straight line. It’s easy to chart financial performance. The line goes up. The line goes down. But in the creation of an idea, particularly from the brain to the written word on the page, the connections can be like following the path of a bouncing football. It’s hard to put into words how writers put things into words. Still, the process isn’t rocket science. It’s actually much more complicated than that — in a certain way of thinking.
- If it sounds good, it is good. The temptation for many writers is to “overthink” a great deal of what they write. This stumbling block surfaces when attempts are made to try to “force” the reader to adopt a desired "common" understanding of the subject (what we sometimes derisively refer to as “idiot-proofing"). By definition, this is almost impossible, because the biases of every potential audience member are always at work.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.
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