"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Guest Post: KENJI CROSLAND






7 Rules for Writing Anecdotes

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing. If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

The art of writing anecdotes has, in the past, been much maligned as a medium that had no place in the world of "serious" writers. In the "me me me" world of the blogosphere and myspace however, the anecdote reigns as the supreme medium of communication. As no one until now really bothered to write the perfect anecdote, if you work to hone your craft just a little, you could easily become one of the best anecdote writers out there. Good anecdote writing is essential in building your unique personal brand. An anecdote written well will make your readers feel like they know the real you, and this is useful whether you're trying to get a date, or promote your own website.

Here are the seven basic rules for writing anecdotes:

1. Be yourself - You may think it's OK to fudge a few facts and events to make yourself look good, but if you're doing it to preserve your self-image, you're going about it the wrong way. At best you'll end up with second rate material that's only mildly entertaining and ultimately forgettable. People read your anecdotes to know who you are. If you wet your pants trying to get to the toilet, say so. When writing anecdotes don't give them a sanitized image--that's boring.

2. Begin with an observation or statement - This'll draw the reader in and make him or her want to know more. It's usually funny, doesn't explain too much, and leaves it up to the writer to prove it.
Here are some examples:
-The best way to avoid trouble with the police is to ignore them.
-I think my 2-year-old might have been Al Capone in a past life.
-Public toilets in Mexico can be fun.
-I've recently come to the conclusion that librarians are trying to take over the world.

3. Use the present tense - Present tense works better than past tense for humorous anecdote writing. The past tense tends to be more formal and less conversational than present tense.

4. Back up your observations with events and details - Make sure your story supports your first initial statement observation or your reader will feel cheated.

5. End soon after the interesting part - No one wants to hear what you had for dinner after the event occurred. Cut to the chase and get out before you get boring.

6. Wrap it up - I generally like to make a reference to my initial statements at the beginning of the anecdote. It reminds the reader of their purpose for reading in the first place.

7. And finally...be yourself!! - If anything you'll attract more interesting friends.

These are just basic guidelines for anecdote writing, but its a good place to start. In truth, the art of anecdote writing has few set rules. If you feel adventurous, feel free to make a set of guidelines for yourself. I do, however, believe that rule number one should be applied every time.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he's regained his sanity, quit his job, and now blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He is also developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @KenjiCrosland.

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