Welcome to the Rotoscopers Roundtable, a feature in which the Rotoscopers crew takes one question and gives their answers. If you have a question you’d like us to answer, ask it in the comments below!
This time, the question is: Describe your own personal writing style. Then, describe the writing style of a fellow RotoWriter.
Man, do I have a lot to talk about regarding my personal approach to writing articles for this website. Please, bear with me.
While I have plenty of moments where I can turn up the humor, I tend to be very straightforward and detail-oriented. My articles tend to be heavy on information because I like to present to my readers the full perspective on any given subject. It’s also one of the big reasons why I don’t like to write short articles very often (with few exceptions). I aspire to write the types of articles that I would like to read on an animation news website. Articles that might take you a while to read, but give you the most satisfying and well-rounded coverage on a story, which is more rare for animation-based news outlets than you might think. That, and I don’t feel comfortable with an article until I shoot past 240 words (one weird quirk of among a few I have).
Here’s a confession: I don’t write most of my articles within WordPress. Almost all of my first drafts are written on my personal word processor (LibreOffice Writer, for anybody wondering). Once those drafts are written, I take them over to WordPress for them to be polished up. That can be anything from revising or spell-checking words or sentences, embellishing appropriate words with italics, adding additional features like videos, images, or links, and picking about in SEO settings to make sure that everything will look right when you search for that article on Google or elsewhere. Another quirk of mine is that I will correct mistakes while I’m writing a first draft. I do it because I want to make the first draft as good as it can be before doing anything else with it in WordPress.
Speaking just on quirks, I found that I have developed a number of tricks and certain shorthands that I normally use when writing articles. For example, certain words and phrases are used multiple times (like ‘as such’). I also have a habit of using parenthesis in my articles, either for additional factoids or personal asides (like this one). As of late, I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to use words I’ve never used before in articles. So expect to see bigger words like ‘transmogrification’ and ‘ineffectual’ appear in my articles more often.
Pablo Ruiz is the website’s main writer for all things Pixar, and I can see why. His style is very loose, jokey, and personal. If you like Pixar, reading his articles feels less like reading actual ‘articles’ and more like sitting down with a fellow Pixar fan for a nice discussion. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have moments where he gets serious, but more often than not he’s comfortable with making you laugh as well as think. In that way, humor is a tool that he uses best out of all of us, and he uses it quite often.
What I usually do is write all the serious part of the article first and only after I’m satisfied it works that way do I start looking for places to add humor. That way I know that the article is solid even without the jokes but hopefully it’s more entertaining because of them.
As for describing someone else’s style, I’m not sure I can do it! I enjoy everyone’s writing for the site a lot. I have noticed that I’m always tempted to comment on Max’s articles. There’s something very engaging about them, they make you want to join in the conversation.
If I was going to describe my writing style I would say traditional persuasive essayist. I’m not really interested in stating all sides of a story. I’m interested in stating my thesis and then defending it as well as I can. I actually try to avoid writing articles where I am critical of a film and will usually ask if anyone liked it and would like to write about it first. What I prefer is to take something I love and show why it is special. I also admit to falling prey to our societies love of lists and list-making so you will see me from time to time writing about my favorite animated scares or favorite romances. One of the most fun posts I ever did was on the history of Disney owls and I’d like to do more silly posts like that if I can find a suitable topic. Mostly I love interacting with the RotoNation and seeing their comments and learning from all of them.
My favorite writer on the site is Jonathan J. North. His Gravity Falls and Star Wars Rebels are outstanding. Honestly they are the best on the internet, so rich and detailed about each episode. After each episode aired I would anxiously await his analysis. He has also done great pieces for the Disney Canon Countdown making each of the era posts and reviewing films like The Rescuers. I don’t like that movie but I enjoyed reading his post, which I think says a lot.
When I write, I go by instinct. I don’t put much thought into my process, but here are a few things I do consider.
I always try to keep my articles loose and conversational. In this regard, I look to two great non-fiction writers: Stephen King and William Goldman. Reading their work feels like relaxing and shooting the breeze with someone. I try to follow in their footsteps and talk with the reader, not down to them.
Honestly, I think I’m better at fiction than non-fiction. To make up for that, I structure my articles like I would a story. I always begin with a story, question, or joke to draw the reader in. I then go into a little history about the filmmaker or film, telling
it like a short story. When I’m writing a news story, I always try to help the reader relate to the people in the piece. I want the reader to come away feeling something, not just going off with some facts. (Although I do hope they remember the facts, too!)
I’m conscious of the look of the words on the page. Sometimes, I’ll choose a certain word because I think it looks better with the others. I also try to be cognizant of how the words sound together. To me, that’s a major part of writing style and voice. In this way, I’m following in the footsteps of another of my favorite non-fiction writers: Harlan Ellison. (If only I could learn how to create suspense in my non-fiction, like he does!)
Overall, my primary concern is making sure the article is a fun experience for the reader. I can only hope that I accomplish that!
Brandon’s already mentioned him, but my favorite RotoWriter has to be Pablo Ruiz. Every time I read one of his articles, it feels like I’m chatting with a friend over lunch. Pablo’s writing has a loose, breezy vibe that I really admire. On top of that, the man’s hilarious!
I admire Brandon Smith for his straightforward, no-frills writing style. His news articles are lean without being short. They’re filled with good information. In my opinion, he’s probably the best journalist among us RotoWriters.
Finally, I have to mention Kyle J. Ostrum. I’m filled with admiration for his knowledge about film history and animation. He imparts that knowledge remarkably well. His articles also flow really well. As I read, I feel myself being carried from one sentence to the next, feeling anxious to learn more. (And we’re both oldies fans. The cherry on top!)