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Some rules when writing for visual-verbal media

The following are a few rules of thumb when writing for visual-verbal media. First, let the picture tell as much of the story as it can. Use words to interpret the picture, not describe it. Note Scene 13, Page 86, in More Yams For Hamra. The visual shows Ema with fertilizer in his hand and offering it to Hamra. The narration does not describe what the picture shows. Rather it suggests what Ema wants Hamra to do, and it provides a verbal link to the Close Shot in Scene 14.


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The second rule is a don't. Don't tell about something not shown in the picture. Don't say of Hamra in Scene 2 that he is the father of many children. There is nothing in the scene to indicate he is a parent, let alone the father of many children. If the fact that he has many children is important to the story, change the visual. Show Hamra at his home with many children around him as he is preparing to leave for the village. The idea of many children can be understood from this visual. If it is important to the story to know the exact number of children he has, let the narration for the scene state the number.

The third rule is another don't. Don't write too much for each picture regardless of whether it is a spoken or printed narration. How much is too much? For spoken narrations, a maximum limit of 15 to 20 seconds per visual, and no more than three successive visuals with this maximum. For a printed caption, the maximum is four lines. By varying narration length from visual to visual, the writer varies the pace of the presentation.

Use of shorter sentences for spoken information is the fourth rule. This rule is particularly important for continuous running narrations, such as the sound track of a motion picture or televised presentation, for radio programs or tape recordings, or visual presentations with recorded narrations.

Finally, and most importantly, write for the intended audience, not for literary critics. Use an organizational pattern the audience can follow. Structure sentences and select words for audience understanding. Keep rules in mind, but break them when they interfere with understanding. Writing is the means for talking to people to bring information, to develop skills, or to change or modify attitudes.


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