Other Worlds

book-otherworlds-splshMargaret Atwood, that reluctant Canadian icon whose pen has been been known to build and destroy entire worlds in a stroke, has had a lifelong relationship with Science Fiction. She claims it came to be due to a childhood difficulty relating to the rudimentary elements of the here-and-now. She says:

I wasn’t much interested in Dick and Jane: the creepily ultra-normal characters did not convince me. Saturn was more my speed, and other realms even more outlandish. Several-headed man-eating marine life seemed more likely to me, somehow, than Spot and Puff.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Atwood speak at this year’s SpecFic Colloquium, where she, along with other authors including Andrew Pyper, Michael Rowe and A.M. Dellamonica, spoke about the power of unearthly imaginings and their impacts on our social order.

Generally, authors such as these are not known for their public speaking abilities, but I must say I was quite impressed. Atwood, for me, was the most engaging — her slow, methodical speech is powered by a quick wit and her enchanting ability to bring stories to life. This is encouraging to me, knowing that introverted, deep-thinking book-worms are just as capable of delivering a persuasive talk as a boisterous arm-waver in a power suit. (Especially if said speaker is a multi-headed man-eater with tentacles).

IMG_3834What works about Atwood’s talks is probably the same thing that works in her fiction, an ability to transport an audience to another world where the impossible exists — where the rules of our world are broken, and the things we believe to be untrue land in front of us with a thud, wrap their tentacles around us, and fly us to the moon.

It’s a very good lesson for public speakers, both reluctant and seasoned, to consider other worlds when giving a talk. The other world is where you want to take your audience, the place where we can achieve the impossible, where what could be suddenly is — real and awesome and… dare to dream… possible! This is an important step toward innovation, the seed of belief, and the power of an unleashed imagination.

In other worlds… we can believe.

What Would Elmore Do?


What would Elmore Do?

I have learned to ask myself this question whenever I write myself into a corner, or run into a writer’s block, or simply can’t think of something darkly clever to say. I just try to figure out what Elmore Leonard would do, and it all seems to go down like a shot of Bourbon on a warm, sunny day.

I understand that writers for the TV show Justified were made to wear bracelets with the letters WWED – to remind them of the show’s great inspiration, and the creator of the character Raylan Givens. This was a very good idea, because Elmore Leonard made it very easy for you to know exactly what he would do. His 10 Rules on Good Writing should be in reaching distance of anyone writing anything… ever. What’s more, the principles apply to the art of presenting — especially given that storytelling is so important.

Two rules I feel are especially applicable:

  • Never open a book with the weather
  • Leave out the part that readers tend to skip

Applied to presentations — avoid clunky, cliched openings. They’re boring and we all know what it’s like outside. And, cut out the parts you wouldn’t sit through yourself. That’s when people tend to fall asleep.

And, if in doubt, listen to the master himself:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Wipe the slide clean and start again. Otherwise you’ll just be forcing an unwilling audience to sit through your weather-laden, bullet-ridden monologue. And in the words of Raylan Givens… “I think I’d rather stick my dick in a blender.”

Here are a few more tips from Elmore Leonard I found on SlideShare.